Review: Izi Aki, The Rocks

Eat, Restaurants, Sydney / 1 September 2023

A Scotsman walks into a bar to be served high-end Omakase by a Frenchman and a Pom. Sounds like the start of a very bad joke, right? Far from it. After finding the doorway to Izi Aki, we sat down to one of the most extraordinary meals of our lives. I have personally known the Owner/Chef Darren Templeman for years, ever since we used to meet at the fruit and vegetable markets on Wednesdays for breakfast. So when I heard he was doing an Omakase pop-up in The Rocks, I had to try it.

Darren has led some of this city’s better kitchen teams in his 22 years here. From owning Atelier to taking the position as head chef of O Bar and Dining and Botswana Butchery, he has become an integral part of Sydney’s chef history. After a stint in Tokyo, he has come back to open an Omakase spot in the new W hotel in Darling Harbour. While he awaits the keys to unlock his new venture, he has opened a pop-up Omakase, located in Cadman Cottage in The Rocks called Izi Aki. You may be familiar with the space as Daintree Sydney, a thriving cocktail bar that is saving the world one cocktail at a time through sustainability and donating half the profits towards forest restoration practices.

8-9 courses, no menu, that’s real Omakase. True to Darren’s history, he has taken Japanese dishes and infused his own spin to bring them to life. Think crumpets with wasabi butter, smoked eel, pickled watermelon radish, nasturtium, and Foie Gras. Your only real dilemma is do you taste some of the items separately or all at once to get the full-mouth experience. Almost all of the ingredients are made from scratch, fresh Tasmanian wasabi, house-made soy, kimchi, fermented tomatoes, and miso adding an incredible layer effect of delicate flavours.

All the staff are part owners in the pop-up and have been working with Darren for years. 50% of the profits go to the Daintree reforestation, which is represented by a mural behind the banquet seating. This is more than a meal, this is an experience. Find out more here.

Looking for more places to eat in the area? Check out our guide to the Best Restaurants In The Rocks.