Toko is a popular Japanese restaurant in Surry Hills. They don’t take bookings and our party of ten received a warning at the door that if we wanted a table inside we would have to wait an hour. Luckily sitting outside on Crown St is not so popular and we got two tables there almost immediately.

The meals seem to be designed for sharing, but our table ordered separately. We did share our entree of spicy edamame (soy beans). They were flavoured with salt and chilli and you could suck the kernels out of the saucy pods. They were tasty and a bowl went a long way.

For my main I had a chef’s selection of sushi. All the pieces were topped with fish and the only item that was cooked was a prawn. I am not a connoisseur of raw fish. In fact ordering this dish (and eating it) felt like an act of bravery. It was a learning experience, I discovered that not all raw fish tastes the same and I enjoyed some pieces a lot more than others. I liked the pieces that were easy to bite through, and found that the salty soy sauce was useful for the fishier pieces. I enjoyed the contrast of the pickled ginger too.

A couple of my less adventurous tablemates ordered ribs. They were served wrapped in an oval leaf and were so soft that the meat fell off the bones. They were sticky with a sweetish sauce which was complemented with a vinegared salad. They were roundly praised.

A late arrival who had missed lunch was on a quest for carbs and our waitress advised that her selection was likely to be too filling. Pressing ahead in spite of this advice she ordered rice with her tempura and a few pieces of sushi. The waitress was surprised when she ate the lot and then ordered dessert. Reporting on the tempura prawns and vegetables, our hungry companion said that they were good, but the batter was not as light as she had hoped for.

Before we proceed to the next course let me describe the decor. The restaurant looks very modern inside, with a wood panelled bar and a light feature on one wall. Outside Crown St was much quieter than I feared and a heater above us kept us warm on a cool spring evening. I was quite taken with pottery plates in earthy coloured glazes. Each piece seemed to be unique, which added to their charm.

The greedier of us decided that the desserts sounded too good to miss. One of my neighbours ordered a fig and ginger pudding which smelt divine and was smothered in caramel sauce. The carb hunter was almost replete and settled for icecream. Her favourite was the chestnut, which reminded her of a Singapore godmother’s cakes. The black sesame was somewhere between chocolate and coffee, and the vanilla bean had a good flavour and was the creamiest of the selection.

I called on a friend to share dessert and we decided on a trio of creme brulees. The three flavours were chocolate, ginger and raspberry (pictured). We even managed to share the decorative toppings, praline almonds, a fig and a meringue. I was excited by the concept of flavoured creme brulee, and some of the flavours were excellent. The chocolate was creamy more than chocolatey and the ginger could have been stronger. The raspberry was the winner though, with a real fruit flavour.

Toko is a fairly high priced restaurant. The mains are not large and most are around $20. The food is high quality though, and the slight variations on traditional dishes were very successful. I’m not sure I could handle more of the raw fish, but I would love to sample the dessert menu more thoroughly.

Toko has two restaurants, we visited the one at Surry Hills

490 Crown Street
Surry Hills

Ratings (out of 5 snorts)

Price 2 snorts
Taste 3 snorts
Service 4 snorts
Atmosphere 3 snorts

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