One of the benefits of living in a tourist destination is being around after the day-trippers have gone home. Finally, when buses and boats have pulled away, carrying their camera-toting guests, we are left with the locale that we love, the reason that we settled there in the first place.
That’s exactly how we feel when we drive down to Coolangatta for a visit. We’ve taken the Tugun turnoff and hugged the beach, marvelling at the beauty of our landscape as we head into Coolangatta. It always blows me away.
It’s a bright spring day, quiet enough to get an easy park on the beachfront opposite the restaurant. As we sit at O-Sushi the sun casts shadows of the Norfolk pines onto the beach while we have lunch with owner Fergus Sillar.
O-Sushi began in Byron Bay in 2006. Fergus, who had already invested in the area with Earth and Sea Pizza, bought the Coolangatta store in 2017.
Employing eight full-time Japanese chefs, he has carried on the O-Sushi tradition which embodies traditional Japanese cuisine blended with fusion cuisine.
“The ‘O’ in O-Sushi denotes appreciation, respect and honour in Japanese culture, but for us it also stands for organic,” Fergus tells me.
“We use quality free range, organic and local produce ingredients – black rice, fresh local tuna, with as much as possible sourced locally from the Northern Rivers and Gold Coast regions,” Fergus says, “and no MSG.”
“These days people want to know the provenance of their food – where it comes from, that it’s clean, local and fresh. We only use Australian fish. The salmon may come from Tasmania, but it’s here in our kitchen within twelve hours of being caught,” Fergus tells us.
It’s only one of the reasons that O-Sushi is a favourite place for surfers to eat, including some of our best.
“These guys are really clean eaters,” Fergus says, as we talk about the specialised needs of sports nutrition. Vegetarian, high protein and even carb loading at times, our elite sports stars also want food that tastes exceptionally good.
There’s an abundance of seafood on the menu, with a sprinkling of chicken and beef, as well of plenty of vegan and vegetarian options divided under headings such as Sashimi, Sushi, Izakaya plates and Mains.
The Salmon Wonton Taco plate is a fusion Mexican-inspired dish, putting sushi rice, chipotle-marinated salmon, grated smoked cheddar and wakame on a hand-cut wonton crisp. Surprisingly, its flavours work well together, reminding me that Eastern dishes often work through oppositional flavours and textures rather than through similarity.
Seared salmon nigiri also works well as a fusion dish, the rich salmon offset with sweet plum jam, basil pesto, torched haloumi and diced jalapeno to spice things up.
Signature rolls get the crowds in, such as the Rainbow Roll which combines salmon, tuna, prawn, kingfish, cucumber and avocado with mayo, and Tempura softshell crab is always a winner!
There are plenty of traditional dishes as well. Karaage chicken is made from scratch in house. The Kingfish carpaccio, a very pretty plate of pale fish lit up by the pink and green colours of shredded ginger, daikon and yuzu ponzu is sensational. Nothing beats fresh sashimi. Agedashi Tofu is one of the best we’ve tried.
O-Sushi is also fully licensed with an extensive range of beer, wine, and Japanese whiskey and sake on offer. There’s a happy hour from 3pm – 5pm daily, but it seems to us that every hour would be happy at O-Sushi. Eating such clean, fresh, nutritious food with the surf clearly in view is a winner. Hands down!
O-Sushi Coolangatta, 80 Marine Parade, Coolangatta Ph: 07 5536 5455 Open daily 11am – 8.30pm