Sitting at the sushi bar (this is best seat in the house as you get to watch the chefs prepare everything before your eyes), I was delighted when chef Chase Kojima mentions that he’s read all of my Yoshii (a fantastic little Japanese restaurant at The Rocks; you can find my past reviews here, here and here) reviews. I clearly love my Modern Japanese food and Chase is quite the master at creating it! Chase, at just 31, has an impressive CV, having headed up kitchens all over the world for the celebrated Nobu restaurant group. Sokyo was recently awarded its first One Chef’s Hat in the 2014 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, within its second year of opening.

Sokyo restaurant dining space

Sushi bar at work at Sokyo

Chase in the Sokyo kitchen
Chase Kojima in the kitchen

Sokyo chopsticks

The restaurant name Sokyo, is a play on the combination of Sydney with Tokyo; the decor and music sets the mood accordingly. The comic-style cocktail menu is fun to browse but the staff appear extremely knowledgeable so we sit back and go with the flow, trusting their cocktail and whiskey recommendations.

Cocktails at Sokyo

Whiskey at Sokyo Lounge

Oshibori at Sokyo
O-shibori are provided to clean one’s hands before eating

Comic style beverages menu
Comic-style cocktail menu

Seeing as it’s our first visit, we decide upon the chef’s omakase menu ($120), a great way to sample what Sokyo is all about! The chefs basically check on your dietary requirements and then send you a seemingly endless flow of food! It’s a must for any special occasion and takes the pressure off ordering the ‘right’ dishes.

While mid-conversation, a spectacular smokey display is set in front of us. The cloudy yuzu essence floats around us for a while before disappearing, revealing plump Tasmanian pacific oysters with a sake lime granita and spicy ponzu dressing. It’s fresh, zingy and a great palate opener.

Tasmanian pacific oyster, sake lime granite, spicy ponzu, yuzu essence

I love the drama that the dry ice adds to the oysters, the upbeat ambiance around us, the fact that I want to try absolutely every item on the menu and I love even more, the idea that Sokyo is the result of young Chase’s dreams. Chase packed up everything and moved to Sydney to launch Sokyo because one of his regular customers offered him this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He jokes that everything about Sokyo is him, except he doesn’t own it.

Kingfish miso ceviche, crispy potato
Kingfish miso ceviche

The second course is Kingfish miso ceviche with green chilli and crispy potato. The flavours are delightful and so fragrant, I love the fine texture of the potato crisps.

By the third course, I’m ready to declare that Sokyo is right up there on my list of best Japanese in Sydney.

Just look at this!

Bluefin toro, seared Tasmanian Uni, nikiri truffle poke
Bluefin toro, seared Tasmanian uni, nikiri truffle poke

What is it? Bluefin toro, seared Tasmanian uni, and nikiri truffle poke. As beautiful as this dish is, it is also mind-blowingly delicious. Poke is the Hawaiian verb for ‘to slice’ and a poke dish typically consists of cubed sashimi with a soy-based sauce, and sesame oil, chilli and seaweed for flavour. With so many prized ingredients combined into this poke rendition, it’d be fair to call this the king of all pokes! It’s so luxuriously exquisite!

Salmon belly, Kyoto peach, ssamjang, brussel sprouts
Salmon belly, Kyoto peach, ssamjang, brussel sprouts

Next is the salmon belly with Kyoto peach, ssamjang and brussel sprouts. It feels like a natural progression to move from tuna belly to salmon belly, yet the two courses couldn’t be more different. The brussel sprouts have a deep earthy flavour that pairs well with the ssamjang paste. The subtly seared salmon belly is finely folded and accentuated with a segment of crisp Kyoto peach.

David Blackmore short rib (sous vide for 24hrs low low heat) tataki, chestnut purée, tarragon ponzu
David Blackmore short rib tataki

Leading into the warm courses, we’re served David Blackmore short rib tataki with chestnut purée and tarragon ponzu. The short rib is sous vide for 24hrs on an extremely low heat to produce this unbelievably tender bite.

Seared scampi, foie gras, apple and mizuna salad
Seared scampi, foie gras, apple, mizuna salad

The seared scampi, foie gras, apple and mizuna salad is utterly gorgeous in presentation and the bay bug tempura topped with green papaya & pomelo, amazu and chili mayo dipping sauce has us fighting for the last piece.

Bay bug tempura, green papaya & pomelo, amazu, chili mayo
Bay bug tempura

Dengakuman, marinated miso toothfish, Japanese salsa, cucumber salad
Marinated miso toothfish

I’m most excited about the marinated miso toothfish which has a similar texture to black cod; the outer layer is caramelised and rich in flavour, and the firm flesh is buttery and moist. The accompanying Japanese salsa, and cucumber salad breaks up the heaviness, imparting a refreshing undertone.

Chef Chase Kojima, Sokyo
Chef Chase at the sushi bar

The wagyu beef cheeks signal that we’ve reached the end of the warm courses. They’re slow cooked for 48 hours and are easily broken apart. Served with celeriac puree, morel mushrooms and sake soy, it’s robust on the palate and is pure comfort food.

Wagyu beef cheeks (48hrs slow cooked) celeriac, morel, sake soy
Wagyu beef cheeks with celeriac, morels and sake soy

Demonstrating Chase’s vision to create the ultimate modern Japanese restaurant, he excitedly introduces sushi chef Takashi Sano who he believes is one of the best in Australia. Takashi is ex-Tetsuya’s and was plucked from Koi Restaurant to head up the sushi bar at Sokyo. Here, he works with a superb collection of seafood, including some rare ingredients such as the Toro Hagashi, sourced from Japan via Spain’s Black Sea. Raising the bar even further, Chase casually mentions that he even has a super freezer at Sokyo to store this private collection of top grade fish at -80°C!

Best seat in the house at Sokyo
Sushi chef, Takashi Sano

Kinme-dai, aged alfonsino 6 days
Kinme-dai, aged alfonsino 6 days

Hamachi - sunazuri, from Japan, kingfish belly
Hamachi – sunazuri, from Japan, kingfish belly

Tai ceviche, shio konbu salsa, nori
Tai ceviche, shio kombu salsa, nori

Most of the nigiri sushi is already flavoured to accentuate each fish’s unique qualities, nothing ever being too obscure or complex. The creativity and the care taken to prepare each morsel is amazing to watch. Even the cuttlefish sushi, normally chewy and slippery is soft and luscious with a delicate sea-scent. The tai ‘taco’ with crispy nori as the taco shell and the toro with crispy rice base are both standouts.

Many of the others, I eat with my eyes closed, worried I’ll miss any subtle nuances of its taste.

Spicy tuna (toro) crispy rice
Spicy tuna toro with crispy rice

Ika, cuttlefish, lemon, konbu
Ika (cuttlefish), lemon, kombu

Toro - hagashi, from Spain Black Sea to Japan to Sydney (I have a super freezer keep temperature at -80 c)
Toro Hagashi

Engawa - Kinme-dai "fin"
Engawa – kinme-dai “fin”

Salmon belly, seared, aged graded daikon, yukari
Salmon belly, seared, aged grated daikon, yukari

Waiting in anticipation for the ‘cheese’ course, we sip on a bold green tea.

Green tea at Sokyo
Green tea

And… Surprise!

The cheese course comes disguised as donuts! Still piping hot, a small bite into the perfect sphere reveals a heavenly filling of melted gorgonzola and crushed pecans. Washed down with the nashi pear sorbet, I just want to eat and repeat.

Prep dessert/cheese course: blue cheese donatsu (donuts) nashi pear sorbet
Blue cheese donatsu with nashi pear sorbet

Yamazaki macchiato, coffee ice cream, caramel mousse, yamazaki whiskey foam
Dessert tasting platter

Tofu cheesecake, thyme sugar, strawberry consommé and Green tea mochi, frozen strawberry milkshake
Strawberry consomme poured onto tofu cheesecake

Dessert is also a show stopper. I wouldn’t have expected anything less!

Goma Street (Goma is Japanese for Sesame 😉 ) features carmelized white chocolate mousse with black sesame praline crumbs and a divine black sesame ice cream. There’s also tofu cheesecake with thyme sugar and strawberry consommé; Yamazaki macchiato, with coffee ice cream, caramel mousse and Yamazaki whiskey foam; and green tea mochi filled with frozen strawberry milkshake.

goma street (goma=sesame, get it!?) carmelized white chocolate mousse, black sesame ice cream

By the end of the meal, there are one too many highs to recall each in detail. One thing is certain, choose the omakase if you want to be fed like royalty for a few hours. It’s set to impress and I can’t wait to return!

Level G, The Darling, The Star
80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont NSW
Phone: (02) 9657 9161

Sokyo on Urbanspoon

I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Sokyo



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