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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Cho Cho San, Potts Point

Green tea soft serve at Potts Point, Sydney

Is there a hotter restaurant than Cho Cho San right now? Within a week of opening, Cho Cho San was everywhere: in newspapers, magazines and all over your interwebs. When we visit in only its third week of trade, Cho Cho San is heaving. Even though it's a Tuesday night, they're fully booked.

Cho Cho San is the latest collaboration from Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie, the same duo behind The Apollo. The brief here is Japanese izakaya or bar-style food, although the emphasis is on reinvention. Heading up the kitchen is Chef Nicholas Wong, most recently at Ester and ex-Billy Kwong and Rockpool.

Corn and mustard fritters at Potts Point, Sydney
Corn, mustard fritters $7

The white-washed dining room is understated and contemporary Nordic chic, dominated by a polished concrete counter that houses both the bar and stools for about two-dozen diners. Along the side are alcoves with dining tables for small groups. There's been diligent attention paid to design, from the clean fonts of the logo to the beautifully organic-curved ceramic tableware to the heavy gold rods that act as chopstick rests.

The menu is divided into small dishes, raw bar, sides, seafood and meat. There's plenty to keep you occupied in the small dishes section, although the price of the buns seem a little on the steep side. The steamed mantou bun with duck will cost you $9 each and the mini toasted bun with spanner crab will set you back $12.

Silken tofu in tomato dashi at Potts Point, Sydney
Silken tofu in tomato dashi $4

We're happy to dabble in almost everything else though. The corn fritters arrive as a trio, bright fresh corn kernels bound together in a light and crispy batter. Discs of silken tofu in tomato dashi are an exercise in simplicity, the slippery soy bean curd lifted by the gentle umami notes of the soup.

Eggplant miso dip at Potts Point, Sydney
Eggplant miso dip $10

The eggplant miso dip is all the tastiness of Japanese nasu dengaku without the hassle of eggplant skin. It's the love child of Japanese miso-grilled eggplant and Lebanese baba ghanoush, the smoky puree amplified with miso. Dollop generous spoonfuls on the giant crackers provided and watch the table fall silent for at least a minute or two.

Salt and pepper chicken wings at Potts Point, Sydney
Salt and pepper chicken wings $14

The salt and pepper chicken wings have plenty of crunch but the flesh itself is a little on the bland side and although we can see the salt and pepper, it still tastes under-seasoned.

Petuna ocean trout at Potts Point, Sydney
Petuna ocean trout, black pepper, wasabi $20

The raw bar section is littered with oceanic treats. We dive into plump fillets of silky Petuna ocean trout and discs of raw Hokkaido scallop on a bed of sweet corn puree.

Raw Hokkaido scallops with corn at Potts Point, Sydney
Hokkaido scallops, corn, house-cured smoked bonito $18

Raw beef tataki with wild rice at Potts Point, Sydney
Raw beef tataki, wild rice, ginger dressing $18

The raw beef tataki is probably my favourite dish of the night, lusciously fatty thin shavings of beef short rib that contrast cleverly against the crunchy wild rice grains beneath.

Chicken yakitori with pickled lime at Potts Point, Sydney
Chicken yakitori, pickled lime $18

It's not until we reach our mains that we feel there's a pattern of restraint applied across the menu. Don't expect wild and boisterous flavours or wacky pairings of incongruous ingredients. There's a muted approach to ingredients here, like the chicken yakitori, just cooked until tender and seasoned with pickled limes and togarashi chilli pepper.

Braised pork belly with mustard greens at Potts Point, Sydney
Braised pork belly, mustard greens $28

Braised pork belly, too, is understated in seasoning, although we find the lake of soy sauce a little on the salty side and missing a balance of sweetness.

Green beans with red miso at Potts Point, Sydney
Green beans, red miso $12

Vegetables are simply adorned too. Green beans are stir-fried with a red miso then covered with a snowstorm of sea seeds that provide an element of crunch.

Snow pea sprouts with garlic oil at Potts Point, Sydney
Snow pea sprouts, garlic oil $12

Snow pea sprouts are gently wilted in garlic oil so the strands are soft and tender. There might not be any flavour fireworks here but there are bucket-loads of veggie-eating piousness.

Tempura okra at Potts Point, Sydney
Tempura okra $12

But ahhh... tempura okra makes everything better. The okra has been sliced so there's less risk of sliminess. The batter is light and airy but we find the soy sauce a little on the salty side again.

Hibachi grilled prawns with kombu butter at Potts Point, Sydney
Hibachi grilled prawns, kombu butter $24

And then there's the bright and briny freshness of hibachi grilled prawns. Sure each prawn ends up costing $8 but the flesh is impressively sweet, imparted with a smoky char from the grill.

Green tea soft serve waffle cone at Potts Point, Sydney
Green tea soft serve waffle cone $6

We can't leave without having what is now Cho Cho San's signature dessert. The green tea soft serves have been featured all over Instagram and are instantly recognisable. The waffle cones are wedged into bowls filled with brown rice, possibly the new rocksalt of the dessert world.

The soft serves are more milky than creamy but there's a decent hit of matcha and they cleanse our palates at the end of the meal.

Green tea soft serve waffle cone at Potts Point, Sydney

And in good news for locals and weekend blow-ins, Cho Cho San have extended their trading hours. They're now open for lunch from Friday to Sunday.

Cho Cho San on Urbanspoon

Cho Cho San
73 Macleay Street, Potts Point, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9331 6601

Opening hours:

Lunch Friday to Sunday from 12pm
Dinner Monday to Sunday 6pm - 11pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
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29 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/06/2014 04:50:00 am


  • At 7/06/2014 1:22 pm, Anonymous Blogalag said…

    You have me at green tea soft serve. They look absolutely stunning!

  • At 7/06/2014 2:51 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Looks like some top notch food! I'm a sucker for matcha so those soft serves have me drooling.

  • At 7/06/2014 3:00 pm, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    You're ahead again! I am planning to dine at Cho Cho San in August. The green tea soft serves are so eye catching! :)

  • At 7/06/2014 3:21 pm, Anonymous Emma @ PovoChef said…

    Oh gosh. The Petuna trout and the raw beef tataki look so god. I could eat that for days!

  • At 7/06/2014 4:28 pm, Anonymous Ando @ The Lamstock said…

    Yes, those green tea soft serve waffle cones have been flooding Instagram! :P The raw beef tataki looks amazing! Looks like quite a lot on a plate as well :)

  • At 7/06/2014 5:22 pm, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    I didn't even know this place existed. I'm with you, beef tataki would be me dish.

  • At 7/06/2014 5:30 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Errmahgerd!!! Deep fried okra! Been wanting to try Cho Cho San too since I started seeing it everywhere hahaha

  • At 7/06/2014 6:46 pm, Anonymous Michael @ I'm Still Hungry said…

    The dishes all look very simple without much flair. They must really shine in their flavour in being able to draw such crowds. Consider my curiosity piqued - will definitely visit now!

  • At 7/06/2014 7:29 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    love the presentation of the waffle cones! it's so cute!

  • At 7/06/2014 8:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    strange they would call it tataki when it hasnt been seared?

  • At 7/06/2014 10:35 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i think if i ordered the eggplant miso dip i wouldnt share...

  • At 7/06/2014 11:26 pm, Anonymous Olivia @ mademoiselleinsydney said…

    That raw beef was fantastic indeed!! I wish we ordered the scallops, they look delicious :)

  • At 7/06/2014 11:59 pm, Anonymous pigflyin' said…

    this place is so gorgeous! However, being an eye candy that it is, my experience of the meal was a bit of enigma and expectation shattered for me.

    Most of the dishes conjures up words like "one-dimensional" or "plain" - most surprising given the team's impressive resume in Sydney food scene.

    In particular, the chicken wings have a much too hard of a coating and the meat seems to be dried, bland and overcooked - which in itself is a mystery as to how one archive that.

    The sashime and braised pork belly both swimming in soya sauce. The tempura okra got killed by the thick full strength salty soya, what a pity.

    On the positive side, the signature prepared prawns are perfectly grilled but mysteriously overly plain and the beef tataki is rich and morish.

    This place is not what you call simplistic at its best. I hope this is all a bit of growing pain.

    How we got over this meal is another story all by itself. BANG BANG.

  • At 7/07/2014 12:19 am, Anonymous Lee Tran Lam said…

    So glad you got to try the miso & eggplant dip and that it was good enough to keep the table quiet for a bit! Seems like there were a few new dishes, too - the fritters look good. Sounds like there may have been a bit too much generosity with the soy sauce - hopefully that will level out next time you get to go.
    Glad you made it, thanks for trying so much and giving us a good rundown of how the place is going (still heaving, even a few weeks after all the hype)!

  • At 7/07/2014 7:43 am, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    I think I'd need to order multiples of the tataki as I'd strung;e to share it. It's so thin that you can almost see through it!

  • At 7/07/2014 8:59 am, Blogger MAB vs Food said…

    Cho Cho San is definitely the talk of the town at the moment. And, yes that green tea soft serve keeps popping up on my Instrgram too! Must check it out for myself.

  • At 7/07/2014 9:41 am, Blogger Cassie | Journey From Within said…

    I'm so intrigued!
    But the matcha cones looks so good!! :D

  • At 7/07/2014 11:41 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    That eggplant dip sounds amazing - wonder if that's something one can recreate at home? The beef tataki looks amazing too

  • At 7/07/2014 8:52 pm, Anonymous msihua said…

    This just means that for me travelling up there, I'll never get in! Waaaaa, everything looks so good!

  • At 7/08/2014 1:42 am, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    I was nearly going to book in for my birthday a few weeks ago, but decided not to. Will head there in a few months after they have settled in. Liking the potential of being a stayer on the Sydney food scene.

  • At 7/08/2014 2:05 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    all he dishes looked so wonderfully presented. no wonder it's been doing the rounds on instagram

  • At 7/08/2014 2:42 pm, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    Lovely pics - the food looks fab, even if the seasoning wasn't spot on all the time. But $8 per prawn - sheesh!

  • At 7/09/2014 2:15 pm, Blogger irene said…

    The matcha soft serve is very Intagram-worthy indeed!

  • At 7/09/2014 7:44 pm, Anonymous angela@mykikicake said…

    I cannot wait to try out this place. Have marked it down on my must visit list. The Petuna Ocean Trout looks so fresh, and that matcha soft serve is definitely insta worthy.

  • At 7/10/2014 11:54 pm, Blogger CQUEK said…

    Your food photography is inspiring.

  • At 7/10/2014 11:54 pm, Blogger CQUEK said…

    Your food photography is inspiring.

  • At 7/13/2014 6:42 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Emma - Me too!

    Hi Gaby - The beef tataki is delish!

    Hi Jacq - I'd love to try and make the eggplant dip too :)

    Hi CQUEK - Aww thanks so much!

  • At 7/13/2014 7:32 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    That restaurant looks fun! And everything is so Instagrammable! ;)

  • At 7/20/2014 11:32 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    Cho Cho San has been absolutely everywhere! All my social media feeds are saturated with CCS posts. :P

    I'd love to try the green tea soft serve, I wonder how it compares with Chanoma.


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