Saturday, March 07, 2009

KoKo (Crown) 09

Wishing to share a quality but different dining experience with friends visiting from overseas we thought a Teppanyaki dinner at Koko would be the perfect solution. If there could be such an answer it was half correct. The setting is really lovely. "...the tranquillity of the water garden ... takes pride of place in the stunning interior by internationally renowned designer Tony Chi." It's scattered artificial water lily leaves and still, shallow, water provide a restful background in a sophisticated venue. Patrons respond to it with respect helping maintain a totally pleasing atmosphere where conversation is possible without strain. Wikepaedia tells me that the name teppanyaki derives from teppan an iron plate

and yaki which means fried or boiled, and that the style of having the griddle in the middle of the table and the chef cook at your table only began in a restaurant in Japan, Misono, in 1945
There are a range of teppanyaki menus available at KoKo from $70 for the simplest up to $198 for Mori (which means wind) which we were told was distinguished by better quality food, and more courses so that's what we chose to eat. The meal began with Zensai Three kinds of daily specials prepared by chef in this case an oyster in vinegar, noodles in cream anda delicate white fish on crisp green beans with a tiny pickled sea weed salad. The noodles were exceptional.
A very nice palate teaser. Sashimi
was two quite thick slices of three fresh fish - Kingfish, tuna and salmon with a sushi roll centred on soft shell crab and another tiny salad accompanied by a dipping sauce.

Another quite pleasant but not very special dish. It was served with and greatly improved by, Dobin mushi , a dashi conommé with seafood, chicken and mushroom served in a clay teapot came with a wedge of lime and a small thimble size pile of dashi to drop into the teapot. I refilled my little tea cup time and again to enjoy the great flavour of this soup and finally ate the mushroom and seafood in the pot.Tempura of Alaskan crab claw with the traditional dipping sauce turned out to be deeply disappointing.

I have relished these huge crab claws in America. They can easily span 6 feet and are caught in the north of Alaska under dangerous conditions which might explain why they cost $65/kilo at Prahran Market, or $55 at Richmond Oysters. With a texture finer and much sweeter than lobster they are a gourmets delight, but not this time. The tempura batter was not very good and the crab itself quite lacking in that fine flavour that normally makes it such an exquisite delicacy. Teppanyaki - supposed to be prawns, salmon, scallops began to move away from the promised menu.

The salmon was replaced by sea perch which was a very fine white fish with good structure. We had to ask our chef, a very pleasant Sri Lankan who had learned his cooking at the restaurant, not to over cook the fish. Prawns were efficiently beheaded an shelled on the hot plate and the legs cooked till very crisp. The prawns were very overcooked

and there was a seafood dipping sauce and a light tomato chilli sauce to use with them. I was not offered any scallops!! A choice of Australian Wagyu tenderloin of beef or Australian Wagyu, foie gras and enoki beef roll prompted some discussion. Assured that the foie gras was actual goose liver and not pate I asked for a little more liver and to omit the Wagyu and the mushrooms. They were quite happy with that. The liver then sat on the hot plate, at 338 degrees I'm told, until it was indistinguishable from overcooked lambs fry.

When I explained how I thought foie gras should be cooked the chef produced two more pieces of the product which had been imported, precooked and frozen, from France. If there was such a thing this would be a crime against gastronomy. It bears very little resemblance to fresh foie gras,and is fiendishly expensive. At the very least the menu could come with an appropriate disclaimer.
omething like This dish is served on an attractive plate, it has been precooked and bears no resemblance to fresh foie gras being more akin to pate. I barely noticed the sautéed spinach. It was nice to watch the fried rice being made at the table but again it was overcooked.

and the handsome splash of soy sauce made it too salty.
Generally the Chinese do it better. Dessert: Supposedly a trio of ice cream or Japanese red bean pancake with white sesame honey ice cream. We asked for the icecream trio and after a long time it arrived - one scoop of ice cream and some sliced fruit!!
Ultimately the best thing we had all night was the dashi soup. A request for the menu, so we could check what we were eating, was forgotten.
We drank Moet Chandon ($110) on special. There is a moderate wine list. They also have an a la carte menu which seems reasonably priced but I suspect the serves are small
Comments: I recall that Bob Hart had what he called a really excellent meal with matched saki, including one $1500 a bottle match, for only a few dollars more than we paid. All of our cooked items were overcooked. This was a very very expensive price for a very poor meal at a lovely venue. There are, after all, a lot of lovely places that you can look at for free and pleasing restaurants at a quarter the price!
Score: 12.5/20


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