Kenji Okuda (previously head chef of Lotus Barangaroo) and his wife Donna have opened Japanese inspired Koku Culture cafe in Ashfield with the most amazing confit salmon
You know when you read a menu and know that you will love it even though you haven’t seen any pics or heard from anyone who’s been? That’s how I felt when Good Living reported that Kenji Okuda (head chef Lotus Barangaroo) would be opening Japanese inspired Koku Culture Cafe in Ashfield, selling his miso pastes and soy sauce. Long story short it was everything I had hoped for and more and I have a prediction this cafe will no longer be a hidden gem!
If there’s one must order dish at Koku, it’s the torched confit Alpine king salmon fillet with Koku miso dressing & green tea noodle salad ($19) with an optional 63 degree egg ($2). Holy crap you guys! The salmon has got to be the tastiest salmon I’ve ever had! It was buttery soft and the light blowtorch char just kicked the umami into the stratosphere. And the noodles! They were slightly chilled and had a yuzu and mint dressing and it was just so refreshing and delicious! The egg was perfectly gooey but honestly I don’t think the noodles needed the richness and is perfect without it.
The seared Wagyu beef ($23) was also incredible. The Wagyu was lightly seared for that slight smokiness but was so incredibly tender and just melted in the mouth. The optional 63 degree egg ($2) works wonders on the nutty tasting buckwheat and lovingly coats the huddle of mixed mushrooms and rocket.
The crispy rice burgers comes with fries and the choice of grilled Koji chicken with Sriracha & mayo or the corn & zucchini fritter with spicy mayo but I have chosen the classic cheeseburger with Koku secret sauce ($15). The burger is quite large and requires 2 hands holding onto the crispy nori seaweed that’s wrapped around 2 rectangles of golden, crispy rice. The rice is awesome, like the crispy burnt bits you get on the bottom of a claypot rice bowl. The meat patty is not as tender as I had hoped but it’s plenty juicy and tasty with the melted American cheese and sauce. While I normally hate salad in my burgers I actually quite enjoyed the fresh lettuce and tomato but there was absolutely no way I finished the fries >.<
The twice cooked pork belly with red cabbage salad, 63 degree egg, quinoa and spicy gochujang sauce ($19) while tasty, wasn’t my favourite of the menu but to be fair I ate this on their 3rd day of trading. The pork crackle wasn’t as crispy as I had hoped and the meat while soft, wasn’t as juicy as it could be but I would totally give this another try.
There’s also an all day breakfast menu and while I don’t normally eat breakfast during the week I quite happily devoured the Wok fried eggs ($17) for lunch. The eggs were golden and gloriously crisp and surprisingly not oily and the yolky centres patiently waiting to be released from its crunchy prison. I loved the holy combo of okonomiyaki sauce and mayo and the salty hit from the bonito flakes. For once bacon was not a drawcard for me and *gasp* I don’t think it needs it.
I was very tempted to get the mortgage breaker of smashed avocado on toast ($16) which comes on Japanese milk toast, a poached egg, feta, shiso & Koku miso dressing but instead I’m swayed with the sautéed spicy miso butter mushrooms on sourdough ($15). It is a very generous serving with 2 slices of sourdough (sourced from Azuki Bakery in Newtown) on the bottom of a mountain of mixed mushrooms, rocket, poached eggs, mint and a sprinkle of feta. I absolutely loved the miso butter in the mushrooms, it is just such a comforting flavour and perfect for winter!
Aaaaand I had to get the brûlée matcha pancake ($16) which was a bit denser than I expected for a pancake, with a texture more like cake. But the matcha hit was great, strong but not bitter and holds up against the blanket of custard with brûléed surface that I had fun cracking into. There’s also fruit on the side but I’m not convinced by the 2 quenelles of sour cream.
Coffee is by Single O and there’s also hojicha latte on the menu which I cannot wait to try. So after 5 consecutive days of eating my way through the majority of the menu at Koku, I’m extremely happy for this newest edition to Ashfield!
Koku Culture Cafe
355 Liverpool Road
7 days: 7am – 4pm
Taco King Toby Wilson (Ghostboy Cantina) has teamed up with Jaime Wirth (Drink n Dine) and natural-wine merchant Joel Amos (DRNKS) and given The George in Waterloo a spanking new makeover!
Let’s taco bout Taco King Toby Wilson (Ghostboy Cantina) who has teamed up with Jaime Wirth (Drink n Dine) and natural-wine merchant Joel Amos (DRNKS) and given The George in Waterloo a spanking new makeover!
The boys refreshed the interior of the bar area and while there’s craft beers on tap they’ve kept the Melbourne Bitters around for the locals. There’s also a bottle shop featuring natural and organic wines, but most importantly they stock my new favourite prosecco from Puncheon Bottles! Add $20 to any of the wines and you can drink them in the pub and they’ll provide an ice bucket and wine glasses.
The beer garden out back was previously Hughes Barbecue but gone are the cactuses and barbecue smokers and instead there’s a water feature complete with an al pastor water fountain and 2 live eels happily swimming around.
The corn chips ($7) was meant to come with salsa but guacamole arrived instead and I’m not gonna complain about that because guacamole is life and this was the perfect snack with our adult beverages.
First on the taco lineup is the Ensenada fish taco ($7), a warm house-made corn tortilla holds pieces of fried masa flour battered gurnard with shaved cabbage and slivers of crunchy radish. I did find this a touch on the dry side but nothing a whack of their house made hot sauce can’t fix!
I absolutely LOVED the Kingfish ceviche tostada ($7) and not just because of the crispy tostada haha it was the natural sweetness and freshness of the raw kingfish against the sourness of the pickles and crunch of the tostada, everything was so perfectly balanced!
Noods had ordered the Chicken carnitas taco ($6) and assumed I’d also gotten one for myself so devoured it in less than 5 seconds without offering a bite >.< but apparently it was tasty?
So here’s a pic of the plate. Thanks Noods.
I instead had ordered the Barbacoa lamb taco ($6) which was awesome, the lamb was melt in the mouth tender with juicy nubbins of fat. I’d totally order an entire tray of these bad boys next time.
Aaand I had to get the Chorizo Quesadilla ($8) because well, I required cheese and it certainly delivered on the flavour front with spicy chorizo nubbins enveloped in a blanket of melty cheese.
The signature taco is the famed Al Pastor taco although it wasn’t available at lunch but because it was the long weekend and we were having a jolly good time drinking all the drinks, somehow dinner time rolled around and we managed to get the first lot of tacos just as dinner service started up. The corn tortilla holds pork neck marinated in a house-made adobo sauce that’s been slowly cooked on a spit and shaved to order and also a wedge of juicy roasted pineapple to tie things together. It’s a juicy, meaty mouthful and you’ll regret only ordering one.
Oh and we also get the Elotes aka juicy corn cobs slathered with a generous amount of mayo, chilli, cheese and lime.
Make sure you save room for dessert! The Churros ($8) are a revelation, I’ve never particularly loved churros before but these are the absolute bomb! The churros are crisp on the outside and wondrously light and fluffy on the inside. They were drizzled with cajeta, a dulce de leche syrup made with goat’s milk which has the perfect balance of caramel-y sweetness and makes it near impossible for me to resist licking the plate clean.
760 Elizabeth Street,
Mon – Thurs: 11am – 12am
Fri – Sat: 11am – 3am
Sun: 11am – 10pm