I visited Cho Cho San on the 14th of October for Elaine’s birthday dinner but October was quite a busy/big eating month for me so I completely forgot about the photos I took and the review I intended to write. Around the September/October period, Cho Cho San was making big waves in social media. Right now on Urbanspoon it still ranks as #8 on it’s Talk of the Town rankings. I had also read a bunch of really positive food blogs so perhaps I was more than primed to really enjoy food that was seriously out of this world. Sadly, in my opinion, Cho Cho San did not hit the mark as a restaurant that I would go back to. This may have happened through a combination of factors some of which really isn’t the restaurant’s fault but did contribute to my overall less than stellar sentiment about the place.
For starters, we were told that we could only have a 6.30 pm – 8 pm booking due to the popularity of the restaurant (this was a Tuesday night). Traffic and parking was terrible so the majority of the party only arrived around 7 pm. This meant we had an hour to order and eat everything, including two cakes we had brought in for a birthday. Again, not Cho Cho San’s fault but this resulted in a terribly rushed dinner with food coming and going without a moment to pause and reflect on anything we’d just put in our mouths. Next, and probably my biggest gripe, the portions are pretty darn small for the price point. We’re a party of eight people who are quite ravenous after a big day but even after having my share of the two birthday cakes (again very large, one of them was a super rich chocolate cake), I didn’t find myself particularly full. This was despite the fact that we did order quite a lot, mostly double portions of everything so everyone could try some. And lastly, I guess there were some dishes that I didn’t think were all that good. I am not by any means a stingy diner, and I will pay happily if I believe the price reflects the value of the food. Some of the nicer things we ordered I was okay with, but for the average tasting dishes it just felt like a bit of a rip off considering how much it costs. But enough of me just whining, I’ll let the photos and captions explain everything. (PS, my camera settings were not right + bad lighting in the restaurant resulted in some pretty bad photos)
Hiramasa kingfish, pickled ginger, cucumber and soy ($21)
I love kingfish, these pieces were cut to a perfect sashimi thickness although a little bit on the small size overall. The dressing wasn’t overpowering which is always a good thing to let the taste of freshness shine through. This was probably one of the better dishes that night.
Tuna, avocado, pickled eggplant ($22)
I believe this was extremely popular that night and it also has been on social media. So it is probably my own personal taste that didn’t find myself raving about this dish. I think the pickled eggplant component may have thrown the taste a bit off for my palate, I can’t think of any other reason as I am usually a big fan of tuna and avocado.
Beef tataki, wild rice and ginger dressing ($22)
I don’t really remember this dish. It was a long time ago, but I would argue that if I had liked it at all, it would have been memorable for me. Still, I could be wrong. I have a vague recollection of Phil finishing up the last portion of it and I think he enjoyed it.
Petuna ocean trout, black pepper and wasabi ($20)
Like the kingfish, the ocean trout is beautifully cut. I may be jumping up and down a lot about this one point but I cannot stress enough how many restaurants in Sydney fail to slice their sashimi to the right width. Which is a shame as it’s a bit of a loss potential for sashimi that is really fresh. Aside from that though, this tasted like a very ordinary bowl of sashimi, also on the small side. However I’m a huge fan of oily fish like salmon and trout regardless so I didn’t protest too much when I got to have the last piece.
King prawns and konbu butter ($24)
I know it’s not cooked in exactly the same style, but this strongly reminded me of Devon by Night’s char-grilled jumbo prawns. I think this was okay and I liked just because it was prawns and not because of anything particularly special in the way it was cooked.
Brown rice, shiitake mushroom and egg ($14)
Was actually quite a tasty side dish. But considering the components of this dish don’t seem to be that expensive, $14 for such a small bowl really irked me.
Not sure if the menu has changed but perusing it online I believe this was the soba noodles, calamari, sesame and edamame ($22) except there weren’t any soba noodles on the night. In fact I’d very much like to believe that the menu has changed, so let’s go with that version of the story. I do like calamari and this had a slight sweetness which made it very moreish.
Miso cod, celery, ginger ($40)
Unlike some of the other dishes I’ve highlighted so far, this was excellent. Soft tender chunks of cod (which flaked away as you prodded it with a fork) meets that undeniable sweetness of miso. It’s a very small portion of fish but miso cod is expensive EVERYWHERE. And as I’m writing this I’m wondering if I should just go scout for my own piece of cod and cook it at home.
Green beans, red miso ($12)
I like green beans but this wasn’t particularly exceptional. I suppose you can argue that it is just a side of greens and I can’t really expect too much from it.
Iceberg, ponzu dressing ($9)
This on the other hand was surprisingly tasty!Really liked how crispy and refreshing this was. I am endeavouring to make this at home someday. Towards the end I swear Elaine’s mom and I were fighting for the last remnants of lettuce leaves.
Spanner crab omelette, Japanese curry ($28)
By far the most disappointing dish of the night because of how much it has been hyped up on social media. To quote Elaine’s mom ‘This tastes like my own crab curry except less crab and much, much more egg’. It was really, really small, with the egg cooked like khai jiao/ochien, a Thai/Malaysian street food style of frying an omelette which involves copious amounts of hot oil. I have also made Japanese curry A LOT in my high school years so maybe this just tasted way too close to home in a I-can-probably-make-this-cheaper-and-better kind of way.
Soy-glazed Wagyu Beef ($36)
The last course to arrive, I remember the beef being really succulent and quite tasty so I was very happy with this. I think we may have only ordered one portion of this though, so it wasn’t quite enough for everyone to have seconds.
And that concludes my review of Cho Cho San. Honestly I am usually quite positive with my reviews, I really try to find something good to say about every restaurant and it is highly uncharacteristic of me to do a bad review. With that said I think this review is a lot more constructive rather than all out restaurant bashing and you can call me crazy but on the whole I just didn’t fall in love with Cho Cho San. The food seemed to range from okay to slightly above average at best, with the heavy price tag really weighing it down. I hazard to guess the bill came to about $450 – $500 considering our double orders, which basically means about $70 per person. It’s a similar amount to how much I would pay at Sokyo, except Sokyo actually continues to blow my mind with each revisit. I had every reason to enjoy this dinner, it was my best friend’s birthday, I was in excellent company and it was Elaine’s sweet mom who ended up paying for all of it. But looking at the price and how meh I felt by a fair amount of the dishes, I hesitate to go back again, even if it was on someone else’s dollars.
Onto a more positive note, Flic and I got Elaine a Floral Faux Pavlova from Unbirthday bakery. It may have sunked in parts because of the bumpy ride Flic had to take driving all the way to Castle Hill and then to Potts Point but it was still every bit as delicious as it is visually appealing. Elaine is a pavlova queen, she has all but sworn allegiance to this particular dessert. There are numerous options of cakes that Nikki from Unbirthday can make, and all works of art. But the moment Flic and I laid eyes on the pav, we just knew this was the true cake for Elaine.
And Elaine got herself a Zulu cake (Valrhona ‘Macae’ chocolate mousse encased in salted caramel and dark chocolate ganache) from La Renaissance. The silly girl thought no one would get her a cake for her birthday. I mean, even her mom baked her one that morning! This was written two months late, I’m so sorry for the delay of this post but Happy Birthday again Elaine!
You’re the Edodgiest.