In fickle ol’ Sydney-town many restaurants come and go, but some survive and thrive, weaving their way into the very fabric of the place.
Kobe Jones has been putting the fire into date night for the last fifteen years, using their Flaming Number One Special ($22.50/2 pieces). Sparked up tableside, these one-bite fireballs have been on the menu since 2010, when I first dined at their sister restaurant, Wharf Teppanyaki, where they are made on the teppanyaki grill.
Smothered in Kobe Jones’ special sauce with a contrasting splash of soy glaze, they contain crab salad and avocado, wrapped up in nori and hiramasa kingfish. Against a Tokyo Slipper ($19.99) – an accessible Midori-based cocktail garnished with yuzu (Japanese citrus) sorbet – they’re a good way to begin your Kobe Jones adventure.
We joined a diverse array of dating couples, successful tradies, and work colleagues on the balcony for an al fresco dinner.
The wide audience is a good indication that you don’t need a sophisticated palate to dine here. It’s backed up with extensive menu explanations, set menus and platters that let the restaurant do the choosing for you.
Beautifully presented on ice, the Sashimi Platter ($88/20 piece), will easily rival the view. Despite inclement weather, the view is impressive, though I’m quickly distracted with by a little pot of A-grade, orange, firmly textured sea urchin roe – delicious! Four slices of kingfish are firm-fleshed and tasty; the snapper quartet is delicate and pretty; and the scampi – whose pale pink carapace crowns the platter – is so creamy against salty bursts of popping roe, you might wish for the flavour to carry on forever.
For tuna aficionados, Toro ($33/2 pieces) and O-Toro ($45/2 pieces), prized fatty belly pieces, are both on the menu when they are available. These fat-streaked pale slabs of expertly sliced fish are all about texture and flavour. Savour them in your mouth so the tuna fat melts to coat your warm tongue for the best Communion of all.
What Kobe Jones does best is offer you an accessible look at some of the best beef and seafood available in this country. Hokkaido scallops are recognised for their firmness and sweetness, making them ideal for carpaccio presentations like Yuzu Soy Scallops ($24.50). If I hadn’t just dined over the water at Eiju Fusion Japanese where chef Hideki Okazaki
achieved better delicacy with this dish, I would have been more impressed.
Wine is one category where I’d like to see this restaurant widen their offering, but my time as a foodie has made me a bit of a wine snob, and really, this restaurant isn’t pitched at me. I settle for the 2016 Laurenz V Estate Gruner Veltliner ($73.99) at the more interesting edge of the comparatively short but pricy wine list. It’s citrussy and fresh making it good with seafood, with the power to extend to dishes like Miso Duck ($38). The fleshy white miso-marinated breast of duck is cooked sous vide to ensure it is moist and tender, and served with daikon (white radish) noodles, macadamia nut pesto and a splash of something fruity and sweet.
Beef is another category where this restaurant goes all the way. At-the-table cooking on heated stones are very popular, shooting out an amazing aroma. You can literally hear ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ thoughts echoing across the busy outdoor terrace.
While patient and friendly floor staff do start off the cooking process at each table, I leave aside the theatrics to let the chef handle my meat, first as Warm Wagyu Tataki ($32.50) and later as a steak. Fanned around a plate, the seared rare wagyu sirloin slices (sourced locally from the Darling Downs and graded AA5+ on the Japanese wagyu grading system) encircle a bright red bloom of Momiji oroshi – grated Japanese daikon with red chili. They’re dribbled with ponzu and make for textural and tasty carnivore snacks.
The Master Kobe Wagyu Sirloin AA9+ ($98/150g) arrives very well rested with a caramelised exterior and an interior cooked to a perfect, juicy blue. If you’re already thinking about this dish in terms of the per kilo price, this restaurant probably isn’t for you.
Popping finger-thick slices of tender wagyu into my mouth, punctuated by orange and white sweet potato spears drizzled in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds, I contemplate the night.
Kobe Jones is a theatrical restaurant with a grand location, where you can be guaranteed of a repeatable experience eating the country’s best produce. It’s not about foodies, but about people who want a chance to experience the best without a lesson in weird ingredients delivered at the table.
Fifteen years here on King Street Wharf have proven that, to many diners, that’s something worth paying for.
29 Lime Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9299 5290
NOTE: See a previous review of this restaurant back HERE.