All photos in this post were taken by Robert Newey, unless otherwise stated
Spicy edamame – $9 – shichimi nikiri soy and shaved katsuobushi
In 2014, I spent my birthday having my first day of school in Stockholm University and then later playing slightly drunk wallflower at Cafe Bojan, the most convenient and most derelict of clubs, located right on campus. In 2013, I had my shindig 21st with Elaine and over a hundred people. After two years of really cool celebrations, I was looking forward to something quite low-key for this year’s coming-of-age.
My first suggestion to Robert was that we should get Lebanese takeout. His response was something like “Are you going to be able to live with that decision?”. For the record, I really, really, really love hummus and falafels, but perhaps even he knew that I should at least not be wearing pyjamas at home for the entirety of my birthday. Or that I would bitch at him later for allowing me to get takeout. Either way, calling in at Sokyo at around 5 pm gets us an 8 pm table on this Monday night. And that’s how we end up meeting this edamame. I am usually loathe to order soybeans I can make myself but these aren’t ordinary beans (said Jack before the beanstalk). They’re smoky from being on the robata and moreish from the salty shichimi mix. The katsuobushi gives it an extra element of flavour, this is most certainly not your standard bowl of steamed edamame.
Salmon White Soy Ponzu – $20 – Huon salmon, beetroot and horseradish salsa, Kyoto baby peach puree and green elk
When Robert and I both turn up, we give each other the once over at what we’re wearing. I think we both usually spend an entire day being excited at the prospect of dressing up, but this is a spontaneous curveball we’ve thrown ourselves. Robert had the handicap of having the majority of his collared shirts still in the wash, so I think I won that night.
This sashimi starter however had us both feeling like winners. I love the combination of salmon and beetroot it felt like a Japanese homage to Scandinavian gravlax. All of Sokyo’s sashimi starters (sans the platter) are seasoned up in some way with a bit of spice, a bit of marinade or some added vegetables which gives it a lot more character than the “purist” stuff. I mean, both styles are great as long as the fish is always fresh and you know it is for sure at Sokyo.
“Kobe Cuisine” Wagyu +9 Tenderloin – $58 – Pumpkin, wasabi butter, shio kombu jus 180g
I don’t eat pork while Robert has a separate stomach for bacon. How we eat together so often surprises me too. I think it all comes down to compromise, he has started to appreciate seafood that isn’t just sushi train, and I put myself through Suminoya meat sweats with him every once in awhile. My meat-eater tendencies has definitely upped itself over the last couple of years. So much it was seriously tempting to get the wagyu +7 ribeye that we had last time, except that’s 800g of meat between the both of us. Definitely more of a sharing dish, but coming here with just us two forces us to try something different, that is the Kobe cuisine tenderloin. Robert (unsurprisingly) declares this his favourite dish of the night. While pumpkin is a pretty common meat side dish, it’s still a little surprising how harmonious the taste is to eat them together in one mouthful. It probably helps that the meat is almost the texture of the pumpkin, melt-in-your-mouth from the marbled fat.
DengakuMan – $39 – caramelised miso cod, Japanese salsa and cucumber salad
I super, super heart cod but it’s really hard to find a place in Australia that does justice to such an oily fish. In my household, it’s usually steamed but only to the point of flakiness, add a heap of shallots, drizzle a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil and there’s your dinner with rice. The DengakuMan is nothing like that but it’s another style of cooking cod that really brings out the texture of the fish. I love the sticky sweetness but even when it gets too much you have the salsa and cucumber salad (yes I ate it) to balance it all out. You’ll often hear many people singing praises about this one and I’m telling you that it’s all true.
Toro nigiri sushi – Market Price/$15 a piece
I truly believe that everyone is a fan of tuna belly, whether you’re a toro, chuutoro or ootoro fan. My mom’s preference is usually for chuutoro because she loves fat but is defeated by how seriously fatty ootoro is. The magic of any of the three has never been lost on me thanks a High School long obsession with Ouran High School Host Club.
Sokyo also has the Ooma Bluefin Toro but I think on that day the pricing per nigiri was the same, just that the Ooma comes with four pieces. Wanting to save room for other options plus dessert, we decided on the two piece option and in hindsight I’m glad we did. The fish was incredibly creamy, in comparison other fish all taste like sandpaper and the taste was light but still flavoursome. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed a second piece because I was really getting quite full at this point.
Queensland sushi roll – $21 – Spanner crab, spicy avocado, soy paper
Every time I come to Sokyo I insist on ordering this and the spicy tuna roll. This is the first time I’ve gone without the latter but I always have to have the Queensland roll. It looks a little interesting albeit the colours are unremarkable but packed underneath the avocado puree is a seriously load of crab mixed with perfect sushi rice. I love the way the soy paper holds everything together, it’s a lot softer than nori which might have taken away from the dish because of the texture and the pungent taste. Soy paper needs to be incorporated into more sushi!
This brings us to the end of our main courses, and we soldier on with dessert. I must confess this is the first time I’ve ever had dessert at Sokyo. Main courses usually leave me begging for mercy already and then there was the time we got a Messina cake insead. It’s incredible to break my no-Sokyo dessert streak with not one but five desserts, thanks Jason!
Chocolate Peanut butter Fondant – $15
Robert will of course choose anything with chocolate in it and peanut butter seals the deal for him. In a lot of ways this was really, really good. Decadent chocolate mixed with peanut butter and vanilla ice cream, what’s there not to love?
Gooey innards pooling on the plate. With all that said I think it’s a teensy bit generic, but only in comparison to the desserts below which are inventive and dishes you probably won’t be able to find anywhere else.
Tropical Panna Cotta – Coconut tapioca, passionfruit curd and fresh fruit
Something significantly lighter than anything we’ve eaten so far. I’m still not the biggest fan of panna cotta so I didn’t manage to finish mine but Robert really enjoyed this one.
Sokyo Mochi Ice Cream – Yatsuhashi kyoto mochi, frozen strawberry milk shake
The dessert that has a bit of a cult following judging by these two blog posts from some very handsome food bloggers. The mochi skin is quite delicate while the frozen milk shake incased in it isn’t too sweet which allows the green tea skin to still shine.
Goma Street – Caramelised white chocolate, sesame ice cream
Goma Street has done the rounds on Instagram and it’s always surprised me because it looks different each time. It’s already an innovative dessert, how is it possible to come up with so many variations? Sesame is a die-hard favourite in various Asian cuisines, it’s so nutty but can be overpowering. I like how it’s put head-to-head against an equally powerful flavour like caramel (and from white chocolate to boot). So you get the sweetness from the chocolate and the depth from the sesame.
Sokyo’s Seasonal Special
It’s off the menu so you may have to ask waitstaff directly for this but hands down my favourite dessert of the night. Which is funny because it’s probably the least complex of them all. Sometimes the best things in life are easy. Mango with a balanced sweet and sour flavour profile, sweet meringue with a bit of crunch all pulled together with some cream and what I believe is the best mango sorbet I have ever had. It’s almost a sorbet/puree mix because it definitely lacks any shred of iciness but all the body of a mango. This is an Australian summer personified, heck it’s even green and gold!
Choya ‘Ume’ Classic and Choya ‘Green Tea’ Uji – $10/glass
I’m not a drinker but I’ll drink for my birthday. I’m partial to umeshu so we get a couple to accompany dessert. Robert’s is the classic which goes down like Choya I’ve had in the past, quite sweet and a little on the fragrant side. I am much more in love with this new discovery of mine, Choya Green Tea. You only get the soft notes of green tea at the end but it makes all the difference. Would gladly purchase a bottle of this! Not pictured is the Choya ‘Black Rum’ Kokuto which we got a sample of at the end. I think it was more to Robert’s taste as the smokiness from the rum and brown sugar was really reminiscent of his whiskey.
I’m usually big on planning and organising all of my appointments, even meals, but I am so glad that Robert’s spontaneous suggestion of Sokyo turned into such an amazing dinner. It’s only February and I know I’ll be back to Sokyo quite soon but I think this particular visit is going to standout as one of the best meals I’ve had in 2015. Items without the price tag were given to us complimentary. Thanks so much to Jason for looking after us, even without knowing that it was my birthday. I’m one of hordes of food bloggers and food aficionado who can’t stop waxing lyrical about Sokyo. But the hype is real guys, trust me it is.