I’ve heard great things about their other restaurant, The Appollo, but Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie’s latest restaurant, Cho Cho San, caught my immediate attention as soon as I heard it was a Japanese izakaya serving reinvented Japanese cuisine. Collaborating with Nicholas Wong (Ester, Billy Kwong and Rockpool), their menu seemed exciting and delicious so I had to see for myself what this joint was all about. Foodie minds think alike and very soon, Chris (MAB vs Food) suggested a catch up dinner at Cho Cho San with myself and M.
Whilst minimal, the space is simple and contemporary. Surrounding the bar is a long, sleek bench which can seat around twenty diners and the rest of the dining area has numerous dining tables for small groups.
Some people may think cocktails are a waste of money as they are just sugar-loaded beverages that mask the flavour of alcohol but personally, I enjoy trying different cocktails whenever I visit a new restaurant. The Japanese stiletto (midori, ketel one, plum, lemon juice, and melon balls $17) was refreshing with fruity sweetness of melon. M chose the Ginger ninja (ketel one, ginger beer, honey dew melon and fresh ginger) was quite strong in ginger but equally as refreshing. Being the man, Chris chose a Japanese craft beer, Tama no Megumi pale ale.
While we perused the menu, we noticed that there were a few changes to their online menu, and some items that I read about in other blogs were no longer on the menu during my visit.
The miso eggplant dip is no longer available and replaced with fried miso eggplant ($10). I can’t make a comparison but I can tell you that this was delicious – creamy, soft eggplant encased in an exterior so crispy that it cracked when I bit into it, and the miso glaze drizzled on top was packed with umami goodness.
I don’t usually consume accompanying sauces or broths but I finished the silken tofu in tomato dashi ($4 ea) to the last spoonful as the clear dashi was well balanced with the sweetness and acidity of tomato. (Oops, forgot to take a photo.)
It was a sigh of relief when I spotted hokkaido scallops ($18) still on the menu as it was one of the two items that my friend strongly recommended after his earlier visit. The scallops were served raw with umami notes enhanced by the addition of house-cured katsuoboshi (bonito). The corn puree was so sweet I wanted more.
Continuing with the raw selection, we also ordered the Petuna ocean trout, black pepper and wasabi ($20). Flavours might have been predictable but we couldn’t say no to the thick-cut, fresh and slippery ocean trout sashimi.
Our last raw dish was beef tataki with wild rice and ginger dressing ($18). The thinly sliced beef contrasted with the crunchy wild rice grains and also hints of cheesiness. One of my favourites of the night.
When I said my friend strongly recommended two dishes, the other was the king crab omelette with japanese curry ($28). The curry sauce was spicier than your usual japanese curry, but the omelette of soft boiled eggs fried in a light and crunchy batter was delicious.
We opted for no meat as we had heard the meat dishes weren’t as outstanding as their raw selections and small plates, so to make this a more balanced meal, we had to order some carbs. The udon noodles ($15) was quite chilli which seemed more similar to Korean than Japanese flavours. My dining companions loved it but agreed that the noodles were overcooked and hence a bit soft.
If rice is your choice of carbs, they also have fried brown rice ($12) which was fragrant with flavoursome shitake mushrooms and egg.
We didn’t think we ordered too much food but were absolutely stuffed by this point yet we still ordered all three desserts for research purposes. They no longer offer their matcha soft serve cone which I’ve seen countless times all over instagram and have replaced it with a banana soft serve cone, with caramel and peanuts ($7 ea).
The soft serve was smooth and had a strong ripe banana flavour. I’m not the biggest fan of banana and especially not overly ripe bananas but my dining companions loved it.
My preference for dessert goes to Cho Cho snow ($10) which consisted of ginger pudding, custard apple, shaved ice and caramelised syrup. The pudding lacked ginger flavour and tasted more of a vanilla pudding with visible vanilla seeds throughout. It was smooth and wobbly, just like a perfect pudding should be.
All of us are lovers of yuzu and that was why we insisted on ordering the steamed yuzu pudding ($12) knowing that our stomaches were close to exploding. Disappointingly, the pudding was more reminiscent of lemon than yuzu and was too sweet and rich but was made a bit better when eaten with the accompanying cream.
Once again, it was a great meal with great company. I would recommend the beef tataki, scallops and crab omelette as they were my favourite dishes of the night but let me know if the other dishes are also worth trying (especially the meat dishes)!