This reimagined izakaya is still the benchmark for tasty snacks and slick service in Sydney
Opening up an excellent restaurant is hard. What’s even more difficult is staying great. After four years on Macleay Street, Jonathan Barthelmess and Nic Wong’s modern Sydney-via-Tokyo joint Cho Cho San has managed to do just that, maintaining its place as a star of Potts Point’s shiny restaurant strip.
We go here for the fresh hunks of salmon in a deconstructed sushi plate. They come seasoned with gentle hum of spicy gojuchang paste, which is is softened by creamy avocado, the crunch of cucumber, toasted nori and sesame seeds. We also order the salt and pepper squid, which is the best iteration we’ve had of this ubiquitous dish. Each tiny squid tentacle comes cloaked in a light batter that delivers a serious crunch when you bite into it, and it comes with a side of wasabi mayo for an a heated, creamy kick. Prawn toast is like a seriously pimped out prawn cracker, topped with fried shrimp and toasted sesame seeds, and pork bao see an ultra fluffy steamed bun hug a hunk of juicy pork, with a thin piece of iceberg lettuce and a squeeze of mayo.
They’re riesling freaks here, with 14 on the wine list, not including those which fall into the ‘interesting others’ category, like the La Violetta gewürztraminer riesling, which is floral upfront with a neat, dry finish. You can also explore a third of the list by the glass or half bottle, with carafes starting at $35 for a South Australian riesling and going up to $68 for a French gamay red. Or peruse the sakes (opt for a seasonal flight if you want to try a few) or umushe (go the Choya Kokuto).
There are larger dishes that have been the menu from day dot, and for good reason, like the Japanese bolognese. It takes the homey cues of the rustic Italian favourite and supplies slippery udon noodles swimming in nubbles of slow cooked, almost sweet porky mince, slices of king brown mushroom and a scattering a bright green onion. Twist it round on your chopsticks and you’ve got a triumphant umami-fied mouthful.
The wagyu may be one of the simplest dishes on the menu, but that’s why it works. Slices of just pink beef come in a juicy broth – when you taste it separate to the beef it’s a little heavy on the sweet soy, but when combined with slices of almost-buttery wagyu, it works.
Save just enough room for the mochi sandwich. Rather than the typical orb of glutinous rice, a fine, chewy rectangle encases a firm, rectangle of ice cream. The black sesame renders this sweet frozen sanga a Warsaw shade of grey but it’s a perfectly portioned, deck-of-card-sized dessert that smacks you with sesame and just enough sweetness.
It may be all slick, white-washed walls, polished concrete and Japanese minimalism with the decor here, but it’s the creativity and consistency in the dishes that continue to keep Cho Cho San on Sydney’s dining to-do-list.
|Venue name:||Cho Cho San|
73 Macleay St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thurs 5.30-11pm; Fri-Sun noon-11pm|