It’s Friday afternoon, on the chillout end of a hot blustery spring day. We’re dining alfresco at O-Sushi Coolangatta, restaurant co-owner Prayan Benglas and I. The late afternoon sun casts long shadows along the beach, rainbow lorikeets gather in the Norfolk pines out front, as we chat about the origin of the O-Sushi stores.
“O-Sushi really began because of Dan and Karni’s passion for food, especially the health principles and art embodied in Japanese food. I came from a background of art, design and Chinese medicine, and joined them to manage the Byron restaurant. When we opened in Coolangatta I became a partner.
O-Sushi embodies traditional Japanese cuisine as well as French, Korean and Brazilian /Japanese fusion. All of the chefs are Japanese, whereas the wait staff come from many nations.
The ‘O’ in the name denotes appreciation, respect and honour in Japanese culture. The way it’s drawn in our logo is the Zen sign for harmony.”
“Almost like the flow of life,” I comment. I notice the abundance of seafood on the menu, with a sprinkling of chicken and beef, an abundance of vegetables, tofu and whole grain rice. My eyes fall to the Seafood Lover’s Sashimi and Nigiri platter in front of me, sparklingly fresh and nutritious, each piece lying like a piece of art on the traditional handmade plate.
“Yes. Our goal is to introduce people to healthy food. It’s about feeling good, putting love in the food, so that the customer is healthier. When we change the menu every few months, we look at the nutritional balance of each dish. There’s no cutting corners; all of the food is made from scratch. A lot of behind the scenes preparation goes into each plate, a couple of hours or sometimes the work is begun the day before.
We’re also passionate about sourcing the best and freshest ingredients as locally as possible. The brown rice we use for our sushi is biodynamic organic (the level above organic). There’s no MSG, artificial colouring or flavourings used in the whole restaurant. So you see that ginger,” Prayan says, pointing to a bowl of white slices, “it’s not pink because we think it’s important to eat it in the most natural, freshest way possible, not artificially coloured so that it looks better!”
“So, what are the differences between the three O-Sushi restaurants? Or are they all the same?” I ask.
“Most of the menu is common to all three; however the tapas vary from one restaurant to another. The tapas dishes not only originate in the individual chef’s home region, they also provide a window for each chef to express their own personality. The chefs have brought with them family recipes and traditional techniques handed down over generations. Miso stock varies from region to region, the starter handed down the family, together with the recipe’s method.
O-Sushi’s Tokyo cheesecake with sesame ice cream is a recipe that chef Maki brought to Australia from her mum in Japan. The yakitori is made over a traditional ‘Kushiyaki’ grill, the cooking method combining the elements of water, fire and glass. Water beneath the coals prevents burning and you get a distinct delicious flavour to the meat that’s complemented further by the sauce.”
“Mmm… a different but equally delicious flavour to Balinese satay, where they grill the skewers over coconut husks,” I note.
“All three O-Sushi restaurants have won awards and are well patronised by locals. So, what’s next?” I ask.
“It’s a good time to appreciate and acknowledge what we do,” says Prayan, “a time of consolidation. We want our customers to understand our philosophy, to feel that they are a part of it.”
I’m reminded of the saying ‘every step gently and very carefully’ as we speak. It’s been evident in the way Prayan greets his guests by name, in the attention to detail in food sourcing, preparation and presentation. Even though O-Sushi is as casual a restaurant as the breeze rising from the ocean, there’s a lot more behind it than initially meets the eye.
80 Marine Parade, Coolangatta Ph: 07 5536 5455