A few weeks back I shared that I’m undertaking night classes to learn what the fridge is going on with the restaurant game in Sydney, since moving here from Melbourne six months ago.
Well this week’s lesson took me to Cho Cho San and it was a winner, winner sashimi dinner.
The interior is whiter than the Australian Liberal party
Only three years old and Cho Cho San still packs a crowd as if it’s three days old.
The guys behind this restaurant in the heart of Potts Point have run in the complete opposite direction of your traditional Japanese restaurant (perhaps wise given none of them are Japanese nor experienced in the cuisine’s conventional ways). Instead they’ve created a very fun interpretation of an izakaya (a Japanese-type pub). Cho Cho San is rowdy, it’s fun and straddles the line brilliantly between being a quality eating place and fun drinking house.
The interior is a lesson in Japanese elegance with a sub major in Nordic minimalism. It’s all white. Whiter than the Australian Liberal party. There’s exposed white brick, white wood finishes, white candlelight and white paint aplenty, which is all offset by one very long, communal concrete table-slash-bar that runs the length of the skinny restaurant in true izakaya style.
The food is Japanese, but with a twist
The menu equally takes a completely non-traditional approach to Japanese. The edamame comes in dip form, the tempura is of pumpkin, the chicken is fried not grilled Yakitori-style and there’s no sushi in sight. But it totally works, providing you’re open to an experience and not wedded to tradition.
When I visited with husband Jude it was my birthday (the last in my 20s!), so despite it being a Tuesday night, I went, “Fuck it. Bring us the bigger of the two banquets. It’s my birthday.”
In the face of a tasting menu fail at Kensington Street Social a few weeks earlier (you can read what happened here), Cho Cho San’s degustation is awfully good. For $80pp, this is what went down:
The edamame dip was a cute little starter that surprisingly tasted an awful lot like peas.
Next up was the kingfish, with ginger and cucumber. The sashimi was so ridiculously smooth and fresh – it had clearly been taking lessons from Ryan Gosling.
Dishes from Cho Cho San’s raw bar are something else. The petuna ocean trout, with black pepper and wasabi, was brilliant, with just the right amount of wasabi.
For someone who doesn’t ever vote pork, the pork katsu steam bun was bloody good. It had the perfect hint of heat and was sandwiched in a soft pillowy bun that must be on the Shangri-La’s pillow menu. Jude sat there in horror as I ate the WHOLE thing, fully expecting (like normal) he was going to get my leftovers.
Arriving in front of us next was a Mount Fuji-sized pile of lightly fried chicken and full throttle mayo. I made up for shockingly eating my entire pork bun by only having one piece of the chicken karrage – too Richie Rich for me. Wipe those tears Jude, here’s a bucket of chicken for you.
The fried brown rice, with shiitake and egg was a beautiful take on boring fried rice.
The Wagyu beef was amazingly tender and while I also don’t vote beef very often I happily ate my half.
The cabbage and ginger salad was a non-offensive accompaniment for the Wagyu.
Wrapped in what appeared to be a gooey spiderweb, this refreshing black sesame mochi ice cream set the scene perfectly for the dessert hat trick that was to come.
Despite resembling a cricket pitch, the matcha tiramisu felt and tasted like eating a cloud.
I’m hard pressed to name a stand-out as all 10 share plates were a solid A.
We could have added a sake flight to the banquet menu for an extra $30 but that seemed too adventurous for a Tuesday night. We did have a couple of damn good Japanese beers though. Speaking of drinking, the extensive sake, cocktail and Japanese beer menu takes you on a jet plane to Japan, and it’s a quality trip. While wine only makes a minor cameo.
Cho Cho San is…
Named after the damned heroine in short story and opera Madame Butterfly, Sydney’s Cho Cho San is anything but a tragedy.
It’s busy, it’s energetic and good value for money – words that don’t exist in the Sydney language. The servings are generous, so much so that by the time we left I felt like I’d eaten a baby rhinoceros.
It’s a great place to come with friends, or a date or the husband for your 29th birthday – just make sure you book in advance and be warned, Cho Cho San’s only open for lunch Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but dinner every night of the week.
The bathrooms are not in the same realm as those at the Sydney Opera House but all can be forgiven when you get a special surprise soft serve ice cream cone as a birthday present.
Cho Cho San | 73 Macleay Street, Potts Point, News South Wales
Phone: (02) 9331 6601