Crown St is by no means lacking in either recreational or culinary delights. Between the vast array of fashion boutiques, second hand stores and the diverse selection of cafés, I could easily spend many an hour of the day wandering up this arterial road. Heading into the evening, the prospect of drinks and dinner emerges and again choice is not an issue. Among the offerings is Toko, a stylish establishment, which provides izakaya style Japanese dining. Herr Mouttard and I have been meaning to pay this place a visit for a while now, after he had a stellar experience at lunch with a friend. Izakaya, I’m told, is in fact, a way to describe an informal, relaxed form of dining associated with bars, the essence being small communal plates which are ordered as required. Indeed as both Herr Mouttard and I enter, we are greeted with a large open bar complete with inviting couches and tables, before being escorted to our tables, which form part of the main dining area that runs alongside the adjacent kitchen.
A generous serving, appreciably larger than the serve I had at
Toppings included salmon, kingfish, and tuna sashimi, with eel, caviar, scallops and prawns - an eye pleasing selection, with superbly fresh and tasty ingredients. I cannot fault the quality of this dish but that being said, I wouldn’t order it again, simply because there are more unique dishes available.
Soft shell crab, wasabi mayonnaise, rock chives and yamagobo wrapped in nori paper and daikon
As decadent as it sounds, we’re both going through a soft shell crab phase, hardly economical in the current financial climate. As a result, we found this sushi immensely satisfying, the crisp crab utterly delicious. The yamagobo (pickled burdock), is something I rarely come into contact with and in this case, it manifested as a slightly sweet crunch concurrent to the crab within the roll. I marvelled at the thin, even layer of daikon wrapped around the maki – and the knife skills that produced it.
The nashi is marinated in something vinegar based, it’s tart nature complimenting the richness of the duck breast. I also enjoyed the mash of textures brought about with the crunchy pear and tender duck. I’ve never had sansho/sichuan pepper straight like this before, finding it a milder, more refined and subtle brother to regular black pepper. It too, goes remarkably well with the duck. A well thought out combination of textures and flavours.
After finishing the first bowl of edamame, we opted for the chilli version and quickly wished we hadn’t. While they were done very well, served warm and coated in a salty, mild chilli sauce, we pined for the clear freshness of the plain version. A matter of individual taste really.
Grilled salmon skin, ikura and spring onions served as a dragon roll with seared salmon
No complaints here, my favourite part was the salmon roe/ikura garnish with it’s mini flavour explosions.
Although a tad burnt at the end, I was seriously impressed with the level of enjoyment I received from these modest looking skewers. I could easily eaten a dozen more. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was… The chicken itself was firm yet tender, while the glaze was a moreish mixture of sweet with a hint of spice. I’d love to be able to rustle up the marinade at home.
Ordered at the recommendation of our waitress, we were deciding between this and the Toko Annin Pannacotta, which was layers of almond pannacotta and passionfruit jelly served with tonka bean ice cream and mochi. Although retrospectively, I doubt I could have deprived Herr Mouttard of his daily chocolate fix… Once we got a taste of this, we were SO GLAD we had ordered it. It was heavenly! I’ve had chocolate fondant before at much more upmarket restaurants, but this was on another level. The gooey chocolate centre was just divine. The ice cream had a subtle hint of savoury in it, presumably from the miso and was a great accompaniment.
Toko only takes reservations for lunch and their private dining area, which holds between 12 – 19 people. We arrived around 6ish, while it was still light, and relatively empty but noticed that it quickly filled up shortly after our arrival. I have read that seating and service can be an issue… While it didn’t compare to the heinous queue at Wagaya, I do recommend getting there earlier rather than later. I do concede however, that waiting is much easier and less undesirable when there’s a bar around:)