It was Friday night and I was looking for a little bit of glam. The lads were heading out to check out a new micro-brewery so I called up a local friend to have a night out close to home.
Cho Cho San is a little bit of Potts Point institution. It looks quite humble from the outside but, from all accounts, the food inside is amazing. When we turn up at 8pm, the restaurant is buzzing. There isn’t a spare seat in the place and we’re squeezed into a cosy table for two.
Straight away, we’re greeted warmly by our waiter, offered water and left with menu. When you open the menu, it is a little overwhelming. There are just so many options from snacks to raw to larger plates and sides…. and it all sounds so yummy!
We end up opting for one of the banquets with matching sake flight. It seems the easiest thing to do and, let’s be honest, chefs always know their own menus best. We did make one little addition… the spicy udon noodles (as well as everything else) because anyone who knows me knows I can never go past udon noodles.
The first thing to arrive is a small bar snack of edamame dip with crispy wonton chips.
Everyone loves edamame beans when they go out for Japanese and this is an awesome twist on that. It was light, smooth and fresh with perfectly crunchy (but not oily) fried wontons. The dip was a silky smooth but retained all flavour of fresh edamame beans. It was matched with a young sake, which was super fresh and light.
Quickly our raw dish also arrives of ocean trout with black pepper, wasabi and miso.
It was truly a work of art. The edges had just started to cook in the wasabi, lemony, peppery sauce but the fish was so fresh and soft, it particularly disappeared when you put it in your mouth.
The next dish was a miso eggplant stick.
This was a little different to what I thought it was going to be. I thought it would be whole pieces of eggplant, skewered and covered in a miso glaze. In fact, it was soft cooked eggplant mixed with miso and then moulded around the skewer. It was then lightly battered and deep fried, covered with more miso sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds and chives.
It was amazing. It was crunchy and soft and salty and sweet all at the same time. This would be a great dish with a beer in an izakaya but I was still pretty happy as a finished off the last of my sake.
The next dish was a Japanese classic, okonomiyaki.
Okonomiyaki is the Japanese equivalent of bubble and squeak, designed to use up vegetables. It’s one of my favourite Japanese dishes because I love the crispy outside and soft inside, not to mention it’s usually covered in Japanese mayonnaise and BBQ sauce.
Cho Cho San’s pumpkin version didn’t disappoint. It was wonderfully crispy on the outside with a nice, sweet taste form the pumpkin and onion inside the pancake. I didn’t even miss the BBQ sauce (it was topped with mayonnaise and more crispy seaweed balancing out the sweetness of the vegetables).
Our next dish was our variation from the tasting menu, the spicy pork udon noddles.
This dish looked a little different to how I thought it would. It was covered in Japanese mayonnaise but I soon learnt this was a welcome addition to help cool your mouth down from the spicy pork.
It was everything I love in an udon noodle dish. The noodles were just al dente and with a little bit of chewy. The spicy pork was quite spicy but the mayonnaise meant that you got some relief from the spice and make it super pleasant. I also loved the crunchy sesame and spring onions. I would seriously go back to just have this dish and a beer on the nights the boy was working late and I didn’t feel like cooking.
We now moved onto the “mains” section of meal, starting with butter poached prawns.
There’s really not a lot more than add here. Beautiful plump prawns, served in butter slightly salty from the kombu (a type of seaweed). The heads fell away as you picked up the prawn (and then I ate them because we all know all the flavour plus an extra bit of butter is always hiding up in the heads).
It was served with amazing chicken yakatori.
This was the chicken mince chopped finely with different spices, moulded around the stick and then cooked to perfectly on the smokey yakatori grill. It was served with egg yolk ponzu and chilli salt. We had a lot of fun mixing the egg yolk ponzu together (basically trying to mix it together as quickly as possibly to make it into a cohesive sauce). The meat itself was so tender and juicy with perfect spicing. A total winner with the broccoli and rice it was served with.
One thing I absolutely loved was Cho Cho San also do desserts, which is rare for Asian restaurants. With our tasting menu, it was the matcha soft-serve ice cream and if you ever want to see grown adults become children again, just serve this dish.
It came to the table in little cones popped up in an ice cream holder. They looked absolutely stunning (I had to bribe and cajole to stop my friend stealing them before I could get a photo).
The tasted beautiful with that slightly bitter matcha flavour against the soft, slightly sweet soft serve base. It was the perfect way to end the meal.
Happily sated, we wondered off into the night and to the (probably very) drunk boys waiting for us at home.
73 Macleay Street
Potts Point NSW 2011