Dinners: 2 person
Time of day: Dinner
Cost: ~ $175 AUD
Courses: A La Carte + Dessert
Sokyo is famed for its long waiting lists for Omakase dining, where the chefs decide on your menu, then make and serve it right in front of you. Dining prices are usually steep so why would you entrust a chef with your taste buds and money without even verifying their ability? We decided that we were going to test out this place before committing to something so big.
Since Omakase is heavily based upon nigiri (sushi) we decided that the chef’s choice and management of sashimi would be important in determining the dining experience.
$60 for 24 pieces of sashimi is around the price you would expect to pay for decent sashimi in Sydney. I am always on the lookout for freshness, the quality of the cut, the amount of care that has been taken to look after the fish properly and the chef’s expertise. If the chef has carelessly left fish out in a hot kitchen, that always starts the warning bells in my head because that promotes the growth of bacteria and the like, and the last thing I need after a night out is confinement to a toilet for a couple of days due to food poisoning. Thankfully it seemed like they had a enclosed section to store their fish on the counter. The chef’s expertise is also important because raw fish can contain parasites and only properly trained chefs know how to spot and remove them; yes, the videos of parasites growing in people have scared me. Hoax or not. Unfortunately we can not comment on how much expertise the chef had in preparing the fish.
The fish was fresh, there was no obvious discolouration or dullness. The salmon and tuna was underwhelming. I have honestly had better cuts in terms of taste and texture from the fish market in Sydney and in Japan. They were both quite tasteless and only the sauces they provided made it marginally ok to serve it here. The seared salmon was an improvement but again I feel like I’ve had better at a Sushi Hotaru. The two stand outs was the scallops, which had it’s unique taste and was incredibly sweet and the red snapper a great pairing with the sesame seeds and oil. Very fragrant and again an interesting texture.
At Sokyo, a fine dining restaurant, I expected more either in terms of quality and cut or the chef’s twist on such a basic dish.
Reading up the reviews of Sokyo many raved about the pork belly skewers and there were quite a few mentions of the lamp chops being must tries as well. The pork belly skewers were disappointing, yes there were thin layers of fat between the meat but overall the meat leaned on the dry side. The apple and wasabi flavors were barely present.
The lamp chops fared far better, more flavoursome and juicier. Complaint would be that the sauce at the bottom does not taste very good alone, but this can be a personal preference.
Fine dining tips for beginners: when you first sit down the server usually asks ‘Still or Sparkling’, they are referring to water. Many places are sneaky and do not offer you a third option which is tap/table water; this option is free to you and should be available at any place you dine. Just simply respond by asking for ‘tap water please~’ and they should be happy to bring you a bottle of what the name suggests water filled from the tap. Still and Sparkling water are usually packaged in glass bottles and shipped from Europe somewhere, the prices can be steep at around $9 a bottle.
An interesting take on sushi rolls, but honestly for $22 I would have expected more than just mashed up crab meat with some spice. The soy paper also didn’t taste like anything.
As usual we have problems deciding on which dessert we want, so sampler’s like these are perfect for us. It isn’t apparent whether the selection is from the other dessert options they have or special dessert prepared separately; as some appeared on the menu whilst others didn’t. It could be a combination but who knows.
The sesame flavour in this was fragrant, especially the dark swipe of sesame concentrate at the bottom was delightful to the asian palette. Nothing special in terms of texture though.
Had a regular jam filling plus a custard like cream jam with pieces of fruit chopped into it. The doughnut itself was fresh and warm, a great bite after mains.
If you’ve been to Japan you would have seen these goodies in the souvenir shops but these are with a twist. With frozen over soft centres, the fruit fragrance came through well and was refreshing. The mochi itself was chewy and stretchy.
Finishing off with a coffee but not a coffee. It tasted good even to me who usually skips on coffee. It reminds me of the babycinos that kids love these days. There’s a lot of foam on top and then sweet coffee at the bottom with crunchy bits.
Overall dinning experience
None of the dish really stood up to the flavour explosion or amusement I expected. It seemed like they just smushed Japanese ingredients with western cooking and called it fusion, I failed to find the ingredients tangoing with each other, which is a shame.
Ambiance: The restaurant leaned towards the dimly lit side, sporting dark interiors; expectedly inline with the modern vibe to exudes. Tables were quite close together, and some were a squeeze to get into; I even knocked my chopsticks over in the process of getting to my seat, how embarrassing. I felt they could have made more space given that they claim to be a fine dining restaurant, the tables were so close together there was a lack of personal space and you could hear the next table’s conversation loud and clear.
Service: Service was crude for a fine dining restaurant, I would say close to the worst I have had so far. Wait staff always seemed like they had a lack of patience to explain the dish, they would say it very quickly then disappear. It seemed like all they wanted you to get was the chef’s special that was recited in your face as soon as you sat down. Overall dining experience was too rushed, you only have a 2 hour limit from when you sit down. Even though we arrived early and the tables were not filled at that time, they still only offered as 2 hours if we went in early.
Conclusion: Sokyo seemed like a cafeteria for the rich, ie. alright food alright service but not up to fine dinning standards. If you’re looking for a special place to enjoy your time and have a good food journey you might want to look elsewhere.
PS. I really enjoyed dining at Yayoi Garden near Circular Quay previous, which offers Japanese fine dining with a western twist. This place was miles better but has since unfortunately closed down.
Fine dining rating: 2/5