The addition of newer Japanese restaurants to the Sydney dining scene has meant that an older restaurant such as Toko, is somewhat forgotten about. I had been here a few times before, and due to the constant addition of Japanese restaurants in Sydney, as well as not having a standout experience here previously,Ratin Toko is not a place I regularly frequent.
I came here on a Monday evening with a friend, around 7pm. The decor is chic and modern. They play lounge music, which is slightly annoying to me, but might be someone else’s cup of tea. The service here is always professional and polite, but sometimes lacking warmth.
We were seated immediately, and perused the menu at length. We ordered cocktails first, and then a multitude of dishes.
I don’t remember what was in this cocktail, other than that it was garnished with pashmina. It had a light, sweet flavour with a velvety aftertaste.
The chopped scallop sushi was one of Toko’s signature sushi dishes. It was the first dish of the evening, and the most underwhelming of the night. The combination of chopped scallop and thinly sliced cucumber was refreshing, but plain.
Toko’s California Maki, a staple sushi dish in Japanese restaurants in Western countries, is one of those not-really-Japanese dishes that I always take great pleasure in ordering and then feel woefully gaijin for doing so. Despite that, if you’re already a fan of this sushi roll, so popular amongst Westerners, the California Maki at Toko is worth ordering because they use fresh crab, unlike your local take-away sushi shop that uses crab sticks made out of flour. The California Maki at Toko went wonderfully with creamy pieces of avocado, and formed a nice contrast with the tobiko roe, which popped in our mouths.
The Robata Grilled Scallops ($24.80) were one of my favourite dishes from the evening. Presented beautifully, I admit that I wondered if it would be one of those dishes that looked good, but fell short on the taste factor. I was proved wrong once I tasted one. Grilled scallops are one of my favourite things to eat, and Toko’s scallops were large and grilled perfectly. The addition of sweet pickled apple and jalapeno garlic added a lovely sweet and mildly spicy kick of flavour to the succulent scallops.
Similarly, the duck breast was another standout dish of the evening. The exterior of the duck had been grilled to the point of slight crispness, while the interior was still tender and pink. The sansho pepper and pickled nashi pear were the perfect addition to the duck. I liked the alternating flavours of saltiness and sweetness, paired with the beautifully cooked duck.
Dengaku nasu (or nasu dengaku, as it is more often called) is one of my favourite traditional Japanese dishes that I never fail to order if I see it on a menu. Toko’s Dengaku Nasu uses two kinds of miso paste, light and dark. The dark kind is saltier and has more flavour, while the light miso is more subtle and sweet in flavour. The eggplant was roasted, and fell apart in strands as we picked it apart with our chopsticks.
The mushroom skewers were another great dish. Shiitake is one of my favourite kinds of mushrooms, and Toko’s rendition were delicious grilled, and were scrumptious with the soy honey butter, which emphasised the flavour of the mushrooms beautifully.
In comparison with my previous visits to Toko, I found that this occasion impressed me more than in the past. This can probably be attributed to the fact that on earlier occasions, I indulged more in sashimi and sushi dishes, but Toko’s strengths are their robata dishes. Don’t make the same mistake I did, and overindulge in sushi. The robata dishes are the real winners here.
Address: 490 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Opening hours: Mon- 5:30pm – 11pm,
Tuesday- Thursday- 12pm – 3pm, 5:30- 11pm
Friday-12-3pm, 5:30- midnight
Saturday-5:30pm – 11pm