Friday, March 2, 2012

Japan via the Sokyo Bar cocktail list

I have my eyes peeled for the next ridiculously cheap, low-cost carrier airfare deal to Japan. In the meantime, I'll just have to make do and immerse myself in Japanese food and drink. But then, drinks and dinner at the Sokyo Bar at The Darling/The Star isn't too shabby a consolation prize.

AKA Collins at Sokyo Bar, The Star / The Darling, Pyrmont
Last time I was at Sokyo with friends, it was all about the food (okay, and sake too). This time, with a drinking companion in tow, it was going to be all about the cocktails, many of which feature Japanese ingredients and flavours. After enough drinks, I would probably be able to pretend I was in Japan anyway.

The thought of blood orange sorbet in a cocktail was irresistable, so the AKA Collins of both Plymouth and sloe gins, lemon juice, soda and said sorbet was the first refreshing cab off the rank.

The boozy hit was hidden under the slight bitterness from the blood orange, while the flourishing candied orange wheel garnish was a fantastical and glossy fruit chip, with even the peel rendered edible.

Nashi Pear
I started with the Nashi Pear, as I'm a sucker for any liquor that involves fat washing to instil flavour. This cinnamon fat-washed Havana Club 7 Year Old rum was shaken with Poire William pear liqueur, pear puree, lime and aged bitters for an uncommon fruit cocktail with warming spice undertones.

Yamamomo Sour
Round two brought out the whimsical side with a very Japanese concoction of both Choya umeshu plum wine and sake, shaken up as a typical sour cocktail with lemon juice and egg white, and the fun and furry Japanese mountain peach, or yamamomo. The miniature preserved peach added both a visual and textural aspect to this not-too-sweet cocktail.

Getting cheeky with mojitos now, the Shiso-jito toes the same line with Havana Club Blanco rum, lime and soda, but adds an intriguing kalamansi lime and shiso leaf sorbet to the fold. The underlying herbaceousness almost makes this feel like a healthy drink; the rum, not so much.

Nihon Mai Tai
The cinnamon Havana Club rum makes a reappearance in the Nihon Mai Tai, which shouldn't be all that strange a concept given the melding of Japanese culture in Hawaii.

The fun part is that, in addition to a tropical pineapple syrup and lime as is fairly typical in a Mai Tai, the cocktail features Japanese Calpico - a Japanese bottled drink made from "high quality non fat milk". It doesn't add too much of a creamy flavour to the cocktail at all and is one of my favourites of the night.

Citrus Orchid
The other one on the podium for me would probably be the Citrus Orchid, featuring Ketel One vodka, Japanese shochu spirit, lemon juice and vanilla, shaken with egg white for a foamy head.

I think it might have been the curious and uncommon combination of lemon and vanilla that piqued my interest, as the cocktail had me thinking lollies, flowers and other sweet things.

Kingfish miso ceviche, green chilli, crispy potato
And in respect of the very important Responsible Service of Alcohol, we shared some food from the Sokyo kitchen. The full menu is available and can actually be eaten at the bar, without a reservation.

The food at Sokyo, while delicately handled and presented, actually has quite robust flavours so as to stand up to the equally flavourful cocktails, so food and cocktail matching is quite achievable.

We started with a new ceviche style kingfish dish, that sang with citrus notes beneath the thinnest threads of crispy fried potato. I was very tempted to polish off the entire small serve, but my drinking partner unfortunately had her wits about her still.

Moreton Bay bug sashimi, burnt butter mayo, passionfruit jelly, Vegemite croutons
One of the 'wow' dishes from my previous visit, the sashimi of Moreton Bay bug was just stunningly fresh on its own, though the jelly and miniscule Vegemite croutons add a bit of fun.

Tuna umami, Choya umeshu, garlic soy umami
This tuna sashimi dish matched the others in quality and also featured a firm jelly, presumably of the umeshu plum wine.

Baby capsicum relleno, King crab, feta, spicy tuna, yuzu soy sauce
Tempura dishes are generally satisfying but this particular one has not failed to thrill me on both occasions. I think it's the combination of spicy sashimi tuna and King crab flesh, with the yuzu-strong dressing just the icing on the cake.

Beef short rib, caramelised eschallots, BBQ teriyaki
But the surprise dish of the night for me was the beef short rib robata. You could smell its char-grilled goodness metres away and in the mouth, it was incredibly tender and velvety. The alternate skewering with sweet, caramelised eschallots was simple but hit the spot so very well.

Tsukune chicken, shallots, pineapple ginger sauce
The beef didn't leave much of the spotlight for the tsukune chicken meatball, which was shiny with its sweet pineapple and ginger glazed sauce.

Queensland roll - spanner crab, spicy avocado, soy paper
There's no holding back when it comes to the sushi part of the menu - head chef Chase Kojima has taken the best from a few worlds for some deliciously unseen varieties of sushi.

The Queensland roll, featuring spanner crab from that state, is wrapped in a delicate soy paper rather than nori seaweed, and filled with lots of naturally sweet spanner crab flesh. Avocado comes in a spicy puree form while rice puffs add an unusual aspect of texture to the rolls.

Spicy tuna crispy rice nigiri, truffle salt, spicy mayo
One of their most popular dishes is the spicy tuna crispy rice nigiri, which features a block of golden, crunchy deep fried rice. Who would have thought that crisp fried rice would pair so well with soft, raw tuna? The truffle salt and spicy mayonnaise no doubt help the cause.

Japanese BBQ roll - Karubi short rib, gochijang sauce, white kimchi
And in another hit of impressively grilled beef short rib, the Japanese BBQ roll filled with some decidedly Korean flavours was my drinking partner's pick of the night, even though we were both at that point very full with both booze and food.

The softly pink beef just worked so well with the spicy sauce and rice, while the white pickled daikon on the side was a zingy palate cleanser.

There was no room or inclination for dessert on this visit. Thanks to the comfortable stools at the bar, it wasn't an issue to linger over the last of our cocktails, pretending that we hadn't eaten too much. And as for Japan, I think the posh Tokyo bars and their cocktails can wait.

Disclosure: Food, booze and shoes is acquainted with staff at Sokyo and sampled the cocktails as a guest. All food items were paid for separately.

Sokyo on Urbanspoon


JB said...

Wow, how good does the Moreton Bay bug sashimi look? Amazing photos.

Oh, Crapstar had a 2-for-1 sale recently.

JasmyneTea said...

I could happily take an AKA Collins and a plate of Queensland rolls and hide away in a corner all night :) Looks great!

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

I like the sounds of the Citrus Orchid! And just as well you had food ;)

retrodaze said...

I've never had Moreton Bay Bug sashimi before, I want to try it now!

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

the food and cocktails are awesome there.

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

If i had that more than one of those awesome sounding cocktails I wouldn't be awake to eat any of that delicious food.

Tina said...

Hi JB - Thanks! Yeah, missed that one...

Hi JasmyneTea - May I join you in the corner with crispy rice tuna? :D

Hi Corinne - You've got to try it ;) The food is gorgeous and the cocktails clearly speak for themselves :)

Hi retrodaze - I get the feeling that Sokyo is the only place that does Moreton Bay bug sashimi. Definitely never seen it before.

Hi Sara - Totally agree :)

Hi Tina - Oooh, but there's so many more on the cocktail menu!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I really like the food at Sokyo too and I must go back for some of those short ribs! :D

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

No drinks for me, but I did try the food here recently which was excellent.

Tina said...

Hi Lorraine - They're surprisingly one of my favourite things off the whole menu!

Hi Rita - It sure is! Can't wait to go back.


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