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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Pho Toan Thang, Flemington

Pho dac biet Vietnamese noodle soup at Pho Toan Thang, Flemington

There might be a dozen restaurants near Flemington station but Pho Toan Thang is the only one you can guarantee will have a queue out the front. A long-held favourite with locals, the dining room is heaving with families, toddlers, couples, groups of friends and wizened pensioners. During peak hours, the queue out the front can be twenty-deep.

Crispy chicken, pho and Vietnamese food at Pho Toan Thang, Flemington

Pho Toan Thang might have a Vietnamese name, but the menu covers both Vietnamese and Cantonese dishes. The dining room offers the usual DIY set-up, with chopsticks, cutlery, condiments and tissues-for-napkins on every table. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to share your table with others during busy periods.

The classic pho dac biet, or combination beef rice noodle soup gets star billing on the menu, a huge bowl of clear broth packed with rice noodles, beef tendon, beef balls and thin shavings of beef.

Crispy chicken with tomato rice at Pho Toan Thang, Flemington
Crisp chicken with tomato rice $10.50

The crisp chicken with tomato rice is a winner, the skin rendered to a glassy tile that shatters at first bite.

Deep fried pork chop with tomato rice at Pho Toan Thang, Flemington
Deep fried pork chop with tomato rice $10.50

The deep-fried pork chop also comes up trumps, so juicy and sweet you’ll end up gnawing the bone to claim every last skerrick. But it’s the tomato rice that accompanies both that will blow your mind completely. Where other places tend to serve up a bright orange rice that’s heavy on the bottled tomato sauce and overly sweet, here it’s a deeper tinge of tan with more savoury notes, caramelised edges and hints of high heat smokiness known as “wok breath”.

Beef fried rice at Pho Toan Thang, Flemington
Beef fried rice $10

It’s this wok breath or “wok hei” that makes the fried rice here so special too. You’ll find bits of dark and crunchy morsels in amongst the beef fried rice, plumped up with peas, shallots and fluffy omelette clouds.

Fried rice with salted fish and chicken at Pho Toan Thang, Flemington
Fried rice with salted fish and chicken $10

For a real flavour hit, get the fried rice with salted fish and chicken, the salty bursts of preserved fish contrasting with the tender strips of marinated chicken.

Black pepper pork trotters at Pho Toan Thang, Flemington
 Black pepper pork trotters $12.50

If you’re still hungry, plough your way through an assortment of hot pots that run from black pepper pork trotters to duck feet with sea cucumber and mushrooms

Spring rolls at Pho Toan Thang, Flemington
 Spring rolls $6.50

They’ve got all your old skool favourites too, like spring rolls, fried wontons, sweet and sour pork and yep, even sizzling Mongolian beef.

Pho Toan Thang Vietnamese restaurant at Flemington


Pho Toan Thang on Urbanspoon

Pho Toan Thang
Shop 9, 90-95 The Crescent, Flemington, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9764 3687

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday 9am - 8pm


This article appeared in the September 2014 issue of Time Out Sydney in my monthly Food & Drink column Eat This! [Read online

Read more of my Time Out Sydney reviews

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/01/2014 04:00:00 pm


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Haymarket Chinatown

Stinky tofu at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown

Stinky tofu. Its infamy might precede itself but the version at the newly opened Three Lanes and Seven Alleys isn't half as scary as you'd think. Cubes of tofu have been deep-fried so they develop a golden shell. We can't detect much fermentation in the tofu cubes themselves, but the sauce on the side packs a heftier punch. It has all the hallmarks of stinky tofu, like someone left a wedge of blue cheese in a pair of old gym socks and let them sweat in the sun. It's pungent almost to the point of dizzying but somehow it's crazy addictive- you'll easily find yourself dunking those deep-fried tofu squares in the sauce to soak up every last bit of goodness.

DSCF5450-1409
Don't throw out those old trousers - turn them into a chair covering!

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys is named after the famous area of the same name in the capital city of Fuzhou, Fujian. There really are three lanes and seven alleys, and it remains a popular tourist attraction because of its ancient architecture dating back to the Tang dynasty (618-907AD).

Fujian fish puree soup at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fujian fish puree soup $7

The dining room is filled with students both times I visit. Dark timbers abound and there's been some thought put into the decor, with stark white sketches of Fuzhou architecture on the black walls, and an elaborate construction of wooden beams overhead.

You'll feel like you've stumbled through a portal into China, especially when the waitstaff struggle to speak English. On our second visit, our waiter had to helplessly flag down an English-speaking colleague to take our order.

Fuzhou is particularly famous for its soups, and much of the menu is devoted to variations on soups with noodles and soups without. We were toying with the Fujian fishball soup ($7) but ended up ordering the Fujian fish puree soup instead. Actually it's not a puree at all, but small pieces of a very soft fish that possess a myriad of fine bones, some of which are dangerously forked. It's all a good laugh until a bone gets stuck in your throat. Take your time with this one. We also find the soup way too salty to drink.

Sweet potato vermicelli with pork intestines at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Sweet potato vermicelli with pork intestines $9.80

The soup with the sweet potato vermicelli packs a chilli kick. It's a fishy, sweet and sour soup punctuated with glossy strands of starchy sweet potato noodles and a mix of pickled and fresh green vegetables. We order ours with pork intestines, well cleaned and satisfying chewy.

Fish head with chilli sauce in rice noodles at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fish head with chilli sauce in rice noodles $15.80

The signature rice noodles in a hot pot is what everyone's slurping. Heads are buried over these cauldron-like bowls, filled with soup and assorted fixings. The rice noodles are served on the side so you can slide them in as you please.

Fish head with chilli sauce in rice noodles at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fish head 

We go with the salmon fish head with chilli sauce. There's plenty of fatty salmon meat to be had if you're patient. The rice noodles are cooked to a firm al dente, and if you're still feeling hungry, you can get a follow-up serve of rice noodles for free. Now I know why all the students are into these!

Marinated beef tongue and marinated duck gizzards at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Marinated beef tongue and marinated duck gizzards $9.50 for two side dishes 

There's still so much to try that I return a couple of days later with a colleague for lunch. There's a massive selection of offal cuts on offer, including beef tendons, beef tripe and pigs ear. They're all less than seven dollars but you can order a combination of two or three for cheaper.

The marinated beef tongue has been sliced thinly. It's already tender but a dunk in the accompanying black vinegar with chilli makes it sing. I pick the duck gizzards, cooked to an expert pink. They're equally good, but the vinegar really does make it so much better.

Fujian pork wonton at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fujian pork wontons $5 

Fujian pork wontons are a whisper of silky dough wrapped around a petite mouthful of seasoned pork mince. We find the slick of oil on top of the soup a little heavy going though.

Fujian dry noodles with peanut sauce at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fujian dry noodles with peanut sauce $5 

We have to dig to the bottom of the bowl to find the peanut sauce hidden underneath a pile of Fujian dry noodles. Mix it all up with chopsticks so everything's coated evenly and relish the sauce tastes like a runny peanut butter.

Fried milk bread at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fried milk bread $6

There are steamed milk breads on the menu but they'll also deep fry them if you ask. That means golden pillows of sweet fluffiness with condensed milk on the side. The skin crisps like there's a toffee lacquer on the surface and the stark white bun on the inside is so soft you may even shed a tear. It makes for a perfect dessert, even if you do end up warring over the last bit of condensed milk - there's never enough.

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown


Three Lanes and Seven Alleys on Urbanspoon

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys
50 Dixon Street, Haymarket, Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 7770

Opening hours:
Sunday to Wednesday 12pm - 9.30pm
Thursday to Saturday 12pm - 10pm


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Hunan cuisine - Chairman Mao, Kensington
Sichuan cuisine - Red Chilli Sichuan, Chatswood
Yunnan cuisine - Two Sticks, Sydney

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/27/2014 06:00:00 am


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands

Baklava, pastries and shortbread biscuits at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands

Here's the easiest and cheapest way to do a food tour. Head somewhere new and wander the streets. It's what we did when we visited Merrylands for the first time a couple of months ago, a suburb that caused several colleagues to be taken aback when I mentioned where I going. Often these are the places you want to visit. You won't find a whole street filled with shiny franchises and fancy cafes with carbon copy menus. What you should find is a maze of grocery stores, bakeries, pastry shops and restaurants selling all kinds of deliciousness you've never encountered.

We had just finished feasting on incredibly cheap Persian sandwiches when we began ambling the surrounding streets in search of dessert. We dawdle past old skool bakery with passionfruit slices and lamingtons but are soon swept up in the grandeur of La Galette Patisserie, its gleaming glass cabinets filled with an army of Middle Eastern sweets.

Rum baba at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Rum baba $3.50

The patisserie is huge, bright and shiny with its gleaming tiled floors and sparkling glass cabinets. "European cakes are on the left hand side and Oriental sweets are on the right" the shop assistant explains. The European cakes includes black forest gateaux, profiteroles, banana tartes, banana galettes and rum babas.

Banana galette at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Banana galette $3.50

Maamoul with dates at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Maamoul with dates $22 per kg

On the opposite side of the shop are the Oriental Sweets although we immediately associate them with being Middle Eastern. Maamoul are shortbread biscuits usually filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts.

Maamoul with pistachio at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Mammoul with pistachio $28 per kilo

They've got every variety here. The pistachio mammoul are dusted generously with icing sugar. It's a gloriously messy affair with shortbread crumbs and icing sugar flying everywhere.

Namoura at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Namoura $15 per kilo


Namoura is a popular semolina cake, commonly made using semolina, yoghurt and ghee. I love the slight sandiness of this dessert, each semolina grain swollen with syrup. Usually squares are marked with a single almond but I love how they create a chequerboard pattern here with almond halves and pistachio smithereens.

Pistachio baklava at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Pistachio baklava $28 per kilo

We load ourselves up with plenty of baklava too. In addition to the walnut and pistachio combos, you can get ones made with just pistachio or just cashews. They're all good. I find the cashew baklava has a sweet butteriness to it. The assortment of shapes is mind-boggling too: pyramids, coils, logs and the ones I call mini sausage rolls. Each of them taste different to me because of their filling-to-pastry ratios.
Cashew baklava at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Cashew baklava $22 per kilo

The filo pastry is thin and flaky, with far too many layers to count. There's not too much syrup either - just enough so the nuts stick together and you get a sweet aftertaste with every bite.

Karabeesh at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Karabeesh $28 per kilo

Karabeesh might look like meringue or cream but the rosettes on top are actually made from soapwort roots. The roots are boiled in water, then the liquid is whipped with sugar syrup. It magically turns into a sweet white foam called natef that looks and tastes much like meringue.

The karabeesh is a layered construction of natef meringue piled onto a biscuity pistachio base. The crushed pistachios on top provide a great textural crunch.

Chaaybiet at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Chaaybiet $2 each of $20 per dozen

We pounce on everything new, including this tray of chaaybiet, triangular pastries filled with custard cream. Its humble appearance belies its magnificence, the pastry shattering all over your shirt in the best way possible as your teeth sink into the custard core. It’s a rarity of perfection – the pastry isn’t too dry or soggy; the custard isn’t too sweet. The only problem you’ll face is when you finish it and wish you’d bought more.

Faysalieh at La Galette Patisserie, Merrylands
Faysalieh $6 each

Make sure you get the chaaybiet as well as the faysalieh. Faysalieh a triangular pastry of shredded fillo pastry packed around a filling of whole pistachios. One triangle could happily feed two but they’re happy to sell you just a half portion, sliced so you get a cross-section view of the bounty inside.

If you like crispy pastry, this one will bring a smile to your face. The pastry has been brushed with syrup but it still maintains its crunch. And I can't get over how many pistachios are crammed inside.

Carry your precious cargo home or do like we did - detour to a nearby park and gorge yourselves on pastries as your lay on the grass. You couldn't ask for a sweeter end to your DIY food tour.


La Galette on Urbanspoon

La Galette Patisserie
169 Merrylands Road, Merrylands, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9637 4441 or +61 (0)424 330 160

Opening daily 7.30am-10pm


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Merrylands - Aria Persian Fast Food

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/24/2014 07:59:00 pm


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont

Maguro tuna tataki at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont

So everyone knows that the best sushi is the freshest, right? Not always. Ageing some types of fish - especially tuna - is a desired process that enhances its taste and texture, just like beef. It's a practice they carry out with pride at Sokyo, overseen by Executive Chef Chase Kojima.

Chef Chase Kojima at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Executive Chef Chase Kojima

Sydneysiders didn't know much about Chef Chase Kojima when he first opened Sokyo -- a portmanteau of Sydney and Tokyo -- in November 2011. He arrived with impressive credentials, the son of San Francisco sushi chef Sachio Kojima and a CV of stints at Nobu restaurants from all over the world, including Dubai, London, Los Angeles and the Bahamas.

Dining room at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sokyo dining room

Although Sokyo can seat up to 116 diners, it still maintains a sense of intimacy, helped by dark walls and floorboards offset by warm lights overhead. The scalloped wall at the far end reminds me of fish scales, and there's a harmonious sense of repetition with the curved wooden chairs grouped around each table.

Kingfish miso ceviche at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Kingfish miso ceviche $20
Green chilli, crisp potato and miso ceviche

Today I'm dining with several other bloggers as a guest of Sokyo, an intimate lunch in one of their private dining rooms. We're plied with Ruinart champagne to start and then treated to a seemingly non-stop parade of dishes matched with sakes and wine.

The kingfish miso ceviche sets the tone for the meal, simple but sophisticated, served in reassuringly heavy stone bowls. The kingfish is plump and sweet, doused in a miso dressing and finished with fine tendrils of deep fried potato strings and thin slices of green chilli.

Maguro tuna tataki at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Maguro tuna tataki $28
Seared tuna, carbonised leek aioli, pickled mushrooms, asparagus and smoked ponzu

If there was a beauty pageant for food, the maguro tuna tataki would be a surefire finalist. The tuna has been aged for a week so the flesh has taken on a melting softness, seared ever-so-briefly on each side. It rests on a bed of carbonised leek aioli - where carbonised means burnt, we presume - surrounded by a garden of edibles flowers marked with shimmering pebbles of ginger gel that burst in the mouth.

Chase toro toro bluefun tuna belly, white sea urchin and black truffle sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chase Toro Toro $15 each
Bluefin tuna belly, white sea urchin and black truffle sushi

It's a shame that the Australia truffle season has since ended because the Chase Toro Toro is truly worth pursuing. An assembly of the finest bling in gastronomic luxury - that's bluefin tuna belly, white sea urchin and black truffle - it's all piled onto a mound of sushi rice riding a magic carpet of crisp nori. There's the buttery richness of sea urchin, the gentle softness of tuna and the musky aroma of truffle against the briny brittleness of toasted nori. How do you say awesome in Japanese? Sugoi.

Snapper and spanner crab at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Snapper and spanner crab spicy soy $20
Dried shiso, capers and spicy white soy

Snapper and spanner crab are dressed in this season's favourite overcoat: microplaned radish. Deep fried shallots add a textural crunch. The spicy white soy is mild in flavour, but baby capers provide gentle pops of saltiness.

Moreton Bay Bug tempura at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Moreton Bay Bug $26
Green papaya pomelo salad with sambal mayo and black pepper amazu

The Moreton Bay Bug tempura is the most popular tempura variation ordered by customers, says Sokyo General Manager, Jean-Baptiste Robert. The tempura batter is impressively light and crunchy, achieved by the use of cold water within the batter. The water explodes when the batter hits the hot oil, creating pockets of air that translate to a feather-light crunch.

Dip the tempura morsels in either the mayonnaise spiced up with sambal or the black pepper amazu sauce made with rice vinegar and sugar. I preferred the lightness of the amazu, although the green papaya pomelo salad does a great job as a palate cleanser too.

Tempura cauliflower with Iberico jamon and black truffles at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Tempura jamon $28
Tempura cauliflower, premium Iberico jamon, yuzu hollandaise and black truffles

Tempura cauliflower gets upstaged by a flashy support cast that includes shavings of Iberico jamon and truffle. It sounds completely over the top in theory, but somehow it works altogether, even if the cauliflower ends up in the background.

Kurobuta pork belly at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Kurobuta pork belly $14 for two skewers
Daikon, sansho and mustard aioli

The kurobuta pork belly skewers are cooked on a robata grill. That means slow grilling over charcoal so the smoke permeates the meat.

Kurobuta pork belly at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Kurobuta pork belly 

The skewers are trimmed so each edge is precisely flush, an alternating pattern of succulent pork belly - rendered so the fat has soaked through the meat - and the juicy sweetness of daikon.

Caramelised miso cod at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Dengakuman $39
Caramelised miso cod, Japanese salsa and cucumber salad

Caramelised miso cod isn't cheap but the dainty mouthful is so darn good you'll want to savour it in tiny bites. The miso glaze is sweet and sticky, clinging to the tender flakes of buttery soft cod.

Chef Chase Kojima shaving truffles over wagyu at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Executive Chef Chase Kojima shaving Tasmanian black truffles over wagyu

Executive Chef Chase Kojima pops in and out of our private room throughout lunch. He shaves a generous amount of truffles over the wagyu oyster blade, filling the room with the aroma of truffles. The truffles were dug up only the week prior in Tasmania, attended by Kojima himself.

Wagyu oyster blade steak with black truffle at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Wagyu truffle $62
Wagyu oyster blade MBS 5+ 150grams, medium rare, served with garlic chips, black truffles, fresh salad and black truffle vinaigrette

The wafer thin shavings of truffle fall like autumn leaves on the thick slices of wagyu oyster blade. It's a killer combo, the beef lush with fat, broken up by the welcome addition of bitter radicchio leaves.

Chu-toro, kingfish belly, salmon belly, scampi and spicy tuna on crispy rice sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sushi: chu-toro, kingfish belly, salmon belly, scampi and spicy tuna on crispy rice

We're all taken aback when we each receive our sushi platter bearing five types of onigiri sushi. We start from the front, revelling in the plump luxury of chu-toro tuna belly before progressing through the kingfish belly, salmon belly, scampi and spicy tuna, the last one served on a gold brick of deep-fried rice.

Strawberry meringue dessert with sheeps milk burnt butter sorbet at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Strawberry meringue (off-the-menu special)
Sheep's milk burnt butter sorbet, caramelised milk powder, salad burnet, pineapple sage and shiso salad

Desserts are a trio of temptations. The strawberry meringue is off-the-menu but here's hoping they'll add it soon. It's a light and refreshing conclusion of sheep's milk burnt butter sorbet garnished with shiso micro leaves and shards of meringue.

Goma Street dessert with caramelised white chocolate and sesame ice cream at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Goma Street $13
Caramelised white chocolate with sesame ice cream

I'd quite happily live on Goma Street if I could. Discs of dark chocolate are sandwiched with black sesame mousse, standing tall beside a quenelle of the smooth black sesame ice cream on a rubble of caramelised white chocolate.

Black truffle Mont Blanc dessert at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sokyo Mont Blanc $19
Black truffle Mont Blanc, chestnut, chocolate and black truffle ice cream

And if you could please a Mont Blanc fan any further, shavings of black truffle should do it. The sides of the Mont Blanc terrine are plastered with black truffle but it's the black truffle ice cream that commands our intention. The flavour of black truffle is so intense, I want to close my eyes so I can quietly appreciate the moment.

Sushi counter stools at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Stools at the sushi counter

Our media gift bags had included a $100 gift voucher, so Chocolatesuze and I return a few weeks later for dinner. Sitting at the sushi counter gives us the best view of all the action in the kitchen, but we're a little taken aback when we realise that Chef Chase Kojima himself will be preparing all of our sushi tonight.

Chef Chase Kokima preparing sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Chase Kojima preparing sashimi

It takes me a while to realise there's a panel of glass separating us from the sushi. There are no reflections, fingerprints or markings on the single curved sheet of glass.

Sushi chef preparing onigiri sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sokyo chef making onigiri sushi

An army of sushi chefs work with quiet speed behind the counter. The restaurant quickly reaches capacity, and plates of sushi and sashimi fly out thick and fast.

South Australian tuna sashimi with mountain potato at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
South Australian tuna sashimi $5.50 per piece
With mountain potato, shiso and pickled ume plum

Chef Chase Kojima warns us that the mountain potato will be sticky to the touch. I've had mountain potato before in Japan, but it's the first time I've had it in Sydney. Chef Chase Kojima says he's found a grower who supplies him with all types of traditional Japanese produce.

The spears of mountain potato have a oozing stickiness much like okra, matched well with the pickled ume plum and triangle of shiso against the softness of raw South Australian tuna.

Hay smoked bonito sashimi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Hay-smoked bonito (market price) 

Hay-smoked bonito is a surprise dish but one we both love immediately. The bonito is infused with an incredible smokiness, enhanced with ginger and a sprinkle of finely chopped chives.

Bluefin tuna belly, white sea urchin and black truffle sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chase Toro Toro $15 each
Bluefin tuna belly, white sea urchin and black truffle sushi

The Chase Toro Toro is still on the menu, and it's every bit as good as we remembered, a two-bite explosion of tuna belly, white sea urchin and aromatic black truffle.

Sushi chef preparing bluefin tuna belly, white sea urchin and black truffle sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sushi chef adding the finishing touches to another order of Chase Toro Toro 

Mackerel sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Mackerel sushi (market price) 
with chilli oil and soy ginger

There's a great sense of dramatics when each piece of sushi is prepared and laid before you, one by one so you can eat them as fresh as possible. The mackerel sushi glistens with its glaze of chilli oil and soy sauce, firm and succulent on its pillow of sushi rice.

Scampi and foie gras at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Scampi and foie gras (off-the-menu special)

We're treated to Chef Chase Kojima's favourite dish, an off-the-menu special of scampi and foie gras. We both fall quiet at first bite, the sweetness of seared scampi lifted by the rich decadence of foie gras. It's a ridiculously sexy dish, pepped up with matchsticks of green apple, shavings of radish and echoes of white miso with soy.

Short rib beef robata skewer at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Beef robata $17
Short rib, caramelised eschallots and barbecue teriyaki

From the robata menu we order the beef short rib, a carnivore's paddle pop of fatty rib interspersed with caramelised eschallots glazed with sweet teriyaki sauce.

Cuttlefish tempura at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Cuttlefish tempura $16
Chilli de arbol and tarragon ponzu sauce

The cuttlefish tempura is another success of tempura lightness. A squeeze of lime is all that's needed for the tender curl of cuttlefish encased in a cloud of batter.

Chef Chase Kojima with a tuna tail at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Chase Kojima with the tail of his recently purchased 133kg tuna

Chef Chase Kojima normally ages his tuna for a week but he's keen to share part of the prime 133kg tuna he'd successfully won at the Sydney Fish Market auction only a few days before. After some considered inspection, he declares that the tuna tail is ready for eating right now, giving us a quick lesson in tuna biology as he fillets the fish.

Chef Chase Kojima with a tuna tail at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Tuna love

Chef Chase Kojima filleting a tuna tail at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Chase Kojima preparing the tuna

Chef Chase Kojima slicing the chutoro sashimi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Chase Kojima slicing the chu-toro sashimi

Chu-toro tuna sashimi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chu-toro tuna sashimi (market price)

Chu-toro is the medium fatty section of the tuna belly, easily distinguished by its deep pink appearance. It's soft and yielding, easily slipping down the throat with a sigh.

Kotoro tuna sashimi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Kotoro tuna sashimi (market price)

Kotoro, we're told, is only found in larger-sized tuna. It's Chef Chase Kojima's favourite part but where others usually mash it with a spoon to create a tuna tataki, he prefers to score it. "If you go in the right direction and make lots of fine cuts, it becomes so tender and tasty," he tells us. He's right. It's a collision of flavour with pillow-like softness and one of my highlights of the night.

Chef Chase Kojima adding wasabi oil to the ootoro tuna sashimi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Chase Kojima adding wasabi oil with the ootoro

Ootoro tuna sashimi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Ootoro sushi (market price)

The ootoro is the prime part of the tuna belly, the fattiest part and almost white in appearance. This part of the tuna is so lush with fat it's almost buttery.

Chef Chase Kojima shaving truffles onto the wagyu oyster blade at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Chase Kojima shaving truffles onto the wagyu oyster blade

It's the last few weeks of truffle season so we order the truffle wagyu oyster blade while it's still on the menu. Chef Chase Kojima comes out of the kitchen so he can shave the truffles right next to us. Watching them float down is a magical sight.

Wagyu oyster blade steak with black truffles at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Wagyu truffle $62
Wagyu oyster blade MBS 5+ 150grams, medium rare, served with garlic chips, black truffles, fresh salad and black truffle vinaigrette

There's an eiderdown of truffles draped over the thick slices of seared wagyu steak. We revel in it one last time while we can.

Chef Chase Kojima slicing the alfonsino kinmedia sashimi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Chase Kojima slicing the alfonsino kinmedai

We switch back to sushi mode as Chef Chase Kojima prepares the alfonsino kinmedai. I'd chosen this as I'd hadn't tried this as sashimi before. Alfonsino kinmedai also goes by the name of imperador, red bream and Tasmanian snapper.

Alfonsino kinmedia sashimi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Alfonsino kinmedai (NZ) $5.50 per piece

There's a gentle sweetness to the alfonsino kinmedai, brushed with the lightest glaze of soy.

Salmon belly sushi and seared salmon sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
[front] Salmon belly sushi (Tasmania) $6 per piece and
[rear] Seared salmon sushi (Tasmania) $4 per piece

We move onto the Tasmanian salmon. Salmon belly slices are rich and fatty, sprinkled with lime zest, sancho pepper and kelp. The seared salmon is scattered with yukari, flakes of dried red shiso leaves, and crowned with a dollop of spicy aged daikon.

Raw scallop sushi and seared scallop sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
[left] Raw scallop (Japan) $4 per piece and
[right] Seared scallop (Japan) $4 per piece

I'm a huge fan of raw scallop, relishing their sweetness, but Suze and Chase both prefer theirs seared. Suze is so full I end up scoring half of hers anyway, flamed with a blowtorch so the edges have a smoky kiss.

BBQ freshwater eel sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
BBQ freshwater eel (Taiwan) $6 per piece

The barbecue freshwater eel comes from Taiwan. Chef Chase Kojima confesses he's not a fan of the strong flavour of eel and tempers it with lime zest. The rich fattiness has been reduced, but it's actually a pity as that's why I love it so much.

Chef Chase Kojima making a chu-toro and sea urchin roe hand roll at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Chase Kojima making my chu-toro and sea urchin roe hand roll

"Is there any more sushi you want?" Chef Chase Kojima asks. I can't resist ordering a hand roll to finish, looking forward to the crackle of nori against warm rice.

Chu-toro and sea urchin roe hand roll at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chu-toro and uni sea urchin hand roll (market price)

I can't decide what I want and let Chef Chase Kojima choose. He says he usually likes vegetables in his temaki, or hand roll, but he quickly picks me as a devotee of chu-toro. It's one helluva temaki with chu-toro and sea urchin roe rolled up with rice in two sheets of nori.

Chef's dessert sampler of Goma Street, tofu cheesecake, yuzu souffle and donatsu donuts with pineapple mascarpone filling at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef's dessert sampler $26
[from top] Goma Street; tofu cheesecake; yuzu souffle and donatsu with pinapple mascarpone filling

We order the chef's dessert sampler to share, a quartet of sweetness that includes the Goma Street we'd tried before, tofu cheesecake, yuzu souffle and two donatsu donuts perched on silver spoons.

The donatsu Japanese donuts hide a surprise filling of pineapple mascarpone. Their fluffiness is the perfect bedfellow for the accompanying scoop of creme fraiche ice cream.

Tofu cheesecake dessert at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Tofu cheesecake with thyme sugar and strawberry consomme

The yuzu souffle is deliriously good, rising tall from the ramekin but sinking quickly as we took photos. The souffle is gracefully airy, zingy with yuzu citrus and so tasty I end up scraping the ramekin clean.

But the surprise of the night is the tofu cheesecake, our initial nervous trepidation allayed at first bite. The square of cheesecake is whisper light, perched on a trail of strawberries, thyme sugar and passionfruit jelly.

It's familiar but sophisticated, much like the overall experience at Sokyo. I'd definitely recommend sitting at the sushi counter - that way you get a free theatre show thrown in as well.

Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont


Sokyo on Urbanspoon

Grab Your Fork dined for lunch as a guest of Sokyo. The dinner above was partially funded by a $100 voucher received from Sokyo - the remainder was paid for personally.

Sokyo Japanese Restaurant
Level G, The Darling at The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9657 9161

Opening hours:
Lunch
Friday 12pm-2.30pm

Dinner
Monday to Wednesday 5.30pm-9.30pm
Thursday to Saturday 5.30pm-10.30pm

From 1 October, Sokyo will be opening for lunch Thursday to Saturday and dinners Monday to Sunday


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
The Star - BLACK by ezard
The Star - Momofuku Seiobo

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/21/2014 01:47:00 am



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