KOKO

April 24, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Over the past year or so, there’s been a bit of a sushi explosion in Sheffield with no fewer than four new sushi restaurants opening across the city: KOKO, Let’s Sushi, Sakura House, and the Revolving Sushi and Noodle Bar.

Sadly, Sakura House on Eccy Road almost immediately relaunched as Yep Yep Hot Pot before closely down completely, so I never got the chance to find out whether it was any good. But last week I decided to branch out from Yama, Edo and Sakushi, and try one of Sheffield’s three new(ish) sushi restaurants.

KOKO is a compact but very smartly decorated restaurant on Ecclesall Road that has the sleek, modern feel of Sakushi – which is no surprise considering it’s owned by the same guy who launched Sakushi.

koko

I’ve got to admit that I decided to visit KOKO after spotting that they were offering a free shot of Japanese whisky to all diners on Twitter – everyone loves a freebie, right? However, after showing us to our table the first thing our waiter did was offer us a complimentary glass of prosecco. I leapt at the chance for a free glass of fizz, but my friend had their heart set on sampling some Japanese whisky so they asked whether they could have the shot of Nikka instead. At this point we were told this wasn’t an either-or offer, he was offering us free prosecco in addition to the complimentary whisky.

Apparently if you dine at KOKO before 6.30pm on any day of the week, then you get a free glass of prosecco, and if KOKO happen to be running another drinks-related freebie then you’re in luck, because you’re entitled to that too. The only catch is that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday KOKO doesn’t open until 6pm, so if you’re dining on any of these days you’ll need to be quick off the mark in order to qualify for the free prosecco.  

After that nice surprise, it was time to take a look at the food menu. Compared to other Sheffield sushi restaurants like Yama and Sakushi, KOKO’s menu is pretty compact, but this is understandable considering KOKO is a much smaller venue. While KOKO do offer a few mixed sushi and sashimi platters, the focus is more on cooked mains such as noodles, Katsu curry and fish served in various Japanese sauces, rather than sushi and sashimi.

Since the menu is on the smaller side, it took me no time to decide that I wanted to order the Salmon Fillet in Black Pepper Sauce (£14.95), but just to complicate matters the person I was eating with wanted a starter. To avoid being left twiddling my thumbs while they enjoyed their first course, I decided to order a Miso Soup (£3.50) starter, which includes unlimited refills (score!)

However, when I gave the waiter my order he pointed out that all of KOKO’s ‘Bigger Dishes’ come with miso soup anyway. In fact, they come with miso soup, salad and a choice of rice or noodles. Since my friend was ordering a starter, the waiter kindly offered to bring me the miso soup from my main course at the same time. It’s thoughtful little touches like this that make for really happy customers!

A surprise glass of bubbly, helpful staff, and the promise of a complimentary shot of whisky at the end of the meal – I don’t think I’ve ever had a better first impression of a restaurant!

My miso soup was everything good miso soup should be: strong and salty, with lots of seaweed and big chunks of tasty tofu.

miso soup

I love that KOKO offer unlimited refills of their miso, because I could drink about a gallon of this stuff.

For their starter, my friend opted for KOKO Kimchi Rolls (£5.95).

Koko Kimchi Rolls

These rolls are a tasty blend of tangy kimchi and peppery pork, wrapped in a light and flaky pastry. These are perfect for snacking on before a main meal, and go really well with the accompanying sweet chilli dip.

Onto the mains, and my friend had gone for the special, which on this particular evening was steak and enokitake mushrooms with yakiniku sauce. Like all of KOKO’s main courses, the steak came with miso soup, salad, and a choice of rice or noodles, plus a tangy side of pickled cucumbers and carrots.

The whole thing is served on a tray, which makes for a pretty impressive-looking spread.

steak and enokitake mushrooms

The steak was juicy and tender, pretty much melting in the mouth, which contrasted nicely with the chewy enokitake mushrooms – plus, steak and mushrooms is just a winning combination, right?

The rest of the platter is packed with different flavours – from the saltiness of the miso, to the tartness of the crunchy pickled veggies, and the light and fresh salad. The only exception were the plain noodles, which were completely unseasoned, but it was actually nice to have a break from all the other strong flavours on this platter.

My main course came with the same smorgasbord of sides, although I opted for rice rather than noodles.

Salmon Fillet in Black Pepper Sauce

The rice was perfectly cooked, so it was nice and sticky rather than gloopy. Like the noodles, the rice might have been plain on its own, but it worked really well alongside all the other strong flavours on this platter.

But onto the main star of the show: the grilled, sushi-grade salmon. This salmon was tender, juicy and practically fell apart the second my chopsticks touched it, and it was generously coated in a delicious, tangy pepper sauce that had a hint of teriyaki sweetness to it. Basically, this salmon was perfect and I loved everything about it!

Food dispatched, it was time for our second free drink of the evening. And what’s better than a free drink? Not having to awkwardly remind the staff that you’d like your free drink now, please. As the waiter cleaned away our plates, he asked whether we wanted our shot of whisky yet – he didn’t need to ask twice!

The Nikka was a satisfying, warming whisky with caramel notes that made it really easy-drinking, even for someone like me who usually takes their spirits with a healthy dose of Pepsi Max.

I can’t fault KOKO when it comes to providing value for money. Even without the complimentary prosecco and whisky, the amount of sides that come with each main course means you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. The food was delicious, especially the salmon which is some of the nicest fish I’ve ever eaten, and the staff went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed our meal.

KOKO serves great food, at a great price, with genuinely thoughtful customer service to boot. My advice? Keep an eye on KOKO’s Twitter page for whisky-related special offers, get there before 6.30pm for your free glass of prosecco, and enjoy!

5-stars

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The Wig and Pen

June 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 3 Comments
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Drinking in the afternoon is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so when we spied a ‘brunch and all you can drink prosecco’ voucher (£15.95) for The Wig and Pen, we wasted no time printing it out before the owners came to their senses and took the offer down. Needless to say, we were excited about this one, especially since we’d had such a fantastic meal at affiliated eatery The Milestone the previous week.

From the outside, The Wig and Pen looks nothing special: it’s a stumpy huddle of buildings in the heart of Estate Agent District (aka Campo Lane.) Inside, it’s far nicer than expected: the interior is all light wood, big windows and ‘swanky wine bar’ atmosphere.

A friendly waitress escorted our party to a table, where we promptly pulled out our voucher and she sped off to fetch the first (of many) rounds of bubbly. Fully expecting to be brought a bottle, we were disappointed when she returned with a tray of glasses. We couldn’t help grumbling, convinced that we’d struggle to attract the staff’s attention when it was time for glass number two (and three, and four) and the ‘all you can drink’ boast was just a conspiracy. If something is too good to be true, then it probably is. It turns out we were just being cynical – despite our waitress also ferrying plates of bulging Sunday lunch to a large party directly behind us, she always found the time to top our glasses up. Far from making us feel self-conscious about burning through the bottles, she was very friendly, and jokingly gave us a running total of how much we’d drank. The Wig and Pen’s staff really are second to none – polite, attentive and friendly. Even better, the prosecco they’ve earmarked for this offer is perfect for afternoon drinking, morish without being too sweet.

Eventually we got around to ordering some brunch dishes to mop up all that fizz. The menu is in the same vein as The Milestone’s, so if you’re partial to the grub at one of the venues, then you’re guaranteed to like the other. Picky eaters beware, The Wig and Pen’s menu is far from extensive, but each dish has been concocted with a keen eye for detail, with a heavy focus on unusual combos. That said, the brunch menu is particularly restrictive. There’s a posh cooked breakfast but beyond that, if you don’t like poached eggs and hollandaise sauce then you’re going to go hungry. Poached egg fans can choose from double eggs benedict, double eggs royal or double eggs florentine, all priced at a reasonable £5.95.

Thankfully, we’re all fans of the humble egg at Sheffield Eats, so we had no issues with the narrow menu. I plumped for Double Eggs Royal, which consisted of two stodgy English muffins layered with wilted spinach and slabs of the strongest, saltiest and most mouth-watering smoked salmon I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with. Topped off with two perfectly-cooked eggs and lashings of creamy hollandaise sauce, the portion size may have looked mean, but I’d learned my lesson about the richness of The Milestone/The Wig and Pen’s food, and took it slowly this time.

The eggs were perfectly cooked, with a little runny yolk still in the centre; the spinach was wilted but not falling apart, and the smoked salmon was so thick, it was more like a fillet. The Wig and Pen’s Double Eggs Royal is one of the richest meals I’ve ever eaten and, combined with the sheer strength of the smoked salmon, it was impossible for me to finish. I’d recommend treating this brunch dish as your lunch – it would take a stronger stomach than mine to polish off this plate of loud flavours and calorific sauce before noon.

Also arriving at the table, were a couple of portions of Double Eggs Benedict, which basically replaced the wedge of smoked salmon with a chunk of bacon. The bacon had more in common with gammon than the usual fatty supermarket stuff, and everyone at the table agreed The Wig and Pen’s bacon is in a league of its own.

The food may have been impossible to fault, but we did have an issue with the live acoustic jazz performer who is apparently a regular fixture on Sundays. For the first fifteen minutes or so, the speakers were turned up far too high. With the large party behind us all shouting to make themselves heard above the blaring music, it wasn’t the quiet, relaxed brunch we’d envisioned. Thankfully, The Wig and Pen twigged there was something wrong and had turned the volume down by the time the performer returned for his second set, and we could hear ourselves think again.

To round off the afternoon, we took our final glasses of prosecco outside and made the most of a sudden burst of sunshine in The Wig and Pen’s cobbled outdoor area. Set in a courtyard with no traffic and few passers-by, it’s an unexpectedly quiet haven in the centre of town, and the ideal place to escape the crowds and while away a sunny afternoon (if this rain ever stops….)

Full enough to pop and well into our third bottle of prosecco thanks to the attentive waitress, we raised our glasses to one of the best (certainly, the most tipsy!) brunches we’d had in Sheffield. The food, service and venue itself are flawless and, after they’d toned down the music, we could properly relax and enjoy our boozy brunch. Obviously cut from the same cloth as The Milestone, The Wig and Pen has all the same great qualities, and with a more convenient, city centre location to boot.

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