Address: 73 Macleay Street, Potts Point
Opening hours: Dinner from 5:30pm – 11:30pm every night; Lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Cho Cho San is a modern Japanese restaurant that has become very popular in a short amount of time. Opened by Christie and Barthelmess of The Apollo, the duo sought to create a modern Japanese izakaya in a Sydney locale. After being open for a few months, judging from the posts on my Instagram feed, it seemed like everyone in Sydney had been except for myself and a few of my friends, so we made Cho Cho San the venue of choice for dinner one Tuesday evening.
My friends and I had a 6:30pm reservation and were seated at the bar. We were greeted in a warm and friendly manner by a man, who gave us copies of the menu to peruse until our other friend joined us.
The restaurant was almost empty when we came in, but began to fill up quickly. L and I admired the visual appeal of the restaurant, which was at once mimimal, beautiful and trendy. They got bonus points for playing albums by The XX all night, which contributed to the restaurant’s cool, chilled out vibe.
After our friend C arrived, L and I had already discussed at length the menu options that we took a fancy to, and promptly ordered.
The Hiramasa Kingfish ($21) was the first dish to be served. The kingfish’s mild flavour was accented by the umami taste of soy sauce and finely chopped chives, with shavings of cucumber. L and C enjoyed the kingfish immensely.
The Tuna ($22) was cubed and garnished with sesame seeds, eggplant, pieces of avocado and slithers of ginger. We enjoyed pairing the cubed tuna pieces with the avocado for a cool and creamy mouthful.
The Hokkaido Scallops ($18) were hidden under the mass of wakame seaweed, shaved curls of radish and sprinklings of katsuobushi flakes. This was the most interesting of the raw dishes that evening, with lots of contrasting flavours and textures.
The Beef Tataki ($22) was one of my favourite dishes. The beef was served cool, cut into thin strips of marbled juiciness, with a sweet dressing that had hints of ginger.
The Pork Katsu Steam Buns ($8 each) were styled in a way that has become popular lately; with an open, white bun to easily reveal the elements (an Instagrammer’s dream). I appreciated the aesthetic appeal of this dish, but was overall nothing spectacular. The pork was a little dry on the inside.
The Udon Noodles ($15) was a dish that was heavy on the stomach. Udon noodles are my favourite kind of noodles to eat, and I thoroughly enjoyed Cho Cho San’s rendition, which featured a spicy sauce and dollops of a creamy sauce. The noodles were springy and chewy. This dish was particularly filling though, and neither of the girls, nor I could finish it.
The Soy Glazed Wagyu Beef ($36) was, in my opinion, the best dish of the night. The wagyu beef pieces were fatty and succulent. Its flavour was heightened by the thick and sweet sauce that was drizzled over the meat. There was also a side dish of condiments to eat with the meat if we wished, which consisted of sansho pepper, wasabi, and another sauce which I’m not sure of.
The Miso Cod ($33) was another standout dish. From memory, I think one of the waitresses had told us that the miso cod was cooked over charcoal, which explained its blackened appearance in some parts. The fish was soft and flaky, served with a sweet, miso sauce. There was a crisp salad on the side which balanced out the heaviness of the fish.
In reflection, the dishes at Cho Cho San were a mix of delicate and heavy flavours, contrasting flavours and textures. I would recommend the raw dishes for people who like light, subtle flavours in their food, and the cooked dishes for people who like more obvious, flavour-some dishes. I was glad to have tried a good mix of these, but would order more of the cooked dishes next time.
Despite being stuffed, the girls and I couldn’t finish the meal without something to appease our sweet tooth. In hindsight, I regret not ordering what is undoubtedly Cho Cho San’s most Instagrammed dish (the green tea soft serve) and going with another option.
The Passionfruit, Mango Cream and Ginger Jelly ($12) is not a dessert that I would order again if I return to Cho Cho San. It was another dish that had blended subtle flavours with contrasting textures, but not in a way that was overall pleasant. The girls and I found the scattering of coriander in a dessert completely unusual. There were also round crisps of meringue added, which did nothing for the dessert in terms of flavour, although it did add a nice bite.
We had been greeted warmly by a male restaurant host with a Kiwi accent when we first came in, but aside from this, the service at Cho Cho San was average.
The girls and I weren’t totally wowed by our experience here, but I think this came down to the dishes we ordered. Judging from the dishes that I really liked here, I think there is quite a difference in cooking styles depending on what you order.