When I was invited down to Kobe Jones to try their "winter romance" menu I mentally ran through all my weekday dining buddies and came up empty handed. Everyone was busy, sick, working (sick of working?), studying or out of town. It seemed like I was going to have to give this one a miss which is a shame as I do love Kobe Jones -- it's always been a place I associate with special occasion dining after having celebrated my nieces university graduation there.
You may be wondering why my first choice of dining buddy for a romantic wintertime feast wasn't The Boy? Yes, well...that's a very good question. He generally doesn't like to go out in the big city on a school night so I never think to invite him along to something like this. BUT when I moved my dinner to a non-school night we had ourselves a ready made romantic dinner for two!
Kobe Jones is SO dark and even though I'd ask for a table under some light I knew I was going to struggle to get photos of our meal. True, the moody lighting is romantic. It's also great if you're on a blind date and not so keen on the person you've been set-up with. It's not so great for photos so apologies for some truly dodgy photos of some truly beautiful food.
Our tasting menu kicks off with the NUMBER ONE SPECIAL (crab salad with avocado wrapped in Hiramasa kingfish and baked in a "secret sauce") and a beer for The Boy and a fancy blue cocktail for me. Right off the bat I'm really impressed with Kobe Jones' modern Californian take on Japanese food. All the flavours go so well together with nothing jarring or too left of centre in the flavour combinations (I've had some Japanese food recently that is just a little...out there in a "not good" kinda way). The flavour pairings here are quite subtle and everything marries well together.
Our next course - A TANTALISING TASTING PLATE - arrives on a l-o-n-g slate platter and my trusty lighting director whips out his phone to provide a bit of light for my photos...this didn't seem to bother anyone sitting near us and our waitress was OK with it too. Phew!
We get to try a morsel of lots of tasty things during this course: SPICY EBI NIGRI (poached sweet Japanese prawn nigri topped with chilli sauce and + black caviar); The Boy's favourite on the platter is the LOLLIPOP SUSHI (fresh tuna, kingfish, salmon, crab salad, asparagus and burdock root, wrapped in thinly-peeled cucumber + topped with smelt roe, ponzu vinaigrette); WAGYU TATAKI (seared rare and iced wagyu on a bed of seaweed, topped with winter herbs and soy onion vinaigrette); SPIDER ROLL (crunchy soft shell crab with avocado, crab salad and cucumber, with smelt roe and chopped chives); and a dish we tried on our honeymoon, SALMON AND SEAFOOD POKE (Hawaiian style freshly marinated sashimi cubes in poke sauce with shallots and roasted garlic, topped with fresh alfalfa sprouts).
The Boy and I are VERY big on everything being "even Stevens" when it comes to food (yes, we're greedy guts) so a big thumbs up to Kobe Jones for providing everything in an even number of pieces for this menu.
I adored the JALAPENO SALMON TATAKI (flamed sashimi salmon served with jalapeno dressing and garnished with salmon roe and slivers of fresh jalapeno). The crunch of the spicy jalapeno was a nice textural counterbalance to the soft salmon. The dressing was quite zesty which cut down on any overwhelming heat coming through from the jalapeno. Next is the PACIFIC CALAMARI FRITTO (Pacific line caught, pineapple cut calamari in a special panko, lightly fried and served with roasted shallot mayonnaise, smelt roe and marinated yellow radish).
If you've been to Kobe Jones chances are you're a fan of the VOLCANO ROLL (oven-baked Hokkaido scallops layered on a crab salad and avocado roll with a special cream sauce, roasted sesame seed, smelt roe, shallots and drizzled with bitter sweet soy glaze). I've heard a lot about this dish and I'm glad to have tried it...it's very good. We both enjoyed the SPICY SEAFOOD TOBANYAKI that came under a delicate nest of air-dried tuna shavings that danced atop the dish (prawns, scallops, squid, mussels and wild mushroom tossed with seaweed butter on a bed of rice, then baked with a special cream sauce and topped with shallot and air-dried tuna shavings).
We had to really work hard for each morsel of the ALASKAN CRAB which is grilled robata style and served in the shell with fresh lime and ponzu sauce (ponzu sauce is quite sweet + acidic on its own and I prefer when it's served as part of the overall, integrated flavour of a dish). Things got a bit messy by the end of this dish, with fingers being used to extract every morsel of the crab from it's spiky legs. Waste not, want not.
The final savoury course of the night - LOBSTER HOT ROCK - arrives at our table with a bit of theatre along with it. Our waitress starts by melting a pad of butter on the scorching hot slab of rock. Next up morsels of sweet slipper lobster meat go on to the rock along with the mushrooms that accompany the dish. Once we're shown what to do we're left to cook the rest of the meat ourselves which is quite fun. The lobster + mushrooms are served with a garlic seaweed butter (my favourite accompaniment to the lobster), ponzu sauce and motoyaki sauce .
Our first dessert arrives at out table literally on fire! Once the flames abate we get stuck in and enjoy every last skerrick of our FLAMING ANKO (Japanese sweet red bean and + green tea brulee served with flaming vanilla liqueur). I enjoyed this dessert and I liked that the flavour of the red beans didn't overwhelm the delicateness of the green tea brulee. The KJ TIRAMISU was also really delicious and we both enjoyed the Japanese twist on this traditional Italian dessert. The tiramisu was infused with green tea + sake infused and served semifreddo (that means a little bit frozen in Italian folks) and topped with fresh strawberries. I'm not usually a fan of tiramisu as I don't enjoy the strong espresso flavour, but this was great -- mild flavoured, moist without being wet. A great end to a great, and delicious night.
The Winter Romance menu is $145 per person. Drinks are extra.
Kobe Jones is at 29 Lime Street, Sydney (King Street Wharf). Phone them on 9299 5290.