Toko Melbourne, Prahran

Eat, Melbourne / 28 February 2017

Walk into Toko Melbourne, which is nestled on Prahran’s Greville Street, and the unassuming front of the restaurant gives way to an impressive, contemporary dining space. Table and wall lighting plays against the dimmed light throughout, and the sweeping row of wooden shared dining tables and two-person tables create a welcoming, intriguing space. It’s moody and minimal and spacious and intimate all at once. The subtle contrasts hint at understated drama which is followed through into the menu.
Taking a seat near the open kitchen, my friend and I order two cocktails. She, the lychee and saffron martini, me the rabuba – a rhubarb sake with passion fruit and spice syrup. These set the deliciously high standard for the meal that follows.
Toko Melbourne Rabuba
Chatting with a friend that I haven’t see in a while invariably distracts me from pouring over the menu of a restaurant when I get there. This can often result in hastily picking a familiar dish, rather than stepping into new tastes territory. So I like to check out the menu before I get there, and pick out the best contenders for the meal.
However, a quick glance at Toko Melbourne’s menu on their website and I knew there was more on there that I wanted than this belly of mine could handle in one sitting. What’s a girl to do? Sharesies, that’s what.
My friend and I put our catch up aside – which is no mean feat – to strategically select dishes that we both want to taste. There are so many dishes that stand out for their well thought out flavour combinations so we have to do this carefully. And we totally ace it.
A bowl of fresh, warm and salted edamame keep our fingers entertained and mouths nibbling while we pick dishes from the kitchen, sushi, tempura and grill menus.
Toko Melbourne
To begin, slivers of fresh, delicate slices of kingfish with yuzu and chives slip over the tongue. In contrast, the handmade Wagyu beef gyoza burst into the mouth revealing a rich meaty taste drizzled with the subtle flavours of truffle oil.
A dish of spicy tofu cubes is served before the larger dishes arrive. Dipped in a crispy tempura batter, a dollop of avocado atop, drizzled with a lightly spicy sauce and liberally sprinkled with saffron. This is outstanding! The saffron, not just there for decoration, really brings these morsels of tofu to life.
Toko Melbourne Spicy Tuna copy
Fruits of the sea catch our attention for the main players. We order up a dish of scallops with apple, and the smoked king salmon. Both of these are cooked on the robara grill over wood that’s been imported from South America. The results are in the taste.
The scallops, seared to perfection, are juicy and lightly charred. Served with soft stewed apple shards, the tart flavour perfectly complements the fresh-from-the-ocean taste of the white meat.
The wood smoke flavour can really be tasted on the salmon, which is not like any other piece of salmon I’ve ever tasted. Warm and smokey, and grilled just right, the pink fleshy salmon was delicious enough to stop our conversation and marvel at.  The bar has been raised and I’ll judge all salmon against this dish, from now on.
Toko Melbourne Smoked Salmon
With happy bellies, we tackle the conundrum that always presents itself at this point in the meal: to have dessert or to not have dessert. The answer to this, of course, is always in the menu. The answer is there inside the warm, gooey centre of the hazelnut fondant. Served with a creamy vanilla ice cream and crumbled biscuit pieces, it’s yes. Yes, we will have dessert.
A modern Japanese restaurant with international appeal, this is one of four restaurants: two in Sydney and one Toko outpost in Dubai. If the others are as good at Toko Melbourne (I hear Sydney’s outstanding) then I’ll be booking a table there next time I’m in town.
Toko Melbourne
142 Greville Street. Prahran
Mon-Sat 5pm-11pm