Surry Hills is a hotspot for casual-upscale dining – elevated experiences in relaxed settings. And newcomer Toei stands to be that and more, with one key thing in mind: affordability. Over a decade in the industry, owner Kevin Jeon has held tenures as executive chef at the Kolture group (Tokki, Soot) and honed his skills at the likes of Bentley and Cirrus. His experience across such an eclectic clutch of restaurants has primed him for Toei.

“I always had this dream of opening a wine bar,” Jeon tells Broadsheet. “But right now, I want to have a bigger focus on developing my food menu. I knew [this was] a really good opportunity to showcase my love of Asian cuisine and incorporate it with Western dishes.”

Jeon’s celebration of fusion is well represented in the snacks portion of Toei’s menu (which was also his favourite section to work on creatively). The potato pavé brings a many-layered wedge of potato topped with cod cream and soy-cured roe. Inspired by gamjajeon, a layered Korean potato pancake and his favoured childhood treat, Jeon’s dished up this new version to give diners the same sensation as eating fish and chips. But, since opening in late January, the pick of the mix goes to the fried mantou, a Chinese fried bun stuffed with king prawns and Marie Rose sauce. It’s a tarragon-laced twist on a classic prawn roll, with a texturally satisfying bite thanks to the crispy, sweet bun.

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Progress from the snacks to mains like orecchiette pasta, carrying a flavour bomb of anchovy and white kimchi. The quail katsu is styled after Hot Star’s Taiwanese fried chicken. A whole quail arrives golden-fried, coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs with an umami-laden bulldog sauce jazzed up with pepperberry. “The quail katsu was a last-minute addition,” says Jeon. “I was making it for myself the night before I opened because I love Hot Star chicken. The flavour is strong and has so many umami notes. I haven’t seen much interpretation of Taiwanese street food in Sydney, so I decided right then and there to add it to my menu.”

There’s also an Angus hanger steak glazed with a traditional Korean galbi that’s infused with black garlic and burnt chilli, plus a decadent 15-day dry-aged duck complemented by a yukari (a shiso-based seasoning) and blueberry jus.

Affordability is the aim here. Opt for à la carte or let Heon drive with the $79 tasting menu. There’s also the $59 snack tasting menu, which’ll have you sampling the full range of small bites with the quail katsu to finish. “It isn’t crazy fine-dining prices,” Jeon says. “I want to keep my prices affordable. Whether you’re working or a student, I want everyone to be able to access high-quality food.”

Toei is notched up on the corner of Campbell and Denham streets, taking over the old Bar Soul space. The team’s adopted its former residents’ off-white interiors, timber floors and linen drapes – but Jeon has added his love of bright Korean street art to the walls.

Toei
Shop 1 & 2/185 Campbell Street, Surry Hills
0466 879 265

Hours:
Tue to Sun 5pm–late

toei.com.au
@toei.surryhills