Cho Cho San: Izakaya Reimagined
Cho Cho San
A stone’s throw away from what was once Sydney’s thriving red light district is Cho Cho San, an elegant enclave of plywood, concrete and whitewashed brick. Conspicuously absent from this free-form Izakaya establishment are the classic iconography of its Japanese roots, its Nippon leanings instead reflected in the pared-back simplicity of its brass details and invisible light source, a back-lit Barrisol ceiling. Like its interior, Cho Cho San’s menu hosts loose re-imaginings of eastern classics accompanied by an impressive list of alcoholic offerings, the permutation of both promising a satisfying and well-spent evening.
Where 73 Macleay Street Potts Point 2011
When Lunch, Friday to Sunday from 12pm; Dinner, Monday to Thursday and Sunday from 5:30pm till 10pm, Friday and Saturday between 5:30pm and 11:00pm
Best for Intimate evenings for two. The versatile menu, designed with the ‘share plate’ tradition in mind, is also quite accommodating for indecisive eaters seeking a variety of flavours and textures
Our recommendation The eggplant miso stick is a must-try. Follow this rich burst of flavour with a fresh palette cleanser; we recommend the yellowfin tuna avocado gochujang and nori
Nic Wong, Head Chef
Introduction Chynna Lao
Art Direction Edana Isobel Jamora
Images Ivy Erlinger
"What is Izakaya?"
“Izakaya in Japan revolves around drinking as opposed to food. They don’t have a massive drinking culture but for them, the Izakaya is the pub. The little snacks you get are just part of it. The focus is the drink. It’s such a casual, fun kind of vibe that you get from an Izakaya. It’s loud and smoky, there’s an energy to it. And they offer different kinds of food, [which differs from] the general structure in Japan. It’s like, we have a sushi restaurant, we have a tempura restaurant, an udon restaurant – one restaurant, one style, and [chefs] dedicate their entire lives to that. But, in Izakaya, there’s a lot of freedom. They take little bits of everything and mash it together in one small plate – and I like that. And that’s what we try to translate here with Cho Cho San.”
On the Experience:
"What's important to you?"
“It’s more than just trying to create the most amazing dish to me; it’s about trying to create an amazing experience for the customer. That’s not just food-focused. Food nerds that come in… they just don’t get it. They say, “that’s cool”, they take a picture. But they’re not relaxing, they’re not coming in and having a really good time. Not necessarily drinking, it’s not about getting drunk but just having a good time – to me, they’re more important than someone who has a million followers on Instagram and likes doing things for the shot. I know how important social media is now…to everyone. You’re stupid if you think that it doesn’t do anything for you. But, you know, those happy customers… they’re what gives me satisfaction.”
On Share Concept Dining:
"What is your relationship to share concept dining?"
“I’ve been cooking share concepts for a really long time. Every restaurant I’ve worked in has had a share concept just because…it’s interaction. It’s all about connection, interacting with each other. Even just when the dish hits the table and they say, “you go first."
Nowadays, I think people get [share concepts] a lot more. But there are still people who will come in and don’t get it. We try to educate people around that. The menu is designed for things to complement each other but you know… if the customer wants that, then we’re not going to force them. But we really do try to educate them because it’s pretty important, I think. I’m not saying that “our way is the highway”, that’s not what hospitality is about. But it’s about trying to give them that experience. Trying to show them.”