Walking into Tokonoma in Surry Hills is like entering a warm, dark cocoon - a welcome respite from bustling Crown Street where the restaurant is located.
The dining room is beautiful and artful with walls encased in sweeping, round timber panels, and curved booths which feel private and cozy. I feel like I'm sitting inside a wooden wave. Even the light feature at Tokonoma is a work of art - made from 500,000 resin-coated lentils (yes, really)! This is the perfect place for The Baking Lady and I to relax after a day at work.
All good Spreets deals seem to begin with a bottle of wine. I tell myself I'm not much of a wine drinker, but I polished my half of this bottle with no problem at all.
The meal kicks off with a moreish bowl of my favourite Japanese snack, Edamame (soy beans sprinkled with sea salt). I've thought of making this dish at home and think "why bother", after all it's much more fun going out for dinner.
Next to arrive at the table is a beautiful looking plate of Sliced Kingfish with green chillis and yuzu ponzu dressing. This was a lovely and refreshing dish, the zesty dressing was tangy but not overly so and a nice accompaniment to the fresh fish.
Another beautiful dish is the Beef carpaccio served with yuzukoshu chive. For someone who loves their steak nearly burnt to a crisp I seem to have no problem eating raw marinated-beef dishes such as steak tartare or carpaccio - I think the thinness of the beef, and the refreshing marinade, makes the raw beef quite palatable, and tasty too.
I'm happy to see that Agedashi tofu with spicy nasu miso is included on this Spreets deal as it's one of my favourite Japanese entrees - not only as it's deep fried, but I love the texture of soft tofu encased by a firm, crunchy crust. I also really love the slightly salty bento broth the tofu sits in.
Next up is a chef’s selection of Toko-style nigiri sushi and chirashi maki. The nigiri is lovely with super fresh seafood topping the little balls of rice - really good quality sushi that has me wanting more than just the two pieces we were each allotted.
The grilled zucchini with wafu sauce and sesame looks like a savoury lollipop. Wouldn't this be a great way to serve vegetables to children (& fussy eaters)? The presentation makes a humble vegetable look so appealing and fun to eat.
At the recent EatDrinkBlog conference I remember asking Good Living food photographer Quentin Jones how he photographed brown and green food. My photos of these pesky coloured food groups just never seem to be in focus for some reason (too much of the same colour I guess so the camera has no contrast of colours to focus on).
His deadpan reply was to simply not photography them. Quentin (who is a bit of a larakin I suspect) told me that brown and green foods are troublesome and kinda boring so forget about them! But how can I forgot about this amazingly tender Scotch fillet with smoked gemiso? This steak was melt-in-the-mouth tender - seriously good.
All too soon our last savoury dish arrives - a simple but pleasing bowl of soba broth with shallots. This is the type of dish I'd like to be able to create at home (as well as the entire meal really, but let's not kid ourselves). Although the broth seemed to be quite simple I sadly have no idea what it is, or how to go about recreating it).
When I saw two Tokonoma dessert platters headed for our table I was chuffed. Sadly the second platter was for another table and I was going to have to share dessert with The Baking Lady. It's often really hard to share dessert, especially something as delicious and pretty as this. The peach ice-cream was democratically halved and I carefully only ate my half of the apricot brulee - though I could've happily scoffed the lot.
Tokonoma is at 490 Crown Street, Surry Hills. Phone them on 9357-6100. Tokonoma is situated right next door to its sister restaurant, the more casual Toko.