Chase Kojima has come along at the perfect time to breathe new life into Jupiters Hotel and Casino.
Though the casino has undergone renovations in the last decade, it has always had a distinctly 1980s aesthetic. At long last, a $345 million transformation project is looking to shake off the ’80s for good, radically making the casino over and modernising it in time for the Commonwealth Games on the Coast in 2018; and Kojima is at the forefront of the publicity for that effort.
A renowned chef known for running kitchens in Las Vegas, Dubai, London, Los Angeles and the Bahamas, Kojima made an impression on Australian foodies when he founded popular Japanese restaurant Sokyo at The Star Sydney in 2011, eventually claiming a Chef’s Hat at the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards in 2014.
Clearly impressed by Kojima’s work at The Star, the Echo Entertainment Group has moved him over to one of their other casinos, Jupiters, to help spearhead its revival.
The result is Kiyomi, which opened in December and takes its name from a rare Japanese citrus fruit. The fruit is a hybrid of mandarin and sweet orange, symbolic of Kiyomi’s blend of Japanese and Australian flavours.
(In case you’re wondering what $345 million buys you these days besides a buzzworthy Japanese restaurant, the redevelopment has already included a new poolside experience, new Italian restaurant Cucina Vivo, and a 12,000 litre paint job for the casino’s exterior; the next few years will see the opening of a new 17-storey luxury hotel tower and the refurbishment of the existing hotel and gaming floor. Not too shabby.)
I enjoyed my first meal at Kiyomi last week. Designed by Luchetti Krelle (also responsible for the look of Fat Noodle at The Treasury Casino and Momofuku Sieobo and Adriano Zumbo at The Star), the 120-seater is, for the most part, an ode to Japanese minimalism — except for the rear wall, which boasts an eye-catching fluorescent UV installation by Tokyo-based artist Houxo Que.
The first items that arrived at our table — Edamame beans with bonito flakes; cubes of watermelon sitting on spicy mayonnaise; and Hanaji Maki sushi rolls filled with teriyaki wagyu and watermelon and topped with foie gras — weren’t on the menu, and made for a pleasant surprise to start the evening.
The spiced Edamame beans were an instant hit, combining with the salty flakes to make for a moreish appetiser. Against all odds, the watermelon cubes with mayonnaise worked, too, refreshing and cleansing the palate for the Hanaji Maki.
Again, watermelon was a surprisingly effective addition to these sushi rolls, playing off the wagyu beautifully and making for an interesting mix of textures. The only thing that didn’t really work for me in this round (and, for that matter, for the rest of the night) was the foie gras on top, but I’ve never been a big foie gras guy. Your mileage might vary.
The next dish to make its way to us had jaws dropping and tongues rolling across the table. Kojima’s scampi is a work of art — even the most ardent seafood hater would have to admire the presentation here. The shells are just for show, as the meat has already been removed and dressed with edible flowers, green apple matchsticks, and mizuna on bamboo leaves over a bed of crushed ice. Luckily, it tastes as good as it looks. It’s not necessarily my personal favourite dish of the evening, but if Kiyomi has a signature, this is it.
The hiramasa kingfish ceviche that comes next has a high bar to clear, then, but it gets the job done. The delicate meat hits the spot, the sweet miso flavour is practically performance-enhancing, and a sprinkling of extremely thin deep-fried potato crisps puts it over the top. The seared tuna tataki, resting on a salad of asparagus and mushrooms and finished off with a leek sauce, is no slouch in the flavour department, either.
You might think we’d be winding down after all that, but nope — the Moreton Bay bug, served with two dipping sauces, is the next item on the agenda. The sambal mayo is the pick of the sauces, and the light tempura batter is to die for. Rounding out the seafood selection, the Dengakuman toothfish (perfectly cooked over charcoal) with a cucumber pickle and caramelised miso is the stuff that sweet and salty dreams are made of.
I mentioned that the scampi, while breathtaking, wasn’t my favourite dish of the night, and that’s because I’m a sucker for quality wagyu — and Kiyomi’s wagyu striploin, boasting the highest possible marble score (9+) and served with soft eschallots and sticky teriyaki sauce, certainly fits the bill. Talk about tender — chewing simply isn’t required here. It’s the proverbial melt-in-your-mouth experience.
Somehow, the food keeps coming, in the form of a sushi platter featuring Tai Nori, crispy rice and spicy tuna, and the pick of the platter, the Queensland roll — thin soy paper stuffed with spanner crab meat and a creamy topping of seasoned avocado.
Finally, it’s time for dessert. A delightfully chewy green tea mochi ‘ravioli’ filled with strawberry ice cream kicks us off with a burst of flavour, but it’s the much-anticipated Goma Street Dessert (one of the most popular items at Sokyo) that has the table salivating. There are three layers to savour here — tempered dark chocolate and caramelised white chocolate mousse, encircled by a generous serving of black sesame ice cream — and they compliment each other beautifully. It’s easy to see why this one has been such a hit for Kojima.
There’s also an extensive cocktail menu on offer — our pick is the Chasing Kiyomi, which has been created specifically with the flavours of Kiyomi in mind. It’s a blend of Tanqueray Gin with the sweet orange elements of Grand Marnier, complimented with San Pellegrino Mandarin mineral water.
Having sampled damn near everything on the menu, it’s safe to say that a meal at Kiyomi isn’t a gamble — if you enjoy modern Japanese cuisine, you’re practically guaranteed to land on a winner.
Kiyomi at Jupiters Hotel & Casino is open for dinner from 5:30pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Call 1800 074 344 to make a reservation.
The author was a guest of Jupiters Hotel & Casino.