One Saturday night, my friend and I were walking along Crown Street in Surry Hills without any prior reservations for dinner. Toko had an hour and a half wait, so we headed two doors down to Tokonoma Lounge, where a hostess affirmed that they offered the same menu as Toko.
Tokonoma Lounge is set in more of a bar style lounge than its counterpart Toko, which has a more comfortable restaurant style setting. I would have much preferred that to Tokonoma, but as my friend and I were craving Japanese cuisine, we settled for what was at hand.
Unagi, torched foie gras, umeboshi.
A waitress brought us water shortly after we chose our seats, and then returned a little while after to take our orders. We ordered seven dishes, and didn't have to wait long before they came out. Our first dish consisted of grilled saltwater eel, otherwise known by its Japanese name - unagi. The unagi was paired with a small piece of torched foie gras, and pickled plums (umeboshi). The unagi was flavoursome, and it was accentuated by the strong flavours of foie gras and the mildly sweet umeboshi. The sushi rice had a very soft texture, and it was hard to keep it from crumbling apart when we picked it up with our chopsticks, but I believe this is the right texture for sushi rice.
Salmon Tartare with Sweet Potato Chips
The Salmon Tartare was dressed in a creamy mayonnaise like sauce. We ate it with the sweet potato chips on the side. The sweet potato chips were crunchy and cooked well, but both L and I felt that the salmon wasn't the freshest we'd had.
Japanese mushroom skewers, soy, honey butter.
The mushroom skewers included several pieces of shiitake mushrooms, with pineapple pieces, garnished with thinly sliced shallots, and a sweet sauce. The shiitake mushrooms were tender and had been cooked perfectly, which brought out the lovely flavour of the shiitake. The sweet sauce which it was served with also accentuated the mushroom's flavour. This was one of the best dishes of the evening.
California Maki - Queensland spanner crab, avocado, tobiko mayonnaise.
The California Maki was Tokonoma's version of the classic california roll. L and I expressed surprise at finding that Tokonoma had used real crab for the roll and not crab sticks. The quality of the crab was good, and the roll was tasty and refreshing. Avocado in sushi rolls is always a nice addition, and the creaminess of the fruit generally goes well with any seafood.
Our last dish of the evening was the marinated lamb cutlets. The sauce was mildly sweet and very delicious, but I was a little disappointed when I bit into the lamb and saw that it was fully cooked all the way through. Nevertheless, this didn't detract from the good taste of the lamb, but it was slightly chewy.
Bar at Tokonoma
Overall, L and I had a satisfactory dinner at Tokonoma Lounge that evening. I liked the food there, but I probably wouldn't go back to Tokonoma given that the atmosphere was more of a bar style setting, more suited for people who are having snacks before a night out. If I wanted to enjoy the food again, I would probably go to Toko earlier in the evening to ensure getting a table.
The service at Tokonoma was polite, but lacked warmth. It was a bit difficult to get the attention of the waitresses, given that it was a Saturday night. The serving sizes were rather small, and anyone who has a big appetite will probably need to fill up afterwards or else will have a hefty bill at the end of the night.
Tokonoma's backlit wall
Where: 490 Crown Street Surry Hills NSW.
Why: Contemporary Japanese cuisine in a trendy, elegant atmosphere.
Cost: Our total bill was $138.
When: Lunch and dinner