Japan has always been a place of wonder and excitement for me. A few years back in Osaka, I got lost while wandering around in some back streets and ended up having a long night of sake and charcoal grilled offal (think ox heart, kidneys, gizzards, etc) with a bunch of salary men and a couple of guys who I’m pretty sure were Yakuza. We communicated purely through a mix of broken English and full body gestures the whole night. None of us knew each other but in that little stall on the side of the street we all talked through the night about our favourite foods and hung shit on our bosses (my go-to topics of conversation in a random situation). My point is that Japan is one of those places where crazy things can happen – so it’s only fitting that Sam Prince came up with the concept for an izakaya based entirely around 90’s grunge/rock anthems whilst having a meal in a restaurant in Tokyo. That concept was brought to life when Sam brought on Seb Gee (formerly of China Doll & China Diner) and put together a menu which pumps as hard as the sound track does; and from that Kid Kyoto was born.
Easing our way into the menu we start off with a little snack of “crab stix” which are needless to say, not the same type of crabstick that you’d expect to find in a $2 sushi joint. The luscious konbu cream sits on a house made senbei rice cracker and is topped with spanner crab floss, a dusting of old bay seasoning and pickled celery provides light refreshment so this dish doesn’t feel too heavy. This starter reminds me of a grown up version of a le snack – creamy, crunchy and indulgent.
I love raw food – I’m not taking about the raw cake/sweets trend of 2015 (I hope that never comes back); I’m talking more specifically about the animal kind. Moving onto the “raw & unplugged” items we hit up one of my favourite things I will always order if I see them on any menu. The kingfish ceviche with pickled watermelon, lemon aspen (a tart citrus fruit found natively in North Queensland) and roasted wakame kosho is a must order. The 3 characteristics of a perfect ceviche are a good level acidity, firm texture of the fish and a little kick of chilli. Kid Kyoto certainly hit all three notes with the heat coming through from the kosho particularly pleasing. Kosho is traditional Japanese seasoning, made by fermenting fresh yuzu and chilli but in this case wakame is used. The pickled watermelon keeps things fresh and fruity while the arare rice pellets that are scattered throughout gives you some crunch, which highlights the perfect texture of the kingfish.
Did I mention that I love raw stuff? The “teriyaki flavor” beef tartare was quite interesting. Stepping away from the norm, the team at Kid Kyoto is using the tri-tip cut of beef which gives this dish an increased mouth feel compared to traditional tartare. The whipped katsuobushi (bonito flakes) mayo takes the place of the egg yolk to bring it all together as you mix it up. No toast to be seen here, rather you wrap a spoonful of the beef into one of the giant perilla leaves provided. The perilla leaf has a distinct grassy note that complements the beef nicely. Kid Kyoto’s take on the beef tartare is quite different – but also quite delicious and was my favourite dish of the day.
Kid Kyoto’s signature dish is an alternative take on the Japanese classic “Kakuni” which is always made with pork belly and braised in dashi, soy sauce, sugar and sake for several hours leaving the pork tender and juicy. The team take it a step further by quickly frying the pork belly before glazing it in the nori jam. The sweet soy flavour is rich with lots of umami and the pork is succulent – definitely worthy of the status of signature dish.
Upon recommendation I ordered the Chahan fried rice to go with the pork belly. Chahan is simply Japanese for fried rice – however this fried rice isn’t exactly simple. You get a slight saltiness from the fish floss that adorns the top rice which is counter balanced every now and then a fresh kick from the pickled mustard green slithers that have been mixed through. The addition of the same arare rice pellets used in the ceviche mimic the crunch of a Lao style fried rice which makes it fun to eat. Is it Japanese style fried rice? Maybe not. Is it tasty fried rice? Definitely.
Just like the encore song at a concert – the best way to end a meal is with a rich powerful dessert! Kid Kyoto’s chocolate fondant is textbook perfect – a baked cakey exterior hides a warm gooey centre when you cut into it. The chocolate is intense and the kinako (Japanese roasted soy bean flour) gives the coconut icecream a subtle nutty taste. When everything is piled onto a spoon and eaten together it reminds me of those Nestle Golden Roughs that I used to sneakily buy from the petrol station down the street when I was a kid.
Kid Kyoto’s roots are planted firmly in Japan and you would be remiss to call them “fusion” Japanese. Much like the restaurants kick ass sound track; a more accurate description of Kid Kyoto would be Alternative Japanese. These days I’m not really one for labels; good food is good food as long as it’s delicious and makes you happy – and by that definition Kid Kyoto is a great place to eat.
17-19 Bridge Street, Sydney CBD
Entry via Bridge Lane
Phone: (02) 9241 1991
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Kid Kyoto