Don’t enter from the street; take this opportunity to walk through the hotel lobby because, if you’re like me, this will probably be the closest you will ever get to The Star’s new five-star hotel, The Darling.
This little taste of the high life sets the tone for the evening. Black polished wood, stainless steel globe lighting and Japanese artworks adorning the walls completes the fit-out at Sokyo. It’s dark and sexy in its minimalistic modernism. A quick glance at the drinks menu at the bar confirms an inspiring cocktail list, however, we skip the martini and take a seat at the hotly-contested sushi bar. It is here that we get an uninterrupted view of ex-Nobu Chef, Chase Kojima, as he sharpens his sushi knives and yells orders in Japanese.
The restaurant is almost empty but what it lacks in full tables, it more than makes up for in atmosphere. Sokyo was the first restaurant on my list to try at The Star. And while it hasn’t had much media attention, it seems other members of society were as equally excited as I. Leonardo DiCaprio and his hat-wearing entourage swaggered past to occupy the private dining area at the back of the restaurant and, on leaving the restaurant; we almost bumped into none-other-than, Spider Man, (Tobey Maguire). Just behind us was a tableful of foodie representatives from Gourmet Traveller, Time Out Sydney and various freelance food writers. This star-studded affair created an excited vibe in the restaurant – as though we were all on the cusp of discovering something truly special. Expectations were high.
Due to indecisiveness, we choose a selection of small dishes, to get a taste of everything. We started with Kojima’s famous Moreton Bay bug dish, sashimi style, with Vegemite croutons. The fleshy creaminess of the bug, with the textural addition of the vegemite croutons, is well thought out and intriguing; however, the winner of the dish is the mayonnaise calligraphy of Japanese hiragana characters spelling out ‘Sokyo’. Chef Kojima has pushed culinary boundaries with this dish –subverting Japanese flavours by adding something as strong and raw as Vegemite. The seared salmon sashimi arrived next, with a delightful wasabi crunch and a Korean spice paste.
Then the Ocean Trout sashimi, grilled eel unagi sushi, fatty tuna maki and crispy rice tuna. And this is when I stopped being inspired. The dishes were pleasant but without stirring much passion. Fois gras stuffed Wagyu beef skewers, with fresh figs and a plum sauce, reinstated some faith, however the overall experience was underwhelming. Especially for the price.
You can’t fault the service – the staff are efficient and friendly and the atmosphere is excited and buzzy, despite the restaurant being half-full. But the menu lacks an oomph – it is too safe. Sydney diners are ready for a change, which is why David Chang’s Momofuko Seiobo has caused such a thrill. Or, perhaps, this is just the result of when you have such high hopes – that all the excited anticipation lessens your ability to honestly appreciate what is in front of you.
Sokyo is located in Pyrmont at the $850 million refurbished casino called The Star (formerly Star City). 10 minute walk from the city. Five minutes from Darling Harbour. Other restaurants in The Star include David Chang’s Momofuko Seiobo, Stefano Manfredi’s Balla and Teage Ezard’s BLACK by Ezard.