Part three of my birthday week eating series is Cho Cho San (see part two here). I haven’t been back since Elaine’s 22nd birthday in 2013 where dinner was pleasant but not an experience worth having again. This was in fairly early days for the restaurant. However with mom’s complaints that we always eat at the same place, Cho Cho San seemed like a good location to revisit.
I’m running late again which tempts mom and her friend into ordering some light snackage. From what they tell me, it’s a pillowy bun with a slightly sweet filling and a good crunch.
The gyoza is quite reasonable at $12 for five portions and mom cites the dumplings itself to be a nice little mouthful with a great filling to dumpling skin ratio. There’s Szechuan spice thrown into the sauce as the chilli component which may work for some, but our table isn’t all that partial to it.
From here on, we let my friend Jason (who’s working a shift there that night) take the wheel in terms of what to order.
Petuna ocean trout, black pepper and wasabi ($21)
Ocean trout is my favourite fish of all time. It has a fattier texture compared to salmon and is slighter lighter on the tongue in terms of that ‘fishy’ taste. It goes extremely well with the radish wafers plated alongside it, cutting through its springy meatiness with a fresh hit. Don’t be fooled by the dark marinade it sits in, it’s very light and definitely does not take away from the trout itself. I’m usually really against dressing up perfectly fresh seafood but this works extremely well.
There was stiff competition between the scampi and ocean trout as to which would come out top of the raw bar section of the menu. I liked the tanginess of the ponzu, it went really well with these plump scampi bodies. Mum is a fan of kohlrabi and made quick work of the residual strands long after we demolished the scampi. Going to call this a tie, I loved them both!
Grilled king prawns, kombu butter ($24)
The grilled king prawns are an unexpected favourite of the night. They look great but taste phenomenal. It tastes like very little is add to it beyond the kombu butter which in itself is just one big umami bomb. Mum and her friend sigh repeatedly, dreaming of a bowl of rice to lap up the butter sauce with.
Beef tartare, wild rice, ginger dressing ($22)
Visually one of the most stunning beef tartare I’ve ever seen. It’s nice, the wild rice and puffed rice add so much texture to it. I’m not huge on ginger (and actually weirdly thought the tartare was sitting on hummus) but if you eat all the components together, it works. Not the best beef tartare I’ve had but it’s certainly quite decent and makes for good eye candy.
Seafood rice bowl ($25)
This is an interesting one. Mum is determined to get a bowl of chirashi but it arrives in a manner none of us expect. It’s a stone pot because the whole thing is actually really hot. If you’re thinking bibimbap then you’re correct because underneath the diced up fish, tobiko, shallots, edamame, lies steaming hot gochujang rice. There’s even a perfectly shaped raw egg in the middle to mix it all together Korean-style. Mum is enamoured at this combination of her two favourite loves. I like it for its inventiveness but if you don’t eat it all quickly, the raw fish turns into cooked fish a little too easily. Plus +100 points if the folks at Cho Cho San can do a version which gives you burnt crispy bits of rice at the bottom of the bowl!
Green beans, red miso ($12)
Sides usually aren’t worth highlighting too much but definitely get this when you’re at Cho Cho San. The miso is all hot, gooey and caramelised across the beans while the sesame seeds are a nice touch.
I’m really glad I cho-cho chose you Cho Cho San. Overall, it’s the kind of food that swings across multiple cuisines (think Devon by Night) but when well executed still manages to provide a decent feed. I would come back for that going-out chill vibe and to tear through their raw bar selection. Cheers to Jason and Nic for showing us such a great time!