Toko Melbourne, Matt Yazbek’s long-awaited fourth restaurant, has opened its doors on Greville Street, Prahran.
The sprawling space – unrecognisable from its former life as FOG restaurant – features a sushi bar, traditional Japanese tatami room for private dining, indoor and outdoor bars and a whisky room. The concept is based on the Japanese izakaya, a place to enjoy an after-work drink and share a bite to eat with friends.
“We try to keep the traditional elements but with a contemporary twist,” general manager Evan Gargaro says. “It’s as elegant as possible, but it’s still casual dining.”
Head first to the bar, where of course you'll find beer and wine but also an impressive sake selection, curated by Australia’s first sake sommelier, Paul Birtwistle. There are 60 sakes to get you into the spirit, including Toko’s signature drop, Tokubetsu Junmai, brewed with the Nanbu Bijin brewery in Japan.
In the outdoor bar, the focus is on cocktails with some clever Japanese twists on old favourites. There’s the tangy Yuzu Gimlet and even a Sashimi Tini, made with shiro shochu, West Winds gin and ginger liquer, served with a wasabi-dipped skewer of raw salmon.
If you need more than a single skewer of sashimi to sate your appetite, pull up a chair to the best seat in the house, the sushi bar. Here you can watch the chefs work throughout service, prepping your sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls to order.
With izakaya dining much of the food is designed to share, and the extensive menu works from bite-sized dishes to more filling meals. The marinated lamb cutlets, with chilli miso and pickled eggplant, are an early favourite. As is the tenaga ebi no nigiri – scampi nigiri with foie gras and truffle oil.
There's a range of tasting menus available, so if you're a bit overwhelmed by choice, simply let the chef decide.
An evening at Toko isn't complete without a visit to the whisky room. With red fabric wallpaper and a striking cinderblock bar, the space feels distinctly different to the rest of the restaurant.
Gargaro and his team have called in favours from around the world to curate a selection of 41 rare and premium whiskies. Some, such as Ichiro's Malt, aren't even made any more. “It's all about fine drinking,” he explains. “The perfect place for a nightcap.”
142 Greville Street, Prahran
(03) 9521 3155
Tues to Sat 5pm–1am