Sydney’s best Japanese food, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
MUST ORDER Tempura anything; toro nigiri; ‘Goma street’; ‘Sokyo omelette’; mochi ice cream
VALUE Restaurant 8.5/10; breakfast 7/10
AMBIANCE Pre-show internationals; samurais in the dark
SERVICE Darting and dedicated
WOULD I GO BACK? Whenever Japanese cravings hit, and I’m I’m feeling rich
I’ve already written about the restaurant in my Omakase review (which is a separate but internal dining experience). The omakase is significantly better, and different, to dining in the main restaurant. You will need to make a booking 6 months to a year in advance.
However, on any given morning you can head to The Star for…
There are three choices. You can order a single breakfast dish à la carte ($22.50), go for the continental buffet ($28), or you can have both for $38. It’s a strange set up, because usually a buffet would be enough by itself. Whereas this Japanese buffet had a few pastries lying about; some cold ham; a few juices in bottles sitting in ice boxes; fresh udon and broth with appropriate add-ons…but anything hot and substantial needed to be ordered off the menu.
The most famous option is the Sokyo seafood bowl with glacier 51 toothfish, salmon, miso soup, onsen tamago, edamame, Hokkaido yumepirika rice, nori and Japanese pickles. It looks like a Japanese bibimbap.
We weren’t delighted by the sumo breakfast with eggs, bacon, Japanese sausage, tempura hash brown, edamame, king brown mushroom, baby gem salad and ciabatta bread. It was, at best, an ordinary big breakfast plate.
There isn’t much to say about anything except the wonderful pork katsu curry, which came with noodles and a 63 degree egg. I haven’t been since the new menu came out, with only seven options. In terms of value, coffee and tea mysteriously both cost $5, and it’s $9 for one litre of still water.
Sokyo serves breakfast every day between 7.00am and 10.30am. If you like the sound of splurging on a yuzu cronut or a black sesame latte, then you should take a visit.
‘NORMAL’ À LA CARTE DINING
Most visitors to Sokyo will sit at the tables with an à la carte menu. Luckily, there is some crossover between this menu and the omakase dishes. The menu is pretty extensive, and I’m here to help you with some navigational teething.
If you want to start safely, go for some edamame ($8) and tempura. There’re plenty of options, but I love the shiitake and eggplant tempura ($15). Consider, too, the cuttlefish ($18) or bay bug ($30). Sokyo used to do sweet potato tempura, but they’ve oddly taken it off the menu (it was my favourite).
The next episode could be robata, which is meat on a stick. Actually, it’s named after the robata grill, which is a Japanese barbecue. Skewers of chicken ($9 for two) or beef ($13 for two) are pretty dry, but the pork belly ($11 for two) has some fat to it. The octopus salad comes with a lovely smoked barbecue sauce, but I wouldn’t pay $22 again for it. I think the best robata option is the lamb chop ($11 each), with charred eggplant purée, ‘aka miso’, Vegemite(!) and basil.
The ‘essential dishes’ is a misleading heading dividing up the menu. If you read down the right hand column, you will also notice they happen to be the most expensive. I would not pay $80 again for the wagyu flank steak, which was overcooked and tiny. Skip straight to the seafood.
Hit the sashimi. The Kingfish ceviche is possibly the best $22 you can spend at Sokyo. There are ocean trout, tuna and salmon options too.
Sokyo sushi rolls are not as good as the nigiri, but worth trying. The spicy tuna is not $21-level exciting, even with the spicy truffle mayo. I like the Queensland roll ($22) with spanner crab, spicy aioli, avocado and soy paper. The tempura roll ($20) with prawn tempura, asparagus and spicy aioli is something to try if you’ve never had fried sushi before.
Finish with the nigiri. Or visit just to fill your mouth with a selection of these one-bite wonders. But that’s risky, because when I went for lunch, they’d run out of everything I wanted to order. Signature Sokyo nigiri include the likes of salmon belly aburi ($20), tuna crispy rice ($20) and Ooma premium toro (market price). Of the traditional nigiri, you can order a minimum of two pieces, and they’re no less than $5 for one. Go for the toro, abalone and sea urchin.
One of the most memorable things you can order at Sokyo is the sokyo omelette ($5), which is halfway between omelette and sponge cake (tamagoyaki). Do not leave without sampling these unusually delicious cubes of egg.
I’ve talked about the desserts in my review of the omakase experience at Sokyo, but I am yet to sample the yuzu souffle ($17), which sounds superb. I can guarantee you will have a good time if you order the chef’s dessert platter ($30).
Sokyo is not too dim, and not too noisy, for a family celebration, or a catch-up with friends. It’s not somewhere for super conservative eaters, but rather, a wonderful melting pot in which you can explore modern Japanese cuisine.
Visit times: one lunch, one dinner, one breakfast (9 April 2014, sometime in 2017, 30 June 2018)