Kokoro review by Karen Really Likes Food
29 Jun, 2016
Kokoro is one of Canberra’s best Japanese restaurants and, luckily for the locals, has been open in Gungahlin since 2012. The restaurant interior is elegant, with lots of dark wood and modern decor. Do not let this intimidate you though, this is a restaurant full of warmth. As you enter the restaurant, the chefs will pause in their hard work, smile broadly and give a hearty “Irasshaimase” (Welcome!).
This welcome extends to small children and the wait staff are always friendly and efficient at settling everyone to their seats and serving quickly. Plates, cutlery and little cups can be provided for the youngest of diners. They also have a wonderfull kids menu, filled with mini bento boxes or sushi rolls.
Japanese cuisine has a strong emphasis on fresh and vibrant ingredients. It is certainly one of the healthiest take-away foods on offer. Kokoro’s menu is extensive, covering many of the key elements of Japanese cooking. Sushi of course is an obvious choice. The usual sushi rolls are on offer, as well as nigiri, which are rice bites topped with raw fish. Kokoro takes this a step further and offers large sashimi platters. These are complete bites of raw fish and require real skill for both obtaining the necessary high quality fish, as well as carving it appropriately. One of Kokoro’s specialties is their Maki sushi. These are giant sushi rolls filled with numerous complex elements, providing a flavour explosion. Certainly not your usual plain old tuna rolls.
Japanese entrees are always an interesting affair, and here could easily form a whole meal. Of course there are tempura vegetables, deep fried in the lightest crispiest batter. This effect is produced by using soda water in the batter so it is literally bubbly. There are also the vibrant, green edamame beans. The fun of popping these out of their shell to eat can make the fussiest child entranced. The deep fried lotus chips are also another child pleaser being both interesting to look at, as well as crispy and delicious. Okonomiyaki are little fried vegetable and seafood pancakes, typical Japanese street food done very well. There are many more things on offer but a last mention must be given to Kingfish Carpaccio served with salad and a ponzu sauce. Raw Kingfish is one of life’s greatest treasures and if you haven’t had it you must!
Moving on to mains, an interesting addition is the presence of Japanese salads. A stand-out is the soft shell crab salad. The crabs are deep fried after they have moulted and their new shells are still soft. This removes the need to crack shells to get the meat, you just eat the whole thing. It doesn’t sound appealing but the fried shells produce a wonderful crunch and you get to eat all of the crab meat without the usual battle. It also contains a mix of green leaves with tomatoes, Japanese mayonnaise and seaweed salad (called wakame). This is a lovely balanced meal.
The rest of the mains are based around rice or noodles dishes. The rice dishes include katsu or teriyaki flavours. Katsu is the Japanese version of a snitzel, where either pork or chicken is crumbed in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried. The panko breadcrumbs are coarser than the usual bread crumbs, producing an amazing crunch. This is then topped with Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie) and barbeque sauce (Tonkatsu). Both sauces are exceedingly popular due to their rich and well balanced flavours.
The lighter teriyaki stir-frys will be familiar to many in its beef or chicken form but Kokoro also offers the more interesting salmon or smoked eel. These items are all available as a bento box containing 3 pieces of nigiri sushi, sushi rolls, salad, rice and miso soup. There is also a smaller lunch version special which costs about half the price.
Noodle dishes include a large range of Udon noodle soups, as well as a miso ramen. These are all miso based soups and are thus unctuous, hearty and full of good health. They also contain some interesting elements such as asian mushrooms, deep fried tofu, fish ball with your choice of meat or vegetable. You can even have this soup topped with more katsu or tempura, if you so choose. Again there is a lunch special associated with these for a satiating lunch on a cold Canberra day.
Gungahlin is lucky to have such diverse dining available and Kokoro is up there with the best. They provide an expansive and healthy menu in a warm and family friendly setting. The perfect local!
02 6241 7450
40 Hibberson St, Gungahlin ACT 2912
Lunch 11am-3pm, Dinner 5-10:30pm
Geologist by day, food enthusiast by night.
You can follow more of her food adventures at: www.karenreallylikesfood.com/
The author dined at her own expense. All opinions stated are her own.
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