Friday, March 14, 2014

KoKo @ Crown - MFWF Restaurant Express Menu

I don't generally eat out on my own, and definitely not when it's fine dining. But a culmination of having a day off, being too lazy to organise anything with anyone and the fact that the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival has Restaurant Express menus at some of the city's top restaurants changed all that. So I headed down to KoKo's for a leisurely lunch.

The interior of the restaurant is classically Japanese. Polished wooden floorboards surround a shallow pond in the center of the room. And wait for it...there are smooth flat stepping stones so you can walk across the pond!

interior and the miniature pool
As an extrovert, I must confess I actually really enjoyed the experience. I was seated a table by the window, with a view of the Yarra and the Melbourne Aquarium, on a day where it was sunny and the sky was a pretty blue colour. Just sitting there with some amazing food, an endless supply of green tea and calming music while watching the water glistening and rippling, trains going past and the occasional water taxi cruising by.

just look at that view!

chicken meatball in teriyaki sauce
A small appetizer is brought out. Not expected, as it wasn't on the menu. And it's an interesting one. A single chicken meatball with teriyaki sauce served cold. Yes, cold. I've never eaten a cold meatball like that and I'm still trying to decide if I like it.

Eventually my Shokado bento arrives and the waitress carefully sets it down in front of me, and arranges the miso soup, pickles and tempura dipping sauce around it before taking the lid off the box and revealing four impeccably presented dishes.

from top left: grilled Wagyu with onion sauce, tempura
whitebait and vegetables, trio of sashimi, steamed rice
I start with the sashimi. Thinly sliced salmon, tuna and a white flesh fish I'm guessing to be swordfish. Fresh, delicate and just the right portion size. Can't ask for more.

The Wagyu is slightly chewier than I had anticipated but that is partly my fault - in retrospect I probably should have ordered it medium rare instead of medium. But the beef is nicely charred on the outside, tender on the inside. It's served with a fancy type of mushroom in a generous pool of onion sauce. Well seasoned, and the strong flavours of the sauce worked perfectly with the rice.

The tempura comes in a light crispy batter. The whitebait is soft and flakey, the zucchini and sweet potato are both as they should be. The standout for me is the eggplant, which has been cut to resemble a bit of a fan and then battered and fried. Perfectly soft and creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Creative and tasty!

miso soup | Japanese pickles
The accompanying miso soup is also a favorite. Not your typical $2 miso (actually, do they even exist anymore?). This one has a good earthy miso flavour, and is generously loaded with seaweed and tofu. Delicious! The pickles are a refreshing palate cleanser.

All this for $40 and I get to tick off yet another top restaurant in my Good Food Guide. A good way to spend a random mid-week day off!

Overall impression: 8.5/10

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