When visiting Koi’s new 10-course chef’s table, it’s best to embrace curiosity and trust in the chef. Its poetic menu of seasonal ingredients doesn’t come close to betraying what the dishes might be. But that’s sort of the point.
“Curiosity and mystery are fun things to play around with,” says Reynold Poernomo, who co-owns Koi with his older brothers, Ronald and Arnold.
The centrepiece of Koi’s new flagship store is Koi Experiential – a dramatic U-shaped chef’s table where 12 guests are treated to a creative degustation menu that’s less savoury and more sweet-focused.
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The 10-course menu begins with just four savoury dishes. The current season includes a mochi doughnut, with a cacio pepe-inspired filling of pepper, parmesan and truffles. A mushroom broth denotes the end of the savoury section, then come the sweets, which follow a colour theme. “Right now we’re doing purple, and there are ingredients like blackberry, umeshu, cassis,” says Reynold. Creamier desserts are next: milk and honey with citrus, and then almond, citrus and tonka bean brûlée.
The crowning dish, “Noi” – which was recently the challenge dish in a Masterchef Pressure Test featuring Reynold – includes apple, jasmine, elderflower and yuzu, and is named for Reynold’s friend. “Noi grows microherbs underground in Barangaroo – they’re vibrant, super crisp, and I wanted to create a dish around his products.”
But that’s not all you’ll find in the new Chippendale space, on the outskirts of the Central Park precinct. On the ground level, there’s the moody Koi Dessert Bar with its oxblood-red carpet and hand-pieced charcoal Japanese tile counter. And next door, you’ll find the next generation of the Poernomos’ cocktail bar, Monkey’s Corner.“The whole idea is to have the experiential table within the dining room at Monkey’s Corner. People might come into the bar, have a drink or two and then move on to Experiential, and then finish up at the cafe. So you can do it all in one go or experience them all separately.”
The bartenders at Monkey’s Corner serve all the cocktails across the flagship, and the drinks are exactly what you’d expect from a venue with such exquisite, creative desserts. Yuzu and strawberry are sweet and tart complements to umeshu; Earl Grey tea is a surprising addition to a cocktail that features vodka, sparkling rosé, raspberry and lychee; and there’s also an extensive sake, beer and wine list.
Unlike the former, tiny, Monkey’s Corner, in a terrace house on Kensington Street, which only had four bar stools and a steamer to make a handful of snacks, the current iteration has an expanded menu with egg noodles at the centre – either served with mushroom puree and black truffles, with crab meat and chilli crab sauce, or with uni and dashi cream.
Although the dining room and bar dominate the spotlight, don’t forget the Koi Dessert Bar – a lovely place to have a coffee and dessert, or to take home a sweet. There’s strawberry lychee cake, coconut mousse with kalamansi curd on a crunchy almond base, or other next-level pastries.
The Poernomos closed Koi Chippendale’s Kensington Street venue in 2021 with the promise that they would be back. They persevered through lockdowns and delays, and nine months later, the flagship opened, just around the corner. Reynold says he’s happy to be in front of customers again.
“It’s like a performance, but it’s also like when you have guests over to your home. You chat with them while you’re making the meal. Sometimes it does feel intimidating to be creating the dishes and entertaining, but it’s exciting too. Once in a while we get applause. It’s always nice to talk to people, especially when they’re curious.”
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