Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sokyo Japanese Restaurant - Pyrmont, The Star - Sydney, Australia

Sokyo Japanese Restaurant

'The Star' has had a major transformation since the days it was still called 'Star City'. After the refurbishment, a number of eateries have since opened with food court stores, casual outlets and high end restaurants occupying the space.

So-k-yo, I had trouble pronouncing the name and had to ask my friends who said it's Tokyo but with a S. It has always been a place my best friend has wanted to go to and for her birthday she decided she wanted to go there. Initially, we wanted to go hiking but unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, it was way too hot and we would have been toasted by the time we were done. Walking from Town Hall to The Star gave us a nice unwanted tan.

Sokyo Japanese Restaurant is a fine dining restaurant serving contemporary fusion Japanese cuisine, located within The Star complex. Sokyo was awarded a 'One Chef's Hat' from the SMH Good Food Guide 2014 and 2015. The head chef, Chase Kojima is a well-known Japanese chef, having worked at the renowned Nobu restaurant group worldwide. It's not the typical Japanese food you would usually find around town but Sokyo adds a new dimension with a western twist.

Getting to Sokyo from the inside of The Star can be confusing. We had to ask concierge for directions and they were happy to help. There is a sign that leads you to the outside but then you have to turn left into an interconnecting building. It's discretely hidden in the lobby of the Darling Hotel, away from the casino.

The prices here aren't cheap and you're paying the premium for quality food. However, for lunch they currently have a set lunch for the special price of $45 for a three course meal with miso soup and a green salad included.  A bargain considering how much each dish can cost. You have the choice of one sashimi, one tempura and one main from a selection of 3 dishes in each category. Usually, you wouldn't associate large portions with fine dining restaurants and this restaurant was no exception.

The interior is stylish and modern with hues of black and wood. As you walk in, the ambiance is relaxed and welcoming. Even though the dining area is big, it still retains that intimacy.

The bar area is separated from the main dining area.

We arrived just a bit after lunch service started, it was empty, but the room gradually filled up with customers. For those out there who are fans of Alan Tam, a famous Hong Kong singer who was here for a concert with Hacken Lee earlier in the month, he was also dining at Sokyo whilst we were eating there. My friends couldn't help but spy at his table to catch a glimpse of the star and his entourage.

A huge sushi bar is visible from the dining area.

Miso soup actually varies in taste between restaurants. I've never liked miso soup until recently. I tried it at a Neutral Bay Japanese restaurant, and it was one of the best I've ever had and my liking for it started from then. We had a choice of either miso soup or clear soup.

The 'Miso Soup ($6.00)' here is tasty. It's made from a blend of miso, dashi, tofu and daikon.

The 'Mixed Greens ($8.00)' portion is huge. This is a big contrast to what we were going to be served. We get two of these plates to share between three. They use a spicy garlic vinaigrette dressing which is refreshing to the palate, but they were a bit heavy handed leaving the salad leaves drenched in dressing.

The 'Salmon Ssamjang' is my preferred choice of the three options available. As mentioned previously, I'm not a fan of raw seafood and I dread at the thought of having to eat raw sashimi. The waitress told us this was partially cooked sashimi so I thought I would give it a try considering I wasn't able to switch to another dish.

The salmon was nicely flamed with a torch and it did have a lovely zesty and acidic drizzle made from red shiso, ginger and ssamjang, a form of Korean red paste. I don't like raw fish and I didn't really enjoy it. My two dining companions thought it had nice flavours but they prefer raw sashimi over partially cooked sashimi. Thus, a personal preference thing.

The 'Tuna Umami ($18.00)' is a fancy looking plate of sashimi. Thin slices of fresh raw tuna are topped with garlic soya sauce and choya umeshu, which is a plum wine liqueur in a cubed jelly form. Miss A thoroughly enjoyed this dish and preferred this over the salmon.

The tempura selection is my favourite part of the meal. Who doesn't like fried seafood?

I opted for the 'Barramundi Tempura ($19.00)' and it tasted very much like the Aussie fish and chips. A light and crispy batter, though not like the Japanese tempura we're accustomed to eating. Dipped in layu, a form of chilli oil, and apple aioli served on the side, this was the perfect match.

The 'Cuttlefish Tempura ($16.00)' has a light crispy batter that is delicious. It's different to the batter used for the barramundi. A side sauce made from Chilli de arbol, a form of Mexican chilli, and tarragon ponzu is provided on the side. Both were very good tempura dishes. We wish they gave us more!

For mains, there was a choice from fish, lamb or scallops.

The 'Sea Scallops ($30.00)' looked delicate in that huge plate. Three plump pieces of scallops were cooked to perfection leaving it tender and oh so juicy. This was accompanied with a wasabi and shitake pepper sauce, reminding me very much of a creamy steak pepper sauce.

The meat on the 'Lamb Chops ($36.00)' was falling off the bone. Tin Tin wasn't sure on how to eat it as no knife and fork was given, leaving her to fend with only a pair of chopsticks and her hands. They say you got to do what you go to do and she had to use her hands. The sauce, made from a mix of black garlic eggplant puree and basil looked extra thick but it gave it that extra flavour.

For dessert, we chose to try two and picked the ones that sounded most appealing. Dessert is fairly priced in comparison to the other dishes.

'Goma Street ($13.00)' is picture perfection on a plate. The presentation of this is one of the best I've ever seen for a dessert. 5 discs of thin dark chocolate are layered with a sesame filling and crunchy sesame bits. Then to the side is quenelle of ice cream on top of caramelised white chocolate crumbs. It tasted as good as it looked.

'Sokyo Mochi Ice-cream ($9.00)' is very different to the mochi we imagined. It's not round like the usual mochi but resembles wonton. The green and chewy glutinous outer skin is wonderfully delectable encasing a scoop of strawberry milkshake ice cream. The ice cream tastes like candy and I much preferred the Goma Street dessert over this as it lacked that oomph.

The service at Sokyo is exceptional and the food is well presented. A great place to dine for a special occasion or if you are just after excellent Japanese food with a modern twist. It will put a hole in your wallet but the lunch special that is currently on is excellent value. Book ahead online as spots fill up during lunch and dinner. A dining experience to be remembered.

Level G, The Darling
The Star
80 Pyrmont Street
Pyrmont NSW 2009

Opening Hours
Breakfast: Daily 7am-10:30am
Lunch: Thu-Sat: 12pm-2.30pm
Dinner: Sun-Wed 5.30pm–9.30pm
Dinner: Thu-Sat 5.30pm–10.30pm


Sokyo on Urbanspoon

Friday, 24 October 2014

Cow and the Moon - Enmore - Sydney, Australia

Cow and the Moon

If you like gelato and read the newspapers recently, then you've probably heard of 'Cow and the Moon'. It was named the world's best gelato maker at the 'Gelato World Tour' held in Italy, taking out the prestigious title by beating ice cream artisans from all over the world. To be honest, I've never heard of them till I read about them. This ice creamery is secret no more.

Now, how did that happen? You would think that the best gelato would be awarded to a gelateria in Italy as this is where gelato originated from. But no! This family run, suburban gelateria, located in the inner-western suburbs of Sydney won this acclaimed award for its 'almond affogato' flavoured ice cream, a twist on the classic affogato.

Since we were in Newtown lunching at the Pie Tin, we thought we would drop by the neighbouring suburb, Enmore, and join the masses in giving this famous ice cream a try. Indeed, we already had our fair share of dessert at the Pie Tin but that wasn't enough for our greedy stomachs.

We proceeded to walk a good 15 minutes from Newtown to Enmore, to walk off the food we ate earlier. From afar, we could see a queue that was snaking around the block and it didn't seem to get any shorter as we approached this corner store. It seemed as though everyone in Sydney had one thing in mind that day, and that was to taste the world's best ice-cream. We joined the queue and we waited in line for about 20 minutes.

They have a number of flavours on offer from the classics to the gourmet. Coffee and various desserts are also available.

Now, on to the famous ice-cream. We opt for the 'Small Gelato ($5.00)' which entitles us to two flavours. The almond affogato flavoured ice cream is based on the classic affogato, featuring single origin coffee and caramelised almonds with a Madagascar vanilla base. Doesn't that sound appealing? It's a winning combination and you have to taste it to know why.

The ice cream is creamy, rich and velvety smooth. The mix of flavours is superb, though a bit on the sweeter side for me. It tasted great, like how a good ice cream should taste. A perfectly balanced ice cream with a vanilla base and coffee infusion, which was subtle but indeed delicious. Together with the crunchy bits of almond and caramel, it was satisfying and refreshing on a hot day. If you're not a coffee lover, then you may not like it. I had this with a scoop of 'vanilla' ice cream.

JJ asked the question of, "How do you judge the world's best ice-cream?''. That is a good question, as we all pondered how the judging process works. For us as individuals, deciding on what flavour we like is a matter of personal preference and it's subjective.

The gorgeous Spring weather has finally kicked in, so give yourself a sweet treat and visit this ice cream bar and try it for yourself. Be prepared to wait.

181 Enmore Rd
Enmore NSW 2042

Phone no: 02 9557 4225

Opening Hours
Monday - Sunday
8:30am - 11:30pm


Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato on Urbanspoon