My first experience of Toko was their sushi train restaurant in Paddington. Not long after, I read that they have two other branches in Surry Hills, a bar and restaurant which had received acclaim for the interior design. It is certainly beautiful, as Yvn and I walked into the dimly lit Tokonoma we noticed how modernly furnished it looked. Wooden interiors with back lights and plush seats, it really feels like a bit of New York in Sydney! I started taking photos but was informed that photos were not allowed of the restaurant, but thankfully food photography was allowed.
Edamame (soy beans in maldon sea salt)
Tonight we opt for a degustation course for two (usually $200) which starts off with edamame. As you may remember from our Cafe Ish post, neither of us are huge edamame fans but the serving brought out to us was extremely fragrant. Surprisingly, it tasted quite nice here; it was warm and had a good balance of salt. We ended up finishing the bowl but slowly throughout the night. It works as a good palate cleanser between courses.
Sliced Kingfish (with chilli and yuzu ponzu dressing)
Beef Carpaccio (with yuzukoshu chive)
Next came the kingfish and beef carpaccio. It should be noted that Tokonoma is extremely dim, so we couldn’t tell the finer details of what our food looked like without flash photography. As such, I missed the piece of green chilli on the kingfish and as I ate it, I noticed it got progressively spicier. Not completely bad as it isn’t overwhelming, but the crunchy raw onions and accompanying vinegarette went nicely and was spoilt a bit by the chilli. My next piece tasted much better with the chilli removed. The beef carpaccio was soft and similarly had a crunchy accompaniment from the radish. The pepper was a bit strong and I think it could have done without the radish as it is after all a simple dish – why complicate it?
Agedashi Tofu (with spicy nasu miso)
Following this was the agedashi tofu with eggplant miso. Soft tofu with slightly fried crispy sides, I liked how this tofu was cooked well and was not soggy. The eggplant was diced and cooked until soft and with the slightly soupy miso sauce base, went nicely with the tofu.
Chef’s Selection of Toko-style Nigiri Sushi and Chirashi Maki
Now time for the sushi! We are served two plates; the first is a salmon cucumber sushi roll with a rice paper wrapping and wasabi mayonnaise. The second consists of kingfish nigiri sushi with a soya sauce jelly along with an aburi salmon rice ball. All three are delicious! The salmon sushi goes well with the creamy mayo and crunchy cucumber and the soya sauce jelly added some saltiness to the kingfish. But the winner is the aburi salmon ball. Seared to perfection, there is also a dab of garlic sauce on the top which adds an unsuspecting flavour to the sushi. Yvn thinks it actually tastes like El Jannah’s legendary garlic sauce. Very interesting!
Crispy Soft-shelled Crab (with wasabi mayonnaise)
Time for some meaty dishes! First up is the soft shell crab. Still hot and crunchy when served to us, it is not drowning in oil unlike a lot of fried foods and there is plenty of crab meat under the batter. The mayo is also interesting – there is some lemon zest flavours infused in the mayo. Delicious, a standout dish!
Scotch Fillet (with smoked miso)
The scotch fillet is similar to an oval pattie and is sliced into thin pieces. It is soft and tender and reminds of premium burger patties. There is a dab of sauce on the top which tastes like cheese and makes the whole dish taste like a high-end burger. It’s definitely another interesting dish worth trying.
Grilled Zucchini (with wafu sauce and sesame)
Soft Soba Broth
The zucchini skewer and soba is then brought out next. The skewers have a smokey flavour with radish and vinegarette; quirky flavours but I am not the biggest fan of the vegetable zucchini so this dish is a bit boring. The soba is also quite plain, despite the soup being very tasty. It’s a shame the noodles didn’t absorb more flavour, but this dish seems just like a carb filler to round off the main courses.
Tokonoma dessert platter for two
Now time for the dessert! Presented delicately in a wooden box sits two scoops of gelato (peach and chocolate) on a carved block of ice, with a vanilla creme brulee and fresh fruits (kiwi, pineaple, watermelon) on the side. The peach gelato is sweet and is a flavour I have rarely seen in gelato, but the chocolate seems a bit strange and bland. I would’ve preferred a chocolate ice cream as gelato lacks that creamy texture which would normally bring out the chocolate flavours. The creme brulee has a crunchy top and caramel topping. After digging into to it, we discover there is an apricot puree underneath. The brulee was creamy and smooth and extremely delicious.
My first time at Tokonoma is a good one. Besides the prices, the food is generally above par and quite tasty. There are some interesting additional flavours to some classic Japanese dishes and these risks definitely pay off! The next time I come back, I intend to try some of their cocktails on show (one of them has fairy floss? :O) and the trio of creme brulees as recommended by my friend, but be warned – it will eat into your wallet!
490 Crown Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: (02) 9357 6100
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm