Tokonoma is the CBD sister of Toko Surry Hills you need to try.
Nestled in the heart of the Sydney CBD, surrounded by the towering buildings and bustling crowds is a quiet ode to Japanese cuisine. Having opened two years ago on Bridge Street, Tokonoma is the sister venue to Matt Yazbek’s popular Toko restaurant in Surry Hills. Here you’ll find a celebration of authentic Japanese cuisine with a focus on high quality, seasonal produce. While Japanese staples such as sushi, sashimi and other traditional Japanese flavours make an appearance the menu, Tokonoma produces some unique dishes, many of which you’ll never find on your local sushi train.
Like the menu, the restaurant itself strikes a balance between traditional and contemporary. Oriental artwork adorns the walls while some patrons sit front row at a minimal, modern bar as they watch the chefs yield their knives. Romantically lit, Tokonoma by Toko is the perfect date spot for those who enjoy Japanese cuisine.
We start our evening with some signature cocktails. The Yuzu Spritz ($18) is a refreshing blend of Belvedere vodka, a homemade spumoni mix (grapefruit, orange and Campari), along with yuzu sake, fresh lemon juice and sparkling wine. The bitterness of the citrus and the generous hit of yuzu gives it a delicious tang. It’s a refreshing palette cleanser before we start eating.
The Natsu Mai Tai ($19) is a must try. Consisting of pineapple infused Woodford Reserve, umeshu, apricots, fresh lime juice and a secret blend of house spices, it is one for those with a sweet tooth and lends a tropical feel to the meal.
The menu at Tokonoma by Toko is designed to be shared steadily throughout the sitting. If you can’t decide on what to choose from the extensive menu, opt for the chef’s selection of signature dishes ($98), a remarkable showcase of the restaurant’s best work. We, however, go DIY and order the King Crab ($24), a light, salad style dish served with cold soba noodles, tobiko, cucumber and a saikyo miso. The salad is incredibly fresh and crab is wonderfully sweet.
After consuming every last dollop of that miso dressing we delve into our second starter of Kangaroo Tartare ($19). Tokonoma by Toko strives to create modern Australian cuisine with an authentic Japanese aesthetic and this dish is the pinnacle of that vision. Served with pepita-blood lime, native herbs and sesame tuile, the tartare is an absolute treat. Kangaroo can sometimes be quite tough and gamey but this meat melts in your mouth. The flavour is rich but not overwhelming. The lightness of the pepita-blood lime and subtle sweetness of the sesame tuile crackers pairs perfectly.
Up next we try the Grilled Eel nigiri ($16/two pieces). A delicious piece of torched eel, a dab of decadent foie gras and an incredible flourish of sweet and sour umeboshi (a pickled plum) make this a luxurious mouthful. One bite of this sushi and you’ll never look twice at a boring cooked tuna and avocado hand roll again.
The Honey Bug Nigiri ($22/two pieces) is a different story. It’s definitely for those with an acquired palate, taking the term decadent to a whole new level. The honey bug sashimi is covered with shaved foie gras alongside truffle and soy jelly. Some will find the foie gras accompanies the lightness of the sashimi wonderfully. Others will find the lashings of opulent foie gras too rich.
Two dishes stand out for mains. The Moreton Bay Bug Tempura ($34) is a staple at Tokonoma by Toko and served alongside yuzu koshou mayonnaise and a ponzu dipping sauce. The bites of bug are cooked to perfection beneath the rich tempura batter. Try dipping them into the ponzu sauce. The light citrus tang helps curb the heaviness of the tempura. While the yuzu koshu mayo is delicious in its own right, it’s quite heavy for the dish.
We make room for the black cod, served with saikyo miso and pickled ginger ($42). The velvety fish falls apart at the slightest touch of your chopsticks. The saikyo miso is literally finger licking delicious. Priced at $42 it’s an expensive dish for it’s size but, like everything at Tokonoma by Toko the focus is on quality over quantity.
Be sure to leave room for the pièce de résistance – the Yamazaki Sundae ($17). Find a designated sweet zone in your full bellies, this sundae is one of a kind. Beautifully presented in an ice box, the sundae is layered with coffee mousse, chocolate sorbet, honeycomb and brownie chunks. Every bite is full of different textural elements and flavours. The whiskey flavoured cream is incredibly light and fluffy and melts in your mouth.
A splash of contemporary flair here, a hint of authentic Japanese creativity there – Tokonoma by Toko has created their own delicious way of doing things. While some items on the menu may seem overly exotic, the passion for seasonal produce and new and exciting dishes means there will always be something for you to enjoy.
Tokonoma by Toko is one of the most delectable dinners I have experienced in Sydney to date. It’s one for those you not only appreciate Japanese cuisine, but simply good food.
Tokonoma by Toko
Basement, 44 Bridge Street, Sydney
Mon & Sat 5.30pm-11pm, Tues – Fri 12pm-3pm & 5.30pm-11pm
02 9251 8185