NEWS UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2013: SOKYO WINS ONE HAT, SMH GOOD FOOD GUIDE 2014, BUT MORE EXCITING THAN THAT is the introduction of the best sushi chef in Sydney, Sano san into the Sokyo sushi team...should win 6 hats in 2015!!!
The new restaurant/bar in the swank The Darling hotel, part of THE Star casino complex is in short, uber-sexy. Not tits and bums sexy, but "aesthetically sexy", thanks to young head chef Chase Kojima's innovative adventures with food. His seemingly endless creativity concocts dishes that are, at first glance Nobu-esque (with accents like dried miso, jalapeno chilli and yuzu kosho/chilli appearing in various incarnations). But his creations are not just fashionably jap-fusion--little surprises like the bright red and sweet yamamomo garnish (see picture right, or the Kyoto mini plums that came with our ocean trout, or the melt in your mouth Ooma tuna (the Beluga of tuna) shows his appreciation and ability to source quality Japanese ingredients. And his innovativeness has depth--the Moreton Bay Bugs with slippery sweet passionfruit jelly, burnt butter mayo and vegemite croutons is a lovely fusion of textures, flavours and colours, and the vegemite adds the final umami crowning layer, in the same way that a touch of soy sauce does to sashimi. Presentation is simple yet beautiful, making Sokyo food at once playful, a little daring and attractive...oozing sexy aesthetics if you ask me.
Of course, how long Chase's innovativeness will last is yet to be seen as the restaurant has only been open a few weeks when we dined, and over time, he may have to tailor his creativity to suit the more conservative Sydney palate. We ate omakase, or chef's selection, so we experienced the full force of his creativity.
The menu is essentially divided into sashimi, sushi (nigiri and rolls), tempura and robatayaki, or grilled meat/fish/veg on charcoal (Chase is particular and grills over binchotan, or white charcoal which gives off a great sexy smokiness). There's also a section called "Essential Dishes" which features a Lamb Chop Maple Miso $29, which we will have to insist on next time. All the dishes are quite delicate, Japanese sized, but reasonably priced for the quality--sashimi ranges from around $15-$25, sushi rolls are around $10. This is not the place to eat the old favourites you know (forget the edamame--it's frozen), you need to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. The wait staff are very attentive
What's disappointing is the banging noise that masquerades as bgmusic--I know it's supposed to be hip, but the sophisticated food deserves better sound design. It just makes you want to eat and run, rather than sit and savour.
Chase is only 29, and his Nobu (Bahamas and Dubai) credentials are well known. But I think he's trying to step out of the Nobu mould, and it's great to see a Japanese chef (albeit Californian) experimenting to entice Sydneysiders to try different Japanesey ingredients, like cured saba (mackerel) sushi (this has since been taken off the menu...alas), or to appreciate a new way of tasting beef by carefully cooking in a sous vide so it's uniformly tender, and presenting it like a slice of sashimi. The Nobu influence is definitely there though--like Nobu, the variety of sauces is the feature of most dishes (many ponzu, tosazu, amazu and other vinegar/soy/citrus/dashi variations, often with heat, like the amazu with black pepper with the kingfish tempura...nice). There's also a mayo on many dishes (edamame mayo with asparagus tempura for example), which most Australians seem to like. His youthfulness is evident in his playfulness with ingredients, but he adheres to Japanese principles of cooking, including presentation. He doesn't go overboard on the fusion thing, so his food maintains a fine balance of tradition and boldness.
P.S. Oh, and the desserts were divine, but that's another chapter....
Sokyo website click here
For eatability review of Sokyo click here
by Masako Fukui
Level G, The Darling at The Star,
80 Pyrmont Street,
Sokyo Dining Room: Dinner Mon-Thurs 6-10:15pm; Fri & Sat 6-11:15pm; Sun closed
Sokyo Lounge: Dinner Mon-Thurs 6-11pm; Fri & Sat 6pm-1am; Sun 6pm-10pm
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