“That is the worst cocktail since the one with whipped cream and pop rocks at Assembly,” my dining companion snarks.
Topped with an ice bowl full of Campari flavoured jelly, Just Like Honey ($20) is certainly one of the most interesting looking cocktails I’ve seen. However drinking the blend of Havana Club 3 Años, Australian honey miso, coconut milk and pineapple, has me asking why, especially when the jelly gives the drink the consistency of lumpy, curdled milk. With Beefeater Gin, Toji sake, grapefruit, strawberry, yuzu, shiso and thyme shrub, my dining companion’s own selection, Inn Bloom ($20), has a sweet and sour edge that fares much better by my palate. Unfortunately my friend thinks: “It tastes like they got Starburst lollies and boiled them down.”
Our regular monthly Japanese food catch-up takes a turn for the better once she moves on to Nick Spencer’s 2017 Gruner Veltliner ($17.50) and I move onto sake. Craving something soft and rice-like, I opt for the Soma no Tengu Junmai Ginjo Namazake ($41/150ml) belatedly realizing the menu’s tasting notes refer to the sake’s aroma, not the flavour, which is more tart than I desired. For the price, I wanted to love it, especially when I know you can pick up a whole bottle for $89 at Blackmarket Sake.
We’re dining in the bowels of Bridge Street at Kid Kyoto. Where’s It At by Beck is reverberating off the unfinished walls and exposed fittings. It’s our first visit to this space so we opt for the well lit bar seats, hoping for a sashimi slicing dinner show and some banter with the chef. We opt for the ‘Trust Us’ 8-Course Feast ($65/head) of chef’s selection share plates that begins with a substantial plate of Cabbage and Kombu Pickle ($6).
We’re treated to an array of little snacks, starting with crab sticks sprinkled with Old Bay Seasoning. “Hang on, I’m just checking if my filling is still in place - how many times have I got to tell you, you have to store the Cruskits in an air tight container,” my dining companion quips. I have to admit the underlying crackers are quite robust.
Native bush pepper dresses up whole, tempura Carrot-aage ($14) which are dragged through a lively orange koshu sauce.
By the time our vibrant Kingfish Ceviche ($22) lands, we’ve worked out that we have a counter view of the deep fryer, operated by a very junior chef. While the brightly coloured sashimi is still our dish of the night, riffing nicely with the toppings of roast wakame, cubes of pickled watermelon and lemon aspen koshu (a fermented paste of chilli, yuzu and salt), a little of the shine rubs off when the waitress explains: “We pre-prepare it all because we do get busy and want to cut the wait times for you guys.” It seems the focus on make-at-the-table guacamole and sambal you find at other Sam Prince Hospitality Group restaurants hasn't quite extended to this Japanese-inspired newcomer.
And maybe that’s the sticking point for me – while I like the thumping nineties soundtrack and colourful neon – I miss the diner connectivity of the other restaurants. Staff here, though plentiful, seem hard to catch and slower to identify tables wanting to order drinks or have plates taken away. The open kitchen while clearly working hard, doesn’t offer the right level of extraction, with a building chook shop aroma by the end of the night.
As we move through Wok-Smoked Mushrooms ($24) and Iceberg Lettuce ($12) topped with chemically compelling furikake (seaweed seasoning), miso whipped tofu and cured yolk, nothing really stands out.
Rubbery-skinned Barramundi ($32) surrounded by a semi-sweet smoked corn dashi, snow peas and water chestnuts is nice.
The Chocolate Fondant ($16) brings me full circle, all the way back to asking why. I’ve got no idea what chocolate fondant and coconut ice cream have to do with Japanese food. If I’m supposed to find that link in caramelized miso and kinako (soy bean flour) you might have to make it taste better than Horlicks stripped of all the yummy malt.
It’s my view that the Sam Prince Hospitality Group set themselves a harder task with Kid Kyoto than they did with their highly successful Mexican update, Méjico or their freshened up Indian at Indu. Mexican food in Sydney had up until then, by and large, been terrible. Indian got a rethink at the top end with notable restaurants like Oh Calcutta and Aki’s at Woolloomooloo, but remained pretty untouched in the mid-range before Indu came along. However when it comes to modern Japanese fusion, most Sydney diners have already tried a few. By my reckoning I’ve had better meals at Restaurant Plage in Cremorne and Akiba in Canberra in the last twelve months.
17-19 Bridge Street (enter Bridge Lane), Sydney
Ph: (02) 9241 1991