Number 26 O’Connell Street appears and behaves much like a restaurant, but its operators call it a gallery. It’s not a tax or licensing dodge, but rather a unique device that allows the space to flex and reinvent itself at will. Case and point: it used to be award-winning French restaurant, Cliché. But after a reinvention in 2019, it became contemporary Japanese diner, Kosho.
As well as sushi and sashimi, the menu here offers a range of izakaya-style dishes designed to share. You might order soft-shell crab sandwiched between slices of fluffy, crustless white bread with a wasabi and fuji apple slaw; pan-fried duck gyoza with spicy ponzu; or lobster-and-prawn crepes with creamy Japanese curry. The menu also capitalises on the venue’s hulking hibachi grill, which turns out mains such as lamb ribs dressed in spicy miso, kingfish collar with wasabi soy and more.
A concise list of Australian wine and Japanese beer allows room for a strong line-up of sakes, which are available straight up, in a tasting flight and, occasionally, in a cocktail. Heavy-hitting names from the world of Japanese whisky also line the shelf.
Paired with the shift in culinary direction is a striking visual takeover. Sprawling gold and black murals – influenced by Japanese wave illustrations – cover much of the venue. A standalone, single-panel work provides a focal point for the front dining room. The vibe is more restaurant-appropriate and less eye-catching than Cliché’s motley collection. It helps position Kosho as more eatery than gallery.