Kobe Jones is one of those Sydney restaurants which has been around the scene for a while and has really perfected the art of a mouthwatering Volcano Roll with plenty of mayo goodness. We have been to Kobe Jones several times because of that Volcano Roll, but it is generally quite pricey so our visits have mostly been for special occasions. Tonight, we are trying out their 9 course Winter Romance tasting menu ($145 per person) and we’re really feeling the chill as it is bucketing down with rain and we’re seated in their outside dining area. To be fair, the area is enclosed with plastic sheeting (which unfortunately diminishes the view of Darling Harbour), but we still feel the drafts of wind blowing in despite being seated next to a heater.
Luckily the first dish of the meal comes out fairly quickly and we tuck into the Number One Special which is a usual suspect on their set menus. We’ve had it the last couple of times we were at Kobe Jones and it is just as good as I remember; an indulgent roll of crab salad with avocado wrapped in Hiramasa kingfish and baked with Kobe Jones’ secret sauce…which seems to be a whole lot of mayo, mixed with sweet soy. I also liked the garnish of fresh alfalfa sprouts, which balanced out all the creamy mayo.
Number One Special
Next up, we had the Tantalising Tasting Plate which was a platter featuring a 5 interesting nibbles (from top left to bottom right):
Tantalising Tasting Plate
- Wagyu Tataki – a sliver of lightly seared rare and iced wagyu served on a bed of seaweed and topped with winter herbs. It was a simple dish done well with a chewy texture on the inside, which was nicely flavoured by the light soy onion vinaigrette.
- Spicy Ebi Nigiri – this appeared to be a classic Japanese dish at first glance, but hidden inside was Kobes’ own chilli sauce and it was given a touch of luxe with the black caviar on top.
- Spider Roll – the usual crunchy soft shell crab filling with avocado, cucumber and crab salad again, although I couldn’t taste the chopped chives which were apparently in it too.
- Lollipop Sushi – this caught my eye first and consisted of fresh tuna, kingfish, salmon, crab salad, asparagus and burdock root all wrapped up in a thinly-peeled cucumber and topped with smelt roe. There was no seaweed in sight, but rather a lot of sashimi in the cucumber “sushi” delicately being held together with a sturdy toothpick. It was fresh, but was a bit messy to eat as it pretty much fell apart after a bite.
- Salmon and Seafood Poke – a tasty Hawaiian style bite-sized morsel of freshly marinated sashimi cubes in poke sauce which tasted like soy sauce and sesame oil with a hit of chilli. There was also a bed of seaweed salad underneath which provided another dose of sesame oil goodness.
Our menu had listed the Jalapeño Salmon Tataki as coming out next, but instead we were presented with the Pacific Calamari Fritto which was lightly fried “pineapple cut” calamari crumbed in a special panko (breadcrumbs). The calamari was not that chewy and not quite bite sized either – each piece could have been slightly smaller, but I liked the delicious roasted shallot mayonnaise it was served with as it had a refreshing tangy flavour to it. We were quite intrigued by the yellow radish on the side as it had strongly flavoured dried fish flakes sprinkled on it.
Pacific Calamari Fritto
After the calamari, we got the Jalapeño Salmon Tataki which was a daintily presented plate of thinly sliced flamed salmon sashimi served with a zesty jalapeno dressing and garnished with salmon roe and slivers of spicy fresh jalapeno. You don’t have to eat the jalapeno with the salmon if you can’t handle the heat, but to get the full experience you should try it. I found that the seared salmon was reminiscent of aburi but without the usual complementary sweet soy and mayo sauce which comes with aburi, it just wasn’t as tasty.
Jalapeño Salmon Tataki
The seafood kept on coming with our favourite Volcano Roll coming out next with slivers of oven-baked Hokkaido scallops, crab salad and avocado roll. Of course, you can’t see any of the innards of the roll because the whole thing is completely smothered with a special cream sauce which is just as addictive as last time we had it – mayo and sweet soy heaven!
By this stage, we were getting rather full but Kobe Jones still had more seafood to spoil us with – in the form of a Spicy Seafood Tobanyaki. This was served in an adorable mini pot and featured a medley of seafood like prawns, scallops, mussels and squid which had been coated with Kobe Jones seaweed butter. All this seafood was cooked on top of a bed of rice then baked with yet more cream sauce and topped with air-dried tuna shavings and shallot. It was at this point that I discovered that there can be too much of a good thing – the creaminess factor of this dish was a bit too much considering we had already gorged on the super creamy Number 1 Special and Volcano Roll prior to this. I did welcome the wild mushroom in the dish though, as I felt it was slightly more healthy than the rest of the dish.
Spicy Seafood Tobanyaki Mushroom
Our last 2 savoury dishes of the night were the heavy hitters of the night, which presumably contributed to the priciness of the tasting menu – Alaskan Crab legs which were grilled robata style and served in the shell with fresh lime. The crab legs were quite charred, which gave it a rather smoked flavour and there was plenty of meat inside the legs, but it took a lot of effort to get it out and was slightly painful at times because there was a lot of spikes to watch out for! I did like the tang from the fresh lime juice when we squeezed it on top of the meat though.
Finally we came to the Lobster Hot Rock which we had been looking forward to since the start of the meal. The waitress brought out a hot rock which she oiled with some butter and then started arranging the slices of sweet slipper lobster meat around the hot rock, before leaving us to finish off the cooking process by watching the lobster for 2 minutes and flipping it over. The hot rock sizzled and soon enough, the glorious little pieces of lobster were ready for us to eat and they were quite succulent and sweet. We both loved the choice of 3 sauces that the dish was served with – my favourite was the Garlic Seaweed Butter which was very moreish and had ribbons of stringy seaweed running through it, but the creamy miso motoyaki sauce was quite nice too and the ponzu was a refreshing tangy change from the other 2 heavier sauces.
Lobster Hot Rock
We rounded off the night with an impressive dessert platter. We had been expecting either the KJ Tiramisu or the Flaming Anko as the menu had stated, but we instead received a platter with those 2 desserts as well as a selection of extra desserts for us to sample which were specially prepared for us by the chef. We loved the extra mini chocolate fondant which was rich and had delectably fudgey innards that went well with the green tea ice cream on top. The green tea theme continued with the unconventional Tiramisu which is apparently sake infused (it’s not a very strong infusion) and covered with chocolate flakes. The sweet red bean and green tea brulee was served with a flaming vanilla liqueur, giving it a bit of a dazzling effect at first although it eventually burns out. The caramelised sugar top of the brulee is quite smoky tasting (perhaps due to the flaming liqueur on top) and the brulee tastes quite custardy. We are really too full to fit anything more by the end of the meal, but we take a nibble out of the cheesecake bites with strawberries on top and find that it is quite dense, with floral notes from the strawberry.
KJ Tiramisu and Flaming Anko (plus extras not on the standard menu)
It’s clear that the Kobe Jones Winter Romance Tasting Menu is going to attract seafood fans as it is absolutely bursting at the seams with all sorts of fusion takes on the full spectrum of seafood types. We found it was very filling as there was simply too much food to finish and our seafood cravings had definitely been amply satisfied, but it is priced right up there with some of the lunchtime degustations being offered by hatted restaurants around town (and only slightly less than the dinner degustations at those restaurants too), so you’ll have to be a die-hard seafood fan to opt for this tasting menu rather than a hatted restaurant.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of Kobe Jones
29 Lime Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9299 5290
Open Weekdays 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-10pm; Weekends 6pm-10pm