Kobo, Circular Quay

Let’s do dinner and a show.

A phrase uttered often in movies and television when it comes to an ideal first date. You eat, you converse and get to know each other then you really get to know each other when the other person is watching something with you and reacting at the same time.

Are you guys in sync emotionally? Does she laugh when you laugh, gasp when you gasp, do the same glance towards the exit as the show is about to end and do the same calculation in terms of how many people you need to powerwalk by and sidestep across.

As Sydney’s omakase offering has evolved, 2x disparate but commonly associated events have now been combined. Why got to dinner AND a show when the dinner can be the show.

And there is no better show in town than Kobo in Circular Quay.

Chef Jacob Lee putting on a masterclass

Spearheaded by Chef Jacob Lee (of Marble), Kobo is Sydney’s first ever Korean omakase experience. Barely 3 weeks old, Chef Jacob is still on Episode 1 of his journey and episode 1 is heavily inspired by Jeju Island (known for fresh seafood, citrus and almost every romantic culmination scene in K-Drama history).

Let’s dive into episode 1’s menu.

Welcome drink: Carrot, green mandarin and rosemary oil

Could’ve easily guzzled 750mL of this brew but I’ll settle for the starter glass So fresh and so clean. A tad sweet and the rosemary oil leaves your lips in a freshly lip-balmed state.

Kingfish, kombu jime, green mandarin

Kingfish so meaty that I had a quick side conversation with it about what its favourite steak knife brand was. The zest of the green mandarin just augmented how amazing this kingfish was; just a sublime combo (or in this case a submandarin combo).

Truffle mash potato, wagyu yukhoe, bugak, uni

Chef Jacob’s cooking style borrows heavily from Japanese cuisine and this course was when it was at its most apparent (well, it comes to the fore a bit later as well but we’ll get to that). Throwing sushi rice to the side, he opts for truffle mash potato which is one of the biggest upgrades we’ve seen since I lost 15kg in the summer holidays of 10th grade.

Topping it off with wagyu tartare, uni and caviar, this is the best and most memorable mouthful you’ll have for a long time.

Silver hair tail and gamtae

Hidden underneath the bush of this amuse bouche was a spoonful of warm silver hair fish (one of Jeju Island’s signature breeds). Loved the crunch and how the bite of silver hair transported me to the sun-drenched yet ice-cold shores of Jeju.

Cured gujwa carrot tart with shio koji fetta, Jeju green tea and almonds

Oh, let’s get this party s-tart-ed.

A visual AND tasty delight, chef freely admits he was just looking for a vessel to combine carrots, almonds and green tea and somehow stumbled upon this immaculate manifestation (wow, really digging deep into my vocabulary bag for this one).

This tart is just so nuanced, the pleating of the tart shell, the dusting of green tea powder, the softness of the cured carrots. Gone in two bites, but lingering for nights as you drift off to sleep.

Makgeoli Rice Cake with Kombu Butter

Bread and butter, but make it Korean.

The Kombu butter was creamy and was a delightful complement to the soft, sticky and slightly charred rice cake. As always, food is just butter with butter.

Bingddeok, assorted mushrooms and truffle

One of my three favourite dishes of the night (you’re going to have to guess the other two based on how verbose or how good the analogy is) was actually one of the most simple.

If you really want to break it down, it’s a rice pancake housing assorted mushrooms. But elevated to the point where it has a view of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Luna Park and Chris Hemsworth enjoying burrata at Totti’s. The pancake is crispy, the mushrooms juicy and that truffle sauce is perfect. I finished my pancake and I could hear the synchronised scraping of my dining companions as we shovelled the truffle sauce with our chopsticks into our mouths.

Hell, I even tactically dropped some on my pants to have for later.

Blue Mackerel, brown butter & pickled ginger and garlic chives

This dish just really hammered home how badly I wanted to sell all of my stuff to a Thrift Shop like my name’s Mackerelmore; just so I could have more of this great menu.

Kurobuta noodles with shallot oil

Wow. With all due respect to the NFL, this is a genuine Superbowl. The soup is akin to a light tonkotsu broth topped with a dab of shallot oil. It was so good that I picked up the bowl like it was a mug of coffee and drained it. I almost always leave soup on the table (because I’m a slob) but this was not going to be one of those times.

Oh did I mention how tender the pork belly was? So tender that it sent me a note of appreciation afterwards and asked me to text it once I got home, what a belly of pork.

Abalone claypot rice and yang nyeom jang

Soft, perfectly prepared abalone (another Korean staple) adorned on top of a golden bowl of rice that’s just dripping in flavour from the claypot cooking process. Just an amazingly simple pleasure dialled up to a thousand. Comes with a side of hearty beef and radish soup that I want to pour into a pool and swim through with my mouth wide open.

Dombegogii (Jeju style bossam) and mel-jeot (fermented anchovy) samjang

Pork butter. That’s how soft the bossam was to be frank with you, you would put it in your mouth and automatically start to chew without realising that the fat had already started to dissolve. What is this wizardry and is it possible to learn this power?

Jeju mandarin sorbet with sage oil

Refreshing sorbet blended with mandarin peel and flesh to give it an almost grainy texture that I really enjoyed. Every bite unlocked a hit of bitterness and sweetness, such an interesting dichotomy and I’m glad I get to witness it.

Jersey milk and truffle ice cream, chest nut makgeoli cream and black sesame almonds

Last but not least, we end the night with house-made truffle ice cream. My favourite aspect of this dessert was actually the black sesame almonds because it takes me back to running around Korea looking for every type of flavoured almond I could bring back home. The ice cream itself is so airy and light drawing more comparisons to whipped cream than a scoop of gelato but here we are.

And God, I really don’t want to leave.

Kobo, welcome to Sydney’s elite.

Here’s the TL;DR for everyone who just quickly whizzed through the photos:

  • I might need to sleep on it but I think this is in my top 2 favourite omakase experiences and it might not be #2 (but seriously, I need to sleep on it again).
  • Chef Jacob is looking to change menus every three months to align with a season or a childhood memory, meaning that I might update this post again (and I am very much looking forward to it).

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Kobo Sydney

4 Loftus Street, Sydney

Bookings essential, 2 seatings per day.

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