490 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW

Communal tables: love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here to stay. Those in the ‘aye’ camp love the vibey social aspects of the long benches made famous by Longrain and Wagamama — walk in with your company’s prehistoric Accounts Manager and walk out with a groovy new friend you just happened to be sitting next to. Those in the ‘nay’ camp give the bench the wide berth — no privacy, and you’re forced to share lunch with a boozy troop of Neanderthal commercial litigators…The latest venue to adopt this trend is Toko Restaurant & Bar, Sydney’s ultra-fashionable purveyor of contemporary Japanese food.The owners of Toko are three young brothers — Al, Dan and Matt Yazbek — who so love Japanese foods that they opened their own sushi bar in Sydney’s Paddington just over six years agoIn the ensuing years Toko Paddington has picked up a loyal following. Looking for more of a challenge, as well as recognising the gaping hole in Sydney’s dining scene for a contemporary Japanese restaurant, the Yazbek brothers set out to research what was happening with Japanese food in London, New York and, of course, Japan. The result of that research is Toko Restaurant & Bar, Surry Hills — a modern Japanese restaurant that takes its inspiration from the Japanese bar concept ‘Izakaya’, which means a social place to drink.Designer Matthew Darwon worked with the brothers on the $1m refurbishment of the old MG Garage space, stripping it back to warehouse-style basics and using a clean, minimalist palette of chocolates, charcoals and orange, set upon a canvas of timbers and joinery.The main dining room of the restaurant features the three communal dining tables complete with benches. Distraction is offered by the theatre of Toko’s kitchen, sushi bar and robata grill.There is also stool seating at the sushi bar and robata grill.Toko also features a private dining room with a sunken floor that comfortably seats 16 and can be booked for functions. There are also plans for outdoor dining.However, the centrepiece of Toko’s interior has got to be the $10,000 light sculpture mounted in the lounge/bar area. Painstakingly put together by artist Reni Kung and comprising 60,000 pieces of individually hand-placed matchsticks, this 1.8m-wide circular installation is also a one- off light fixture akin to a blazing sun. (Editor’s note: One wonders what manner of artwork Reni will do with all those empty matchboxes.) [Photo: Nicky Ryan]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *