One of the most budget-friendly ways of trying a fancy restaurant is to go at an unconventional time, or for a faster meal. The pre-theatre dining option at most hatted restaurants in Sydney combine these two options, with a specific 5.30pm to 7pm sitting that gets you fed quickly before rushing you out the door to ensure that you can get to your seat in the theatre in time. Sokyo in The Star casino complex does a great $55 three-course pre-theatre dining option. Drinks and dessert are extra, but $55 isn’t bad when you consider that ordering off the regular a la carte menu could set you back an easy $150 per person.
K and I recently took advantage of Sokyo’s fantastic pre-theatre option before a performance of Matilda the Musical (which incidentally, is a fantastic show so go and see it while it’s still showing in Sydney!). I’d been wanting to visit Sokyo for a while, especially after rave reviews from everyone I know.
The first course offered in the pre-theatre menu is a sashimi course. There’s three options on the menu, and I opt for the Salmon Ssamjang – thinly sliced, lightly seared slices of salmon with the most amazing spicy Korean-style dressing. It’s deceptively simple, but the spice really makes it something special.
K orders the Tuna Umami, which comes dressed with Choya branded plum-flavoured umeshu. While there’s only a very subtle hint of alcohol in the tuna dressing, it really lifts the whole dish.
We decided to get a drink each as well, outside of the pre-theatre menu. A Futurama fan, K opted for the Phillip J Fry cocktail, while I chose to have the Hibiscus mocktail. The cocktail was quite tropical in nature, with a healthy dash of pineapple juice that went extremely well with the yuzu. My Hibiscus mocktail was really refreshing, with a mint and lime twist.
The second course of the Sokyo pre-theatre menu is tempura. I chose Cuttlefish Tempura, and K chose the Red Snapper Tempura. I always think that tempura is particularly difficult to get right. Done wrong, the batter is too thick and gluggy, or the tempura is too oily. Sokyo gets it right though, with an incredibly light and barely-there batter, and light and tangy dipping sauces. Even the cuttlefish is nice and soft, without that overcooked chewiness that it can sometimes have in other restaurants.
We’re served a green salad and a bowl of short-grain sushi rice each, to accompany our main meals to come. The dressing on the salad was just right – enough to lightly coat the leaves, but not drench them in oil. Serving the short grain sushi rice, flavoured lightly with rice vinegar and sugar, rather than the usual boring long-grain jasmine rice, was a nice touch as well.
My main of the Sea Scallops was a little overdone for my liking (I like my seared scallops verging on raw), but others would really enjoy the firm, plump texture and strong bold flavours of the scallops. I did enjoy it myself of course, just not as much as I would have if it had been slightly less well done!
K chose the Lamb Chop as his main, as he often complains that we don’t eat enough red meat at home so he orders it every time we dine out. I retorted that as we couldn’t possibly hope to replicate the soft tender smoky charred perfection of Sokyo’s lamb chop at home, we might as well give up before we even start!
I had to order the Goma Street dessert as soon as I saw it on the menu. I’m an absolute fiend for anything black sesame related, so although we hadn’t originally planned to have dessert at Sokyo, we ended up staying for this. It was a fantastic choice as well, with an ideal blend of sweeter chocolate, strong nuttiness of the black sesame, as well as the creamy smoothness of the ice-cream. It’s beautifully presented, though challenging for those who aren’t used to eating grey or black desserts!
K opted for the Donatsu dessert, pineapple cream filled doughnut morsels served with a sweet drizzling sauce and a creme fraiche ice-cream that was clean, crisp, and refreshing. The doughnuts by themselves were probably a tad on the sweet side, but partnered with the fresher ice-cream, it really hit the mark.
With drinks and dessert added on top of our $55 per person bill, we ended up spending closer to $200 as a couple once we added on a tip as well. Still, I think a visit to Sokyo for their pre-theatre menu is well worth it, especially if you’re planning on seeing Matilda the Musical over the next few months!