Funny how quickly things change in Melbourne. It was only a couple of years ago that Toko opened its izakaya-style doors on Greville St. Contemporary, sophisticated and delicious. It was a local favourite for a long time.
But Southside dining is a fickle thing, and founder Matt Yazbek has decided the old model isn’t working anymore. Toko has closed its doors (ahead of a move to the CBD) and in its place, we have Tokosan. Yazbek’s new, more laid back, Japanese eatery.
“Toko Melbourne opened two years ago at a time when Southside dining was still finding its identity,” says Yazbek.
“Times have changed, and fast-casual is where the customer demand is. Tokosan was our answer. She’s a little outrageous, enjoys karaoke and DJ beats, and is definitely the life of the party.”
Tokosan is spruiked as Toko’s “cheeky little sister”, which is a pretty good way of putting it. The menu is more relaxed (Yazbek describes it as Japanese pub food). There’s a karaoke room and a street-style vending machine, kitschy neon signs and DJ-spun tunes via a new sound system. Fans of the old Toko courtyard will be happy to know it’s been restyled as a 60-seat open-air garden lounge.
Food-wise, the crew have swapped exquisite sashimi and elegant marinated lamb cutlets for funky ‘Pork Ribbies’ (grilled pork ribs, sticky sweet soy sauce, a jacket potato, tofu and sour cream) and the Kill Bill chicken roll (crispy katsu chicken, slaw, Kupie mayo, katsu sauce and melted Monterey Jack cheese). Satisfying alco-bites, designed to soak up the wicked Tarantino-style cocktails.
Booze time? Get ready to sip on an O-Ren Ishii (a fruity botanical blend, all Beefeater gin, Carton Mangue, cucumber, lime and passionfruit) or the Boss Tanaka (Maker’s Mark, spiked with apricot brandy, ginger ale and lemon juice). If you haven’t seen Kill Bill, those names will mean precisely nothing to you.
It’s a culinary aesthetic that fits Greville St, circa 2017. Something to nosh on pre-gig. A watering hole where you can kick back with a bunch of fluoro cocktails (and maybe rock the karaoke mic around 1am...). Something fun, casual, a little bit cheeky. Toko may be gone, but its little sister lives on. And she’s a lot of fun.
Doors open tomorrow, Friday 8 September. Be there or be square.
Image credit: Tokosan