Koi is located in Woolwich, one of Sydney’s many peninsula suburbs resulting from the inlet that is Sydney Harbour. Koi is tucked away almost at the end of Woolwich Road near a pub, in an area which is predominantly occupied by large houses. Diagonally across the road is Clarkes Point Reserve which offers distant views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and is a popular location for outdoor wedding ceremonies.
Monsieur Poisson and I were at an engagement party when Mr Jetset, knowing Monsieur Poisson’s love of sushi, recommended that we try Koi. He said the sashimi and sushi were both excellent and that he had become a regular customer through going back several times for both. But somehow through conflicting schedules of availability for the usual suspects, almost a year had passed since this recommendation to actually dining here taking place. In the meantime I had recommended Koi to Mistress who, along with her boyfriend, returned positive reports.
Koi is decorated in detail both inside and out. A pair of stone lions greets you at the heavy, dark wood doorway which leads to a small lobby-style area. Around the corner from an indoor garden water feature is the main dining room replete with a sushi bar which emits a hot pink glow from underneath. Lighting within the restaurant is soft and warm, and there are a couple of small rooms for private dining.
Our table reservation is confirmed by telephone call from Koi staff a few hours prior to our booking time. Upon arrival we are seated at a large, heavy looking, dark wood table in keeping with the décor, towards the back of the dining area. Hot green tea is ordered all round and we feel bad for the diligent waitress who continually refills our cups without request throughout the evening, as a teapot is not provided at the table. Points for service, however!
As our first few dishes arrive, Dr King becomes evidently enamoured with the array of plates used to present our food. Chunky stoneware with hewn edges in earthy colours feature heavily and we only see the same style plate appear twice across all the dishes we order – and that’s with four different desserts as well! But more about that later… We begin the evening with ‘Seared Scallop Carpaccio with Soy Butter’ which is surprisingly fragrant of butter from the moment it is set on our table, but subtle in taste. The scallop slices are large, evenly seared, arranged in overlapping flower petal fashion, decorated with a coral salmon roe centre and finished with a sprinkling of chopped chives.
The ‘Scampi Carpaccio with Nut Oil and Red Wine Vinegar’ is much less attractive in appearance, resembling more a platter of mush where the scampi meat is almost identical in colour to the centre of the plate. Do not let looks deceive you however, as it is a beautiful balance of fragrant nuttiness, faintly tart vinegar and soft, sweet scampi flesh.
We then continue with salmon toro sashimi which is simultaneously bouncy yet melt-in-the-mouth. Slices of salmon belly are served alongside ones rolled up to enclose avocado and fine lengths of cucumber like an inside-out maki roll. But even this calibre of beauty pales in comparison when placed next to the tuna chutoro sashimi, with its smooth, fatty texture which is not at all sticky on the palate. It is not cheap but absolutely worth its 'market price' cost. Koi also has the fattier ootoro which we will make a point of trying the next time we are there.
Our ‘Soft-shell Crab Roll’ and ‘Spicy Tuna Roll’ arrive served on the same plate. Warm soft-shell crab is rolled with cucumber, avocado, tobiko, mayonnaise and enclosed in rice and nori. Biting into the roll gives a satisfying crunch, not often experienced at other sushi bars. The spicy tuna roll has tuna sashimi rolled with mixed Japanese pepper, leek, sesame oil and shaved bonito. Both are simple in construction but sophisticated in flavour.
The ‘Coral Roll’ contains plenty of seafood with crab meat (NOT crab stick), scallop and cucumber enclosed in rice before being overlayed with thick salmon slices.
For more substantial mains, we have two dishes to share. The first is ‘Kamo’, which is a miso duck breast, alongside roast beetroot on sweet potato purée and a 62 degree duck egg. The duck is sweet with crispy skin and succulent, juicy flesh. The beetroot is tender and sweet. The duck egg has a sexy wobble and reveals silken innards when pierced.
Secondly we have the ‘Wagyu' featuring a 180 gram, grade 6+ Wagyu steak chargrilled, served with pickled capsicum and tarragon butter. The tender beef has a well-seasoned, thin, smoky crust which is beautiful on its own, but adopts another dimension when dipped into the creamy, Béarnaise-like sauce.
Then it’s onto dessert, and it is where our meal takes on a markedly European influence. Between us we order four desserts which covers most of the menu. But before we get into the swing of sweet things, we are treated to complimentary palate cleansers of green tea and white chocolate mousse with green tea ice. The mousse is so smooth and enjoyable that we all agree we would happily have it as a dessert in its own right.
I decide to have the dessert special of ‘Azuki and raspberry soufflé with raspberry sorbet’, and am rewarded with a fragrant and light soufflé with a crusty top that is studded with berries. We all think we heard wrong about there being an azuki component and assume it has been puréed into the soufflé batter, when I discover a smooth azuki centre hidden well into the middle of the pot. The sorbet is fluffy and tart, offering pleasant contrast to the soufflé.
Gingerbreadman has the ‘Black sesame crème brûlée with apple and sake purée, apple sorbet and sesame tuille’. It has a most surprising presentation for a crème brûlée, with slices being sandwiched between layers of sesame tuilles. There are sesames seeds everywhere! The apple sorbet is intensely refreshing but we don’t detect any of the sake.
Monsieur Poisson has the ‘Triple chocolate slice with chamomile poached pear, mango ice-cream and kiwi purée’. The slice is dense but not overly fudgy or brownie-like. The intense chocolate flavour is offset by the lightness of the pear spiked with tea flavour and the almost sorbet-like mango ice-cream.
Dr King has chosen the ‘Macadamia cake with pumpkin ice-cream and honey mousse’. The presentation is not what we expect when it arrives resembling a terrine, with the cake layer at the base, ice-cream in the middle and mousse sitting on top. The pumpkin ice-cream is subtle in flavour and not as unusual as it sounds. It actually tastes quite good paired with the honey mousse.
Feeling fully satisfied, we ask for our bill which arrives with some complimentary after-dinner chocolates – gold-dusted fishies served on a chilled platter.
Koi is a traditional Japanese restaurant incorporating a few, modern fusion touches used to good effect. It is undoubtedly the best Japanese meal I’ve had yet. Complemented by excellent table service, intricate interiors and beautifully-presented food on rustic servingware, it provides an intimate and authentic dining experience.
102 Woolwich Rd, Woolwich NSW
Tel: (02) 9817 6030
Opening Hours: Mon & Tues CLOSED
Wed 6pm-10pm (dinner only)
Thurs 12pm-3pm (lunch)
Fri & Sat 12pm-3pm (lunch)
Sun 12pm-3pm (lunch)
*EDIT*: As at mid-2011, Koi has been "temporarily closed" according to their voicemail message.
LATEST UPDATE: Koi scored 14/20 in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2010, not quite making it to the mark for a Chef’s Hat Award.