This was my first birthday being away from my family and it was pretty ironic because I was quite excited. Ana took me to one of Sydney’s finest Japanese Restaurants : Toko in Surry Hills. It has won so many awards and as I got there I realized how many people were in line, trying to get in for a seat. In fact, Toko is so famous, everyone has to share a table with other people. This was really very exciting for me. I haven’t seen a high end restaurant this busy before sunset. The interiors were mostly black and wooden. Their entire staff was in black. Passing the tables before we got to our table, I saw so many wonderful and beautiful plating and cocktail presentations. The place was noisy. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. Even the servers have the air of being posh and great…they all knew they were working in a place that would not disappoint anyone. Nat, Ron, and Tracy joined us, these were Ana’s friends who share her passion for really good eats…and even they looked excited.
Ana knew what to order and so we just sat down and waited for our food to come. I marveled as I watched the servers put these beautiful plates in the adjacent tables. Their sushi chef seemed to always be moving…and they actually put ice carvings into each sushi or sashimi platter. There was an open robata grill station where people sat in front of it to watch their busy grill man do his thing. Their kitchen was partly open, showing the chefs go through the order slips and carefully dispatch the newly cooked food.
The first food that came out were the Edamame Beans. These were beans you suck on to get the smaller seeds inside. It was tossed in a fermented bean and chili garlic sauce. The beans were nice and nutty. Their flavors were subtle but it was a good mix with the chili garlic.
Their salad (I don’t remember what it’s called), it had mizuna, some thin slices of cucumber, avocado and asparagus. And it came in a Japanese vinaigrette. The greens and vinaigrette were so refreshing and the balance of different fresh flavors were really pleasant and was making me even more eager to eat. The sesame seeds provided a wonderful nutty flavor and a different crunch to every bite.
Wagyu Sushi – This wonderful bite sized experience costs AUD $6 per sushi…and it was soooo worth it! I had 2 sushies and I just felt so happy.When you look at the sushi, you will see that the wagyu is perfectly grilled to a medium rare to rare doneness and it covers the entire mound of rice under it. The shallots look like little jewels on top with a strand of chive. As you put it in your mouth you will notice an intense buttery flavor that you can only get from wagyu. The beef was so tender, it melts in your mouth. As you bite into it, the wasabi comes out giving a really surprising kick reminding you that you are actually eating sushi. The shallots add a wonderful texture and flavor that plays in your mouth…oh I will have so many beautiful dreams about this!
Cucumber Sushi with Salmon and Wasabi : There was a rich buttery flavor from the salmon and there was lots of wasabi on the rice for a sharp contrast. The cucumber made the roll very refreshing and cool in the mouth.
Breaded Tuna Roll with Chives and Togarashi Pepper. Taste of the nori enhances the tuna and the chives. This was like a spicy gunkan except it didn’t really have the mayo.
Softshell crab sushi: The soft shell crab was very light and yet the flavor was creamy. The avocado and cream cheese gave it a rich and slippery texture which contrasted with the light and crisp crab.
Skewered mushrooms : This simple dish was enhanced by its own flavor of the shiitake with a hint of subtle sauce of soy, honey, butter and maybe a little hondashi.
Grilled eggplant with Miso paste: The dark portion of the eggplant had a sharp cramelized flavor. When you dig through the inside of the eggplant, it reveals a creamy slightly, spicy and slippery melt-in-your-mouth feel. Sweet and savory always works well together.
Duck with a marinated pear on the side. The duck was very rich and velvety and it tasted almost slightly cured but it was very tender. The pear pickle cuts the fat of the duck and goes beautifully with each other. On the side you will find a brown seasoned salt and when you put the duck in it, it actually gives a foie gras flavor (maybe it was something like a foie gras salt?!). It was very interesting indeed.
Scallops with pickled jalapeño puree. The rich and firm scallop is contrasted with the slightly spicy and sour jalapeño sauce. It was just a small piece but the flavors burst into your mouth when you eat it. It looks beautiful too like a small, colorful plant.
Rest time came and after a few minutes, a big platter of desserts over ice came my way with little candles! We all shared in this wonderful dessert selection:
Pana cotta with berries and yuzu foam. The sauce and panna cotta was very flowery with a crunch to it because of the sugar coating. I loved the juiciness of this dish and the creaminess of the panna cotta.
Chocolate cake fondant: It had a good amount of cake in it and when we cut it, it began oozing out this wonderfully smooth dark chocolate. It was warm and contrasted with the sorbet selection.
Green Tea creme brulee had a wonderful but subtle green tea flavor.
Sorbet selection: Orange sorbet was subtle and light, the Mango sorbet (I guess because the mangoes were not Philippine mangoes) had a subtle flavor…it almost tasted like sea urchin. And there was grapefruit or guava sorbet…at that point I was over satisfied and too full to eat.
This is by far, the most creative modern-Japanese place I’ve ever been to and I really enjoyed the food experience. How lucky was I to get to do this on my birthday?!