A while ago, I caught up with two lovely ladies for dinner. The thing with dining with fellow food bloggers is that there is never a shortage of restaurants to try. The newly refurbished The Star has brought an abundance of top-notch restaurants to the ever-growing list of restaurants emerging in Sydney. Hearing good things about Sokyo, I made the suggestion to try it out.
The decor is impressive and sets a relaxed vibe with a touch of sophistication. The menu is divided into sections covering sashimi, tempura, robata (grilled items), nigiri, sushi rolls, essential dishes (which are more of your substantial dishes), salads, soup, traditional (nigiri/sashimi/rolls) and of course, desserts. Dishes are fairly small; designed to be share with several dishes. Japanese “tapas” if you will…
It took us a while to decide on what to order because 1) there were so many things on the menu to choose from and 2) we were busy chatting away. So we snacked on some edamame ($7) in the meantime, they are served warm with a sprinkle of sea salt flakes.
But first up, drinks are in order. I had the Moshi Moshi ($18), with fresh lychee, ginger, coconut blended together with Belvedere Vodka and cloudy apple juice. I was pleased that the ginger flavour did not dominate the drink and found it refreshing and dangerously enjoyable as I finished it off fairly quickly. Sara had the Yamamomo Sour ($20), a cocktail of rare mountain peaches shaken with Choya plum wine, Junmai sake and house lemongrass and ginger syrup; which she seemed to enjoy it. Rita went the non-alcoholic route and got herself a mocktail instead. The peach punch ($9) was a nice blend of blood peach, grapefruit, cranberry and soda.
Later on the night, round two of cocktails see myself ordering the Asagohan Martini ($17), with yuzu marmalade shaken with Tanqueray Gin and Cointreau, I found this drink definitely more heavy-handed on the alcohol content and packed with a tangy punch from the yuzu. A twist on the classic Mojito has Sara ordering the Shiso-Jito ($17), made with house kalamansi lime, shiso sorbet, ginger beer and fresh mint, which she didn’t fancy so much. I got to try a little and found it cooling and very minty.
A pretty dish of Morton Bay bug sashimi ($26) comes out with a burnt butter mayo apparently spelling Sokyo on the plate. Topping the delectable and fresh cubes of Morton Bay bugs were passion fruit jelly and vegemite croutons. We didn’t notice the vegemite flavour at all and loved how the croutons provided a slight crunch to offset the soft, delicate texture of the bugs; the jellies provided little outbursts of sweetness and tang. One of the favourite dishes of the night.
A little sceptic and worried at first, we thought this dish was going to be served rare but our waiter reassured us that the Kurobuta black pork belly sashimi ($16) was cooked, thinly sliced pieces of pork belly; which was served with dashi jelly, mache and salted caramel sauce. Ahhhh salted caramel… With such a crazed obsession with this marvelous creation, I was curious to see how the salted caramel would go with the pork belly. Thankfully the sauce was not too sweet or salty, but I failed to see how it would go with the perfectly cooked pork belly as I felt there was a missing umami element to it. Perhaps instead of having the dashi jelly as a separate entity, incorporating it into the sauce may give it an extra boost.
There was simply no passing an order of tempura, the only difficulty was choosing what to have! We ended with tempura of cuttlefish ($16) (left) and sand whiting ($18) (right), both of which were coated with a crispy, light tempura batter. Dusted with chilli de arbol, it adds no spice to the tender pieces of the cuttlefish which was served with a ponzu sauce. Delicate pieces of sand whiting were dusted with curry salt (which also didn’t impart much flavour) was served with aioli.
Bite size pieces of Sokyo spicy tuna roll ($14) would’ve been gobbled up in a matter of seconds if I had forgotten I was in a nice restaurant. With strips of ruby-red, melt-in-the-mouth pieces of tuna accompanying juliennes of cucumber, the chilli aioli offers a well needed spicy punch.
Another favourite of the night was Queensland spanner crab roll ($21). Not looking like your average sushi roll, the filling of rice and sweet and succulent crab is wrapped in an opaque soy paper. It is topped with a spicy avocado mixture and crispy toasted balls of rice flour. I loved how the addition of these two elements transcends an otherwise ordinary sushi roll into something special.
The Hokkaido Scallops ($26) was cooked to utter perfection with slightly charred, caramelised bits around the edges. It is then bathed in a rich shiitake pepper sauce that was so mouth-watering that I had wish there was something else for me to soak up this wonderful sauce to enjoy it further.
Still feeling a little peckish, we order the free range chicken breast ($27). Tender and perfectly seasoned rolls of chicken breast are topped with a potato foam which didn’t taste of potato nor did it have any hints of potato what so ever. I love exploring the combination of fruit and meat; this dish was no exception. Teamed with lightly grilled slithers of fresh fig, the sweetness provided did not overwhelm the chicken at all.
Not really knowing what to expect from Sara’s dessert besides donuts, the donatsu ($13) comes as a pleasant surprise to us all. A creamy pineapple mascarpone filling is encased in a light, airy donut ball. Served with crème fraiche ice cream and raspberry coulis, this dessert is irresistible, you wouldn’t be able to stop at one.
Sokyo seem to do very well with their desserts and the Goma street ($12) is proof of this. Looking like a work of art that is too good to eat, we couldn’t help but admire the striking stroke of black sesame paste across the plate. Creamy caramelised white chocolate mousse sandwiched between two perfectly tempered pieces of chocolate is a mess but pleasure to eat. Served alongside is a sesame ice cream, which is incredibly nutty and velvety smooth; for textural contrast, big chunks of crumbs are scattered throughout the plate.
Suffering from dessert envy, my Sokyo “mochi ice cream” ($9) looks a little underwhelming in comparison to the other two impressive desserts but it was awesome regardless. Yatsuhashi, a typical Japanese confectionery resembling egg wonton wrappers, is made of glutinous rice flour and has a soft, chewy texture similar to mochi, and has a dollop of creamy strawberry ice cream inside. I felt there wasn’t enough on the dish to enjoy it completely; maybe a couple extra wrappers would’ve satisfied me a little more.
Service is swift with knowledgeable and helpful wait staff. Food and drinks come out at reasonable times and are paced efficiently. Don’t expect to be feeling full after you walk out of Sokyo (unless you are loaded and willing to pay a lot for your meal); however, in saying that, you do get what you pay for, and that is, top quality, innovative food.