Sitting at the sushi bar (this is best seat in the house as you get to watch the chefs prepare everything before your eyes), I was delighted when chef Chase Kojima mentions that he’s read all of my Yoshii (a fantastic little Japanese restaurant at The Rocks; you can find my past reviews here, here and here) reviews. I clearly love my Modern Japanese food and Chase is quite the master at creating it! Chase, at just 31, has an impressive CV, having headed up kitchens all over the world for the celebrated Nobu restaurant group. Sokyo was recently awarded its first One Chef’s Hat in the 2014 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, within its second year of opening.
Chase Kojima in the kitchen
The restaurant name Sokyo, is a play on the combination of Sydney with Tokyo; the decor and music sets the mood accordingly. The comic-style cocktail menu is fun to browse but the staff appear extremely knowledgeable so we sit back and go with the flow, trusting their cocktail and whiskey recommendations.
O-shibori are provided to clean one’s hands before eating
Comic-style cocktail menu
Seeing as it’s our first visit, we decide upon the chef’s omakase menu ($120), a great way to sample what Sokyo is all about! The chefs basically check on your dietary requirements and then send you a seemingly endless flow of food! It’s a must for any special occasion and takes the pressure off ordering the ‘right’ dishes.
While mid-conversation, a spectacular smokey display is set in front of us. The cloudy yuzu essence floats around us for a while before disappearing, revealing plump Tasmanian pacific oysters with a sake lime granita and spicy ponzu dressing. It’s fresh, zingy and a great palate opener.
I love the drama that the dry ice adds to the oysters, the upbeat ambiance around us, the fact that I want to try absolutely every item on the menu and I love even more, the idea that Sokyo is the result of young Chase’s dreams. Chase packed up everything and moved to Sydney to launch Sokyo because one of his regular customers offered him this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He jokes that everything about Sokyo is him, except he doesn’t own it.
Kingfish miso ceviche
The second course is Kingfish miso ceviche with green chilli and crispy potato. The flavours are delightful and so fragrant, I love the fine texture of the potato crisps.
By the third course, I’m ready to declare that Sokyo is right up there on my list of best Japanese in Sydney.
Just look at this!
Bluefin toro, seared Tasmanian uni, nikiri truffle poke
What is it? Bluefin toro, seared Tasmanian uni, and nikiri truffle poke. As beautiful as this dish is, it is also mind-blowingly delicious. Poke is the Hawaiian verb for ‘to slice’ and a poke dish typically consists of cubed sashimi with a soy-based sauce, and sesame oil, chilli and seaweed for flavour. With so many prized ingredients combined into this poke rendition, it’d be fair to call this the king of all pokes! It’s so luxuriously exquisite!
Salmon belly, Kyoto peach, ssamjang, brussel sprouts
Next is the salmon belly with Kyoto peach, ssamjang and brussel sprouts. It feels like a natural progression to move from tuna belly to salmon belly, yet the two courses couldn’t be more different. The brussel sprouts have a deep earthy flavour that pairs well with the ssamjang paste. The subtly seared salmon belly is finely folded and accentuated with a segment of crisp Kyoto peach.
David Blackmore short rib tataki
Leading into the warm courses, we’re served David Blackmore short rib tataki with chestnut purée and tarragon ponzu. The short rib is sous vide for 24hrs on an extremely low heat to produce this unbelievably tender bite.
Seared scampi, foie gras, apple, mizuna salad
The seared scampi, foie gras, apple and mizuna salad is utterly gorgeous in presentation and the bay bug tempura topped with green papaya & pomelo, amazu and chili mayo dipping sauce has us fighting for the last piece.
Bay bug tempura
Marinated miso toothfish
I’m most excited about the marinated miso toothfish which has a similar texture to black cod; the outer layer is caramelised and rich in flavour, and the firm flesh is buttery and moist. The accompanying Japanese salsa, and cucumber salad breaks up the heaviness, imparting a refreshing undertone.
Chef Chase at the sushi bar
The wagyu beef cheeks signal that we’ve reached the end of the warm courses. They’re slow cooked for 48 hours and are easily broken apart. Served with celeriac puree, morel mushrooms and sake soy, it’s robust on the palate and is pure comfort food.
Wagyu beef cheeks with celeriac, morels and sake soy
Demonstrating Chase’s vision to create the ultimate modern Japanese restaurant, he excitedly introduces sushi chef Takashi Sano who he believes is one of the best in Australia. Takashi is ex-Tetsuya’s and was plucked from Koi Restaurant to head up the sushi bar at Sokyo. Here, he works with a superb collection of seafood, including some rare ingredients such as the Toro Hagashi, sourced from Japan via Spain’s Black Sea. Raising the bar even further, Chase casually mentions that he even has a super freezer at Sokyo to store this private collection of top grade fish at -80°C!
Sushi chef, Takashi Sano
Kinme-dai, aged alfonsino 6 days
Hamachi – sunazuri, from Japan, kingfish belly
Tai ceviche, shio kombu salsa, nori
Most of the nigiri sushi is already flavoured to accentuate each fish’s unique qualities, nothing ever being too obscure or complex. The creativity and the care taken to prepare each morsel is amazing to watch. Even the cuttlefish sushi, normally chewy and slippery is soft and luscious with a delicate sea-scent. The tai ‘taco’ with crispy nori as the taco shell and the toro with crispy rice base are both standouts.
Many of the others, I eat with my eyes closed, worried I’ll miss any subtle nuances of its taste.
Spicy tuna toro with crispy rice
Ika (cuttlefish), lemon, kombu
Engawa – kinme-dai “fin”
Salmon belly, seared, aged grated daikon, yukari
Waiting in anticipation for the ‘cheese’ course, we sip on a bold green tea.
The cheese course comes disguised as donuts! Still piping hot, a small bite into the perfect sphere reveals a heavenly filling of melted gorgonzola and crushed pecans. Washed down with the nashi pear sorbet, I just want to eat and repeat.
Blue cheese donatsu with nashi pear sorbet
Dessert tasting platter
Strawberry consomme poured onto tofu cheesecake
Dessert is also a show stopper. I wouldn’t have expected anything less!
Goma Street (Goma is Japanese for Sesame 😉 ) features carmelized white chocolate mousse with black sesame praline crumbs and a divine black sesame ice cream. There’s also tofu cheesecake with thyme sugar and strawberry consommé; Yamazaki macchiato, with coffee ice cream, caramel mousse and Yamazaki whiskey foam; and green tea mochi filled with frozen strawberry milkshake.
By the end of the meal, there are one too many highs to recall each in detail. One thing is certain, choose the omakase if you want to be fed like royalty for a few hours. It’s set to impress and I can’t wait to return!
Level G, The Darling, The Star
80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont NSW
Phone: (02) 9657 9161
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Sokyo