Level 3, Crown Towers
8 Whiteman St
Southbank, VIC 3006
03 9292 6886

Koko Japanese Restaurant 2481

Fakegf and I booked Koko as part of Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s “Restaurant Express”, where a limited menu is offered at $40 for two courses during lunch. For expensive places, it’s a decent offer.

Koko Japanese Restaurant 2486

However, Koko had their own lunch special, where two courses is priced at $45. You don’t get a glass of wine and tea/coffee, but the entire a la carte menu becomes unlocked for you to choose from. Add $10 for dessert.

Koko Japanese Restaurant 1Appetiser: spinach, enoki, smoked dashi

Wily-minded diners that we are, Fakegf and I shared the same thoughts and went straight for the option that gave us more choice. So goodbye, purposeless glasses of midday house wine, and hello to glasses of iced water!

Koko Japanese Restaurant 2501Koko Japanese Restaurant 2503Aged dashi Gomadofu 19.80
Deep-fried homemade sesame tofu and Alaskan king crab, fragrant broth, grated ginger, deep fried eggplant and gluten cake

All that said, we promptly ‘slapped’ ourselves in the face by ordering this starter, which was also in the limited menu. It was just too irresistible to pass up. The twist here being how the homemade tofu has sesame elements in it, imparting an almost peanut buttery flavour to it!

Add to that poppingly fresh ikura (salmon roe), lovely eggplant and beautiful Alaskan crab, we were happy.

Koko Japanese Restaurant 2544

While situated at Crown Complex (an area I don’t really like), the whole setting around Koko remains pleasant… with a spacious central, painting-like water feature lending a Japanese sense of tranquility. And you get to enjoy views of Melbourne CBD from across the river.

Koko Japanese Restaurant 2506Uni Tamago 25.50
Onsen-poached egg, steamed sea urchin, sliced braised abalone and salmon caviar served with dashi stock jelly

With our second entrée, we sailed for the Eastern Seas… its depths proffering strange fruit.

Truth be told, both of us went “???…” on first mouthful. But all components tasted so pristine and delicately cooked that I eventually warmed to it. Especially the interplay between smoky dashi jelly mixed with a perfectly fresh egg.

Koko Japanese Restaurant 2488Koko Japanese Restaurant 2521

Miso soup and rice arrived next to go with our mains.

Koko Japanese Restaurant 2510Wagyu yanagawa 51.00
Australian Wagyu beef striploin cooked on a toban plate with shimeji mushrooms, egg and onions in soy mirin sauce 

The a la carte pricing of this dish stunned me a little. But that’s where good Wagyu takes you. And even though it felt a little wasted to cook Wagyu in this manner, I had to concede the dish was scrumptious.

The beef sat on slivers of onion, bamboo shoot slices, and discs of king oyster mushroom. I enjoyed it so much that I’d let my Singaporean self slip for an instant, exclaiming: “it’s damn Wagyu lor!”. Portion size was also deceiving, it looked small on that toban plate… but as buttery Wagyu flesh always is, a little bit goes a very long way…!

Koko Japanese Restaurant 2532Tara chiri mushi 49.00
Steamed black cod fillet with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms in a clay pot, served with momiji oroshi and ponzu sauce 

Fakegf went maritime with her main, choosing a fish that she’d always loved: cod.

It was cooked very subtly so as to showcase its freshness. But it’s still a rich piece of seafood. Despite the dainty little claypot the cod sat in, we were pretty stuffed by the time we finished it. So much for the Japanese believing in eating until you’re 80% full… ha ha!

Koko Japanese Restaurant 3Coffee Jelly 15.00
Japanese classic coffee jelly served with maple walnuts ice cream 

All that said, omitting dessert wasn’t an option for us, not with such interesting items on the menu.

The coffee jelly had clean, chocolatey aspects to it, with a gorgeous flavour that’s almost like a fruity cold drip. And Fakegf was quite handsomely smitten with the maple walnuts ice cream.

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This has been a good teaser meal at Koko and it makes us want to come back for more. The lunch special is pretty good value too. Maybe next time, when I’m feeling wealthy, I’ll try their Teppanyaki set menu!

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