KOTO & INKA, sister restaurants in Canberra, are elevating the city’s culinary scene and drawing crowds from Sydney with their remarkable food offerings.
Canberra has emerged as a foodie hotspot, tempting us to make the 3.5-hour drive to explore its vibrant food scene, which rivals some of Sydney’s finest offerings.
Standouts include KOTO & INKA, both infusing Japanese influences into their cuisine but with distinct approaches. You might recognise their sister venue, KAZAN, which debuted last year in Sydney’s Martin Place. During our recent visit to both Canberra venues, we were utterly impressed by the food, ambience, and overall experience, transporting us to a completely new culinary realm.
Nestled within the Canberra Centre, step away from the bustling streets and immerse yourself in a vibrant, colourful wonderland.
This venue embodies the concept of Nikkei cuisine, a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese flavours. The marriage of these culinary worlds is reflected not only in the menu but also in the venue’s interior design. Expect Peruvian hanging textiles and captivating artworks adorning the space, creating a unique ambience.
The dimly lit, moody atmosphere sets the perfect tone for a romantic date night in this two-level venue. Unsure of what to expect? It’s the best of both cuisines brought together harmoniously. Fire plays a central role in both culinary traditions—experience the robata, hibachi, and parilla grill action firsthand.
Begin your dining experience with standout dishes like the Seafood Ceviche Mixto, a delightful medley of seafood in a coconut-based leche de tigre, featuring the freshest catch.
Transition to a blend of sashimi and nigiri, expertly crafted with Japanese precision, yet infused with inventive flavour combinations like nori butter, jalapeno salsa, and wasabi mayo.
From the robata grill, relish the distinct smoky flavour in dishes such as the Glacier 51 Patagonian Toothfish with saikyo miso and amzu pickle, and the succulent Miso Short Ribs, slow-cooked for 28 hours and glazed with jalapeno and roasted cashew nut.
The culinary journey extends beyond the plate. An exceptional wine list showcases European makers and Canberra’s finest, including Conakilla and Gallagher. The team even took three goblets for it in Australia’s 2023 Wine List Of The Year Awards. The cocktail selection includes a range from Piscos to inventive Ant Gin creations. This is accompanied by a varied sake assortment and Japanese Sochu, offering a diverse drink experience.
KOTO has reimagined the iconic The Lobby space into an upscale Japanese dining destination.
Embracing Japanese design principles, it features a traditional Japanese garden landscape outside, meticulously crafted by a second-generation Master Gardener from Japan. The interior, a blend of traditional architecture and striking modern design, breathes new life into the half-century-old Japan-heritage architecture of The Lobby.
Once inside, a sense of grandeur merges seamlessly with a serene ambience. Glass windows blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, fostering a tranquil zen-like atmosphere.
At the bar and across the restaurant, guests can witness the artistry of cocktail crafting and food preparation in the open-style kitchen.
The culinary maestro behind KOTO is Sushi Master Shinya Nakano, who trained in Kyoto under a fifth-generation sushi master. His expertise spans renowned establishments like Nobu and Kisume in Melbourne. KOTO offers traditional Japanese flavours and finesse presented in a contemporary manner.
To start, savour dishes like the delicate Hiramasa Usuzukuri featuring WA Hiramasa Kingfish with black truffle soy, saltbush, and umami kombu, and the Gyu No Tataki featuring Black Angus beef, tomato yuzu ponzu, nametake, and crispy sweet potato.
Continue the culinary journey with a selection of sushi, sashimi, and delectable offerings from the kitchen and robata grill. Indulge in the Agedashi Tofu with Chinese chive, ginger, and dashi soy, and the Wagyu Scotch Fillet MB9+ served with momiji oroshi ponzu and seasonal pickle.
The cocktail menu is equally impressive, featuring inventive concoctions like the Pear, crafted with fresh pear, honey, white soy, sunflower seed shochu, and CO2, and the Shinso infused with shiso leaf, snap pea mint, lime, gin and absinthe. Complementing these cocktails is an extensive selection of sake, shochu, and a remarkable wine list showcasing the finest European makers alongside Canberra’s own.