Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest
I’ve always said to people, that if I had to choose one cuisine in the world to solely eat for the rest of my life, it would have to be Japanese. The breadth and variety that comes in that cuisine is so broad, that anything you want, you can almost get. Soup noodles, fried noodles, fried chicken, grilled meat sticks, sushi…the list goes on.
And although I love traditional Japanese, from simply beautiful seafood with minimal seasoning or additions, to ramen stock that’s been worked on for hours, it’s always exciting to see how chefs put their own twist on things as well.
Toko, located on Greville Street in Prahran, is a simply stunning modern Japanese restaurant, with very schmick and modern interiors, with lots of dark wood offset by warm golden tones. Perfect for date night….or date lunch, like Brad and I were here for.
I imagine at night, the place is pumping music loudly and everyone would be dressed to the nine’s with cocktails are abound. During the day, it’s much more zen and relaxed, which suits me perfectly, getting old before my years!
We opted for the Sora set menu to save us from thinking or choosing (although I did request to add one additional item to out set) and started our afternoon with a cup of tea…was a little too soon to break into the sake!
First were the freshly shucked pacific oysters with tosazu. From the get go, Toko’s presentation is immaculate and I can’t stop oohing over the beautiful crockery. Or the oysters for that matter. Cool, sweet but a touch of ocean salt as well, I adored the smack of flavours from the dressing which were zesty and bright, and the texture from the fish roe on top, that just pop in the mouth. It’s an absolutely delicious palate teaser.
I absolutely loved the presentation of the salmon tartare with wasabi miso. The salmon itself was so moreish, meaty, creamy and quite decadent, which complimented nicely with the sweetness from the chips. My only nitpick is that it would have been the nice for the chips to be even crunchier than they were.
The venison carpaccio with nacho pear, yuzu koshu and potato airbags (funny thing to call them isn’t it?), was a very textural and zesty dish.
Having whet our appetites, and knowing that our sushi course was on the way, I couldn’t resist a nip or three of sake, and the tasting flight is not just economical but delicious. One flight was just right for lunch for Brad and I to share. All of the sakes in the flight were Junmai Gingo, which mean they are high quality sakes with, made of pure rice (no distilled alcohol added) and 40% of the outer rice grain milled away.
Yet again, the sushi plate was stunning. Gorgeously cut slices of sashimi were thick and velvety in the mouth. The seared wagyu melted in the mouth, and I loved the richness of the unagi with the torched foie gras and umeboshi (my requested addition), although I have to say the foie gras flavour did not come through as much as I would have hoped.
However, the surprise favourite was the scampi with (very generously) shaved foie gras over the top and truffle oil. This combination worked so perfectly together, the sweetness and the texture of the scampi really highlighted the richness of the foie gras, and in the shaved format it literally melted in the mouth. Nearly took Brad’s portion. Nearly.
The soft shell crab was an unexpectedly generous serve, and I loved how perfectly light and crunchy the batter was, not overwhelming the crab itself which was gorgeously meaty. Love a good clean fry.
The smoked miso king salmon with house pickled ginger was stunning, gorgeous in colour. The fish was perfectly cooked, still slightly under inside and so tender and the broccolini with sesame sauce was nicely done, so that the greens were still a bit crunchy and the sesame packed flavour.
Hard to go past marble score 9+ wagyu tenderloin, I loved how simply it was served with just a couple of condiments, to highlight the tenderness of the beef.
To finish, although it’s not particularly Japanese, the Valrhona dark chocolate mousse with mixed berries and passion fruit is exactly how I like to finish my meal. Rich in flavour, but not heavy on the stomach, with the berries and passionfruit punching through and so silky smooth.
It’s quite easy, especially in Melbourne to fall into brunch habits on the weekend, but this lunch at Toko totally reminded me that it is worth splurging now and then, to try something different and mix up the schedules. Far more fun that way!
142 Greville Street