Eclectic Japanese restaurant brand Tokyo Joe has taken over the Daniel San space which sits within the newly refurbed Manly Pacific at Manly Beach. But what’s changed?
We took the family for an early Friday dinner last week to find out.
At first glance not a whole lot has changed since Tokyo Joe took over – the same bright laminated tables out front, loud but fun eighties Asian chic interior and arcade games at the back. The huge bloom of fake florals is gone, and the space is a little more streamlined, a little less noisy, and the walls quite extraordinary.
The new owners partnered with talented local artist Miguel Gonzalez and Kayapa Creative Studio to give the space a subtle but fresh new look. They worked on painting Japanese wall murals which feature throughout the venue. Each design honouring an aspect of Japanese culture from the beauty of the cherry blossom tree to the symbolic Nishikigoi fish. Overall, it looks a lot sharper.
We are greeted by manager Jameel who seems genuinely excited by further upcoming changes – particularly works underway in the neighbouring lobby bar which sits between the restaurant and the entry to Manly Pacific, which is also newly refurbed. There are much bigger changes on the way, he says.
“We will be aligning ourselves with the $30 million dollar renovations being carried out at our hotel, Manly Pacific,” the Tokyo Team tells us. “Please bear with us as we are currently in this transition phase.”
The place will need some bigger changes to get locals attention, but with plenty of room to maneuvre a pram and a window seat to watch the ocean from, I don’t think they need to rush. It’s a really great spot for this warm Friday evening.
Jameel is enthusiastically talking about the new cocktail menu he’s working on so we are easily convinced to kick off with some drinks.
Our cocktails are really enjoyable, and they have a number of drink specials throughout the week. My favourite was the Pornstar Martini, which had vodka, passoa, passionfruit, vanilla, lime, sparkling wine ($15-$22), though the Yabai! with gin, midori, pineapple, yozu and vanilla felt like a fun flashback to summer 2001, when everyone drunk shots of Midori and were excited about Coke’s new vanilla flavour…
But back to the restaurant.
The biggest change they’ve made is the most important – a new head chef. Chef Marcelino Elamparo Papio Jr (Marc) is now at the helm. He brings his extensive culinary expertise from some of the best restaurants in the world, previously working at Nobu Sydney, Toko Restaurant in Surry Hills and Zuma Japanese Restaurant in Dubai. He’s a sushi connoisseur with meticulous cutting and plating skills that will wow any sushi fan.
With that in mind we take Jameel’s recommendation to order straight from the sashimi side of the menu. This was an excellent recommendation, and for our taste our two sashimi dishes were the standout.
In first place was Tuna Tataki Tokyo Joe style, a tuna aburi topped with pickled red onion, ginger soy sake, garlic chips and coriander, takuan charcoal crunch, sweet chili, and smoked mayo ($18). This was the winner because the tuna, lightly seared on the outer and very tender, held its own against some very strong accompanying flavours. It was a surprise to have something so delicate and beautiful while 80s classics were blaring. I can see why they self-describe as eclectic!
Next on our favourites list was the Salmon Usuzuki thinly sliced salmon topped with blood orange, wasabi cream, black caviar yozu kosho and mixed herbs ($18).
King Salmon Crispy Tacos – salmon sashimi, wasabi tobiko, chilli mayo and iceberg lettuce ($18) were fresh with a great chilli kick at the end, though there’s very little space for the sashimi to get a word in. Gyoza – crystal bay prawn with chives, garlic amazu sauce ($16) – is always a crowd pleaser, as is the Pork Loin Katsu Curry – 150g panko crumbed pork, Japanese style curry with potatoes, carrots, and sesame cabbage ($28). The pork loin was delicious and a very generous portion. A little more katsu sauce would have pleased my husband more, but I’m sure they’d give a little extra if you asked.
The Volcano roll with wagyu beef aburi, cucumber, and kimchi was a… new experience and the Manly Roll with its seared salmon, kani kama (crab stick, basically), cucumber, avocado, tamago, sweet soy wasabi mayo ($18) was a pleasing dish to share.
That’s how Tokyo Joe want you to dine here, through sharing. Tokyo Joe’s menu is designed with “kaiseki” in mind, consisting of a series of small sharing dishes to enjoy with friends. With a selection of sushi, delicately cut sashimi and steamed buns, each bite offers an explosion of flavour.
There’s a kids’ menu and there were plenty of families interspersed between the after-work crowd when we were there, so the venue does appeal to almost everyone. I wouldn’t pick it for a fancy first date until the full refurbishment is realised – but if your prospective lover is more fun than fancy then this could be a winner.
Our desserts were great summer refreshers too – particularly the Matcha cheesecake ($14). The Mochi Ice cream ($9) felt very ‘Tokyo cute’.
Whether you want to have a relaxing sunset drink with a close friend or enjoy a banquet feast with the whole family, Tokyo Joe is well worth a visit over summer.
Tokyo Joe is located next to the Manly Pacific Hotel at 55 North Steyne Manly.
They are open from 4pm Monday to Friday til late and rom midday to late on the weekend.
You can book online here.
More information: https://tokyojoe.com.au