Monday, 29 October 2012

Koko - You're Frozen (when your heart's not open)

After a very calorie intensive week spent at Virginia Plain, Pei Modern and Rosetta, I thought I would hunt down some "healthy" sushi and sashimi and try a place that has been on my list for quite a while, the amusingly named Koko located on the 3rd level of Crown Casino in Southbank.

A warm welcome was had upon entering Koko. Looking around you will find teppanyaki tables, other tables reserved for a la carte dining along the glass wall that overlooks the Southbank Promenade and the beautiful (sic) Yarra River and a small sushi bar that can seat six people. We choose the sushi bar and were immediately seated and offered water and the wine list.

The amount of fish on offer was not huge but unlike other sushi bars, like at Sake, Koko doesn't give the false impression of having a tremendous variety of fish by stacking it up in repeating intervals down the refrigerated display cocoon. I informed the chef that were we not wanting to make many decisions so we left the choices with him. The usual sashimi suspects were served which included tuna, salmon, kingfish and octopus which were all as you would expect. The highlight for the first round of food was the spicy scallop roll. It was full of flavour but highlighted by the horseradish component of the wasabi as they did not use true "real" wasabi, but the bastardised version that is primarily horseradish. A twitter follower also highlighted this to me - it is queer that they offer such a premium product but then have fake wasabi to accompany it.

To finish off my meal, I ordered sea urchin (Uni) and it was beautiful. I got talking with the chef and told him that I am usually sullen whilst enjoying sushi as Toro (the fatty underbelly of tuna) is rarely available. He said that they had some available and not having enjoyed any for over a year, it left me on a high of anticipation. I finished my meal with Toro after happily devouring my Uni with the sake however I was bemused because the Toro had been previously frozen. The chef verified this. Although it was beautiful, it was nothing like what I previously had at Azuma in Sydney which was freshly procured and served the day that it had arrived.

The restaurant is beautiful and the service was very regimented and professional. There is always someone lurking in the area waiting for a glance from you so that an order can be taken or in our case, dishes replaced, chopsticks returned to their default resting position and our sake glasses refreshed with what seemed like a never-ending bottle on the day that I visited.

What I found interesting is that in the middle of the restaurant is a pond. I asked the very affable sushi chef if anyone ever has fallen in it. He did say a few drunks had in the past and it makes for good entertainment later in the evening. That certainly would beat the cabaret experience at Dracula's and it would be something that I would return to see.

Strangely when I commenced writing this, I started thinking of the old Madonna song "Frozen" when I first thought about Koko. It is probably not the best association as I am not a Madonna fan and it isn't good to reference perhaps my favourite cut of fish being served defrosted or even the fact that such delicate flavours are complimented with fake wasabi. I thought about this occasionally over the last three days and it made me angry actually because I really wanted to have a "local" sushi bar to stop around at and I really wanted Koko to be the place. Sadly it will not be.

Link to review
Level 3, Crown Casino Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 6886
My Rating: 13.5/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Quality: 3/5
Value For Money: 2.5/5
Comment: Great Uni, view and ambiance

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

When I made this post originally, 84% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also liked Koko. In general I did also but as I wrote, there are still aspects of my experience that still make me angry.

Koko on Urbanspoon