Sokyo @ The Star

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The usual dilemma: it's Saturday night...where the heck do we go to eat? It's gotten to the point where there are so many places on the "to eat" list that I even have difficulty choosing between those. That, and so many restaurants don't take bookings (which is complete bollocks, by the way). That's why it's great when someone else makes the decision. The Star it was (perfect too, to keep out of the rain). 

At the end of 2011, the Star underwent a complete image overhaul. Now, it's a little bit fancy (schmancy) - to steal a lame ad jingle (and i can't even remember where it's from...oh yeah, Macca's LOL). Walking through, it has a strong resemblance to the Crown in Melbs with a lot of black marble, huge dining spaces and the requisite designer boutiques (Gucci, anyone?). Strolling across the gaming floor however, the decor looks extremely run down and dated i.e. tacky+++ (maybe that's just how casinos ARE. Ew).

Before pre-drinks I couldn't help but have a sticky beak at the Zumbo dessert bar. People go mad for it and I don't really know why (he's got a monopoly on dessert, damnit!). The concept is that of a dessert bar/sushi train hybrid where you take your pick of Zumbo's wildest and wackiest creations. I didn't look inside but I could imagine patrons just passed out over the bar, face planted in buttercream/mousse/macaron crumbs. SUGAR COMA! Most of the things were sold out at the front (the stock standard pastries like pain au chocolat) but there were also his signature "zumborons" (I'm cringing) on display. I'd actually like to try the ones from Baroque Bistro in The Rocks, I find Zumbo's incredibly sweet (see here). What he really needs is a bit of competition P.S. I'm looking at you, Vincent Gadan of Patisse!! Would you just look at his raspberry  souffle (Aaah)

Raspberry Souffle served in individual copper pots. These babies were featured on French Food Safari on SBS last year. Photo from Corner Cafe
So you can probably guess that dinner plans were made for Sokyo, restaurant of chef owner, Chase Kojima. It's situated on the ground floor of The Darling boutique hotel. It's the hot ticket that I didn't even know about. My bad. But you can hardly blame me (who can keep up with it all in Sydney anyway?). It's all very 'fluid' and 'a bit shit' for restaurateurs at the moment. Also, R.I.P. Becasse *sigh* (I didn't even get a chance to eat there!)

All my dining buddies and many of their friends had already been to Sokyo so I was obviously missing out on something. Or was I? I must say I was quite torn about this one. Stepping in (into utter darkness, deja vu) to the restaurant we were greeted by the front of house staff who said our table wasn't ready and that we'd have to wait in the bar for 15-20. Say what? We booked for 2030, so what is the purpose of booking then? The worse thing was we had just come from pre-drinkies at Black bar by Ezard (which seemed a much more professional outfit). P.S. my Leisure Suit cocktail was lovely (London dry gin, rose water, cucumber puree)

The restaurant has a very sleek, modern interior with a feature of ropes draping down from the ceiling. We were seated at a round table that had a pretty decent view of the kitchen. This is it:

I like the look of those chairs. The kitchen is centre stage (but to the left in this picture) where you can watch the chefs in action. I swear, I could just watch (sashimi) knife work all day Photo from The Star
A few notes:

  • Nightclub music - I'm a little hard of hearing at the best of times but the music from the bar (across the way) was also blaring in the restaurant. Why?! I'm in my twenties so I don't mind the club scene, but not during dinner please! I thought it created the wrong kind of atmosphere for supposed "fine dining" (especially when charging those prices). Was it because we were at a later sitting? Boo.
  • Service - was a bit hit and miss, often miss. The dynamic between the front-of-house staff was very frenetic and chaotic (and not necessarily in a good way).  One shouldn't have to ask for a top-up of wine - am I being facetious? However, a friendly French waiter saved the night for us, in his enthusiasm to offer us dessert recommendations, including 'how to eat' them. Bon.
  • Unnecessary ($$$) - the infamous surcharge of $8 per head for groups > 8 people. WTF? This is completely unreasonable. Isn't that additional business for the restaurant?! Don't penalize the customer
  • Plates - on the smaller side but perfect to share
  • Whoops - the Maitre d' (I assume) dropping a plate right behind my friend's chair. Skewers take flight!

And finally, the food & drink part (get a load of this)
  • [Wine] 2009 Louis Michel & Fils - Chablis, France (Chardonnay). My wine knowledge does not span much further from "white and red" but this Chardy was nice & refreshing with a very clean aftertaste. A perfect accompaniment to the large amounts of seafood we'd be ordering haha
  • Edamame Soybean (edamamejio) - the sea salt just made these addictive. Once you pop you can't stop (to borrow/pilfer another jingle)
  • [Sashimi] Hokkaido Scallop Yuzu Honey (onion, capers, yuzu honey, crunchy miso) 
These were delicious and plated beautifully. The scallop sashimi was so thin and fresh and I love the textural crunch offered by the miso flakes
  • [Sashimi] Kurobuta Black Pork (thinly sliced pork belly, dashi jelly, mache, salty caramel sauce) - this was also very nice. The dashi jelly is a nice touch
  • [Tempura] Sand whiting (curry salt, apple aioli, layu) - highly recommended, these went down a treat. The tempura batter is so light and the whiting were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The aioli was a great dipping sauce. I imagine these as the perfect snack with a beer!
  • [Robata i.e. skewers] Beef (short rib, caramalized eschallots, BBQ teriyaki) - nice and tender
  • DengakuMan (caramelized miso cod, Japanese salsa, celery croutons) - the star at The Star. This "essential dish" is fantastic. The fish was so soft and flaky and the miso sauce and cucumber salad/tomatoey salsa was just perfect. Do me a favour and order this one okay? ;) It's a must
Yum, I'm remembering how good this dish was. You could flake the cod with your chopsticks without any effort at all. Aah!
  • Lamb Chop Maple Miso (Maple miso, burnt baby eggplant) - the add-on because we were demolishing the rest of our order
The maple glaze was almost redundant here (and too sickly sweet). The lamb chops were tender but had great big globules of fat still hanging off them. Render that off people! The eggplant cream was the highlight. P.S. sorry for the exceedingly dodgy picture (it was dark!)
  • [Sushi roll] Japanese Barbecue Roll (Karubi short rib, gochijang sauce, white kimchi) - average, no need to bother with that one
  • [Soup] Kyoto Clear soup (enoki mushroom, citrus drop)

Dessert (of) course
  • Donatsu (pineapple marscapone filling, creme fraiche ice cream) - The waiter was saying "Donatsu" in his accent and we were like "Doughnuts...?" Luckily, they were the Japanese version of donuts or things might have gotten hairy. Language barrier on all fronts! Hey, good looking...
Yes, but unfortunately they looked better than they tasted. The outside was not that crisp and the inside was too soft and batter-y (not cooked completely through). The ice cream was nice though
  • Chef's dessert sampler (chef's selection of 4 desserts). Pretty good value for money at $26 and contains each of:
    • Sokyo "mochi ice cream" (yatsuhashi kyoto mochi, frozen strawberry milkshake) - this one was alright. At least the flavour was imparted from actual strawberries (always a plus)
    • Goma street (caramelized white chocolate, sesame ice cream) - the chocolate component was very very sweet but I'm a sucker for a good black sesame ice cream
    • Yamazaki caramel macchiato (coffee ice cream, coco nibs, whisky foam)- like a Japanese tiramisu
    • Miso tapioca (red tea foam, coconut cream, miso caramel, orange air) - definitely saved the best till last. YOU MUST ORDER THIS ONE
The Yamazaki macchiato (left) was a nicely layered dessert. The crunchy bits of cocoa (very much like coffee beans) paired nicely with the cream. The miso tapioca (right) was a stand-out for sure. I was hesitant about having miso in a dessert but you can't taste it at all. Instead, you get that lovely hit of red tea that has been infused into the foam and the lovely texture from the sago
Overall, the dining experience was quite variable but I think that particular dishes have rather redeeming qualities. Definitely glad I tried it out. Anyway, I hope this review is more help than hindrance! Phewee! That was a marathon and a half. Thanks for reading ;)


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