Sunday, June 01, 2008

Koko - Part 2

It was over a year ago that we visited Koko and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Since it's Phuong's birthday (Happy 2? Birthday Phuong), we decided to go back there again. This is one classic example of how you reassess things when you have more to compare it to. We still enjoyed Koko a lot, but it wasn't the heady memorable experience of that first visit. More on that later.

I thought it would be fun if we recreated that model pose photo from the first time. Last time's photo was a spontaneous photo that Paul happened to capture. Below is last time's photo.

This time, we posed for it, and it just didn't look as good I think. We mucked up the positions and also Phuong's in the photo as well this time.

Previously, we were stuck right in the corner of the restaurant and didn't get to see the main central water feature. Hence, when we booked this time, we asked for a central table. This afforded us a beautiful view of the pond, the city outside, and the teppanyaki tables all around.

Like last time, we again ordered the Koko Chef's Special Sashimi. The sashimi was still good, but wasn't fantastic like last time. Possibly it's because we have more to compare it to like I mentioned earlier, or possibly the mind always remembers things better than they are. I think it's a combination of both. Because despite our overall bad experience at Shoya, the sashimi there was definitely superior to all other sashimi I've tried.

Again, we ordered the Koko Special Sushi. We also got the Volcano Roll, an inside out roll with salmon, asparagus, cucumber and prawns, with a creamy glaze outside it. The nigiri sushi was good, but I think the variety and quality is better at Shira Nui.

What was fantastic was the Spider Roll and Salmon Skin Roll. The spider roll blew our minds last time, and it did it again this time. The soft shell crab with the fish roe, seaweed, sesame seeds and sweet soy glaze is still unbelievably good. The crispy salmon skin rolls were amazing as well. The crispy skin provided a real crunch while the crab meat and avocado provided excellent flavours. I would definitely order these two items again and again.

After the sushi and sashimi, we were ready for our mains to blow us away. Instead we were very underwhelmed. The Scotch Fillet with Spicy Miso Soup was extremely salty. The meat was nice enough, but the sauce was so salty we had to keep shaking it off.

We wanted the Grilled Red Emperor with sea urchin sauce but that wasn't available, so we got the Pan-fried Toothfish cooked with Koko's teriyaki sauce instead. The fish was tender and it was quite good, but again, way too salty.

The Pork Ribs in Soy Mirin Sauce was very tender and my favourite mains dish. It was still a bit too salty, but not as bad as the others.

Finally, the Stir Fried Charcoal Noodles with Spanner Crab sounded better than it tasted. The charcoal noodles wasn't that good, and the crab lacked any flavour.

I looked back at my own blog post about Koko and even then it showed that the mains weren't that great the last time around. The Wagyu served three ways wasn't amazing. The stir fried udon was better than other places, but still not fantastic. And the cold charcoal noodles from last time was again a strange dish I thought.

For dessert, Paul got the Sake Martini with berries and ice cream. It was very refreshing and I liked it.

Jo and Phuong got the Pancakes with red bean and green tea ice cream. This dessert changed from the freshly cooked pancakes of last year to this version. This version was very disappointing. The pancakes tasted very much like the Golden brand pikelets that you can buy from Safeway. I kept trying pieces of it and it tasted just like it. Needless to say, that means it wasn't that good. I wonder if they make them fresh or just buy them. If they make them fresh, then the flavour sure tastes so much like the supermarket bought ones.

I got the Peach Creme Brulee. It was very nice, but a bit too soft. It needed to be a touch firmer. It wasn't as good as the Rockpool creme brulee, which was also much larger for the same price.

One thing that hasn't changed is that service is still very efficient. Our waitress topped our water constantly and kept refilling our hot sake each time it was finished. She also let us know when our bottle of saki was finished so we could order more. Every request for things was quickly fulfilled.

The ambience was much better this time as we were seated in the middle of the restaurant. I liked seeing the view of the city outside, as well as the chefs at the teppanyaki tables doing their work. The room was buzzing but yet you still felt like you had your own space.

We went and took some photos after the meal. Here is Jo and Phuong doing their best lady of the mansion poses.

We were all really tired after drinking so much sake, and the Crown couches were extremely comfortable.

Finally, an interesting shot I took in the lift. The reflection of our faces off the roof, juxtaposed with the background advertisement and the twinkling lights made for an interesting photo I think.

Although the Koko experience this time round was still good, it wasn't as fantastic as we all fondly remembered it. The mains were all too salty and disappointing. The sushi rolls were the highlight and the best I've had anywhere. I've dropped it a point as overall experience wasn't as amazing.

Overall Rating: 16/20, Sushi rolls are amazing and a must order. Service is good.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

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  1. LOL at the photo of you guys sleeping on the couch!

    Nice post. I was interested to see the desserts - we didn't have any when we went this year, cos I had baked a cake for my bro's birthday. Shame about the pikelets!

    xox Sarah

  2. Sarah, I think we all drank a bit too much sake. And that couch was so soft and comfy that we had a quick nap. Paul was the only one alert so he took a snap.

    The desserts weren't fantastic. Previously, their green tea crepes was good, but now these pikelets were very ordinary. I'm sure your cake tasted better.

  3. Hi Thanh,

    Omg how comfy are Crown's couches!! Haha, I really like them.

    Green tea crepes sound like a good idea... I'm going to google a recipe.

    I just posted this 2nd reply to your comment on my latest post (about the steak) but wasn't sure if you'd see it there, so I thought I'd post it here. Would like to get your opinion!

    "Thanh - I was just thinking about it; I think in general that when restauranteurs/cafe owners give you gifts like that it's really awesome for customer relations. For instance, if Vlado is selling 100+ steaks a night, giving away 3 might not be a huge financial loss to him, but we (the customer) see it as a really generous gift, and are more likely to return and be loyal to that restaurant. (Not that I'd need extra encouragement to go to Vlado's for steak!!!) Same goes for the occasional free coffee or extra cookie at your favourite cafe or something like that. What do you think?"

    xox Sarah

  4. Hi Thanh. The problem with most types of pancake, whether pikelet or thinner, is that they taste pretty ordinary if they hang around for a few hours. So even if made fresh that day, the pikelets could easily end up tasting like the supermarket ones. The restaurant would have to make them no later than the beginning of meal service if they wanted them to taste particularly fresh.

    I've never had them in Japan, only in Australia (and almost always tasting the way you describe), so I wonder if our expectations are wrong. They might well just be like that always...

  5. Sarah, I've responded to your question over at your blog.

    I reckon green tea crepes are great too. I'm going to make some soon as well.

    Duncan, welcome back to Oz I assume. Maybe my expectations are wrong. The pikelets just tasted all flour-y, very much like supermarket ones. I know that freshly made pancakes and crepes don't taste like that, so you're probably right. Even if they made it that day, it still could taste bad by service time.

    Interestingly, last night I went to Stokers again for pancakes, or more correctly, crepes. It's amazing how people a)know about the place b)can be bothered to travel out that way to eat it. It just shows you that good food will always have customers. My rum banana and walnut pancake with ice cream was insanely good. And I definitely know those were freshly made as I could see the chef making them right there in front of me.