Where worlds collide, and tomorrow meets today… Kosaten throws us the twenty-first century on a tiny train.
With just under two years’ living in Japan, my Japanese is not fluent or even average any more. But intrigued by great reports, especially from Paul Foreman, one of Hobart’s top chefs, I had to visit this new samurai on the block.
What the hell does Kosaten mean? The only word I can find close is “Kousaten” meaning to intersect, or cross two different paths. Hmm. Is that so? Then this brand spanking new sushi train venue certainly does that.
Toss away the old idea of chefs out the back blindly making a set list of sushi and sending it out on little conveyor belts to whizz around and around until someone makes the bridesmaids the bride.
But what happens to the sushi that no one wants? Always a risk, and a dilemma for both public and kitchens, this new version has solved that, with technology, in one fell swoop.
And I get the downlow on the genesis of this format from Michael, one of the owners, who spotted this idea at a food fair in Japan and decided that it suited Hobart and its smaller population perfectly, and he’s right.
Tucked into a heritage, convict block building on Castray Esplanade opposite the new marine sciences building, Kosaten is fairly unpretentious, more built for speed than beauty. I have to say, that this review is the second visit for us, as the first one was obliterated by the smell of fresh paint. The restaurant should have been shut, really!
And the service? Two young girls at a cash register/computer system at the entry, and that’s it. Everything else comes via conveyor belt. So we find our booth, see our iPad and hurl ourselves into a frenzy of screen touching. A word of warning: keep your trigger-happy friends away from the menu screen.
You know what’s good to see?? That the savings on floor staff are passed on to the customers. We noted that most of the sushi, sashimi, nigiri and rolls come in at about the $5-$12 mark, so for the freshness and quality of the produce, are remarkably good value. One can dine here and feel that you haven’t contributed in a large way to the owner’s holiday home in Aspen.
We order a wide range of tastes and flavours and almost without exception, they’re great. I go for the Ebi Fried, which is two “Deep fried prawn on a bed of rice with Nori seaweed and apple mayo” – delicious and at $5? Value.
Others try the Wagyu beef three ways, wafer thin slices of delicious beefiness with wasabi leaf, chilli mayo, and steak sauce. $10. Thumbs up. My kingfish sashimi with chilli lime sauce at $10 is fresh and sharp. The eggplant with meru miso sauce at $4.50 is a bargain, and my torched slices of pork belly with rice and teriyaki mustard sauce, $6 is all one could wish for. Melt in the mouth and tasty.
Glenn has to try the eel, so orders the Ni Anago, or grilled sea eel with teriyaki sauce, $6.50. Top marks again. Dani, being our resident vegetarian says the only not quite so high point is her coconut prawn with curry mayo and shredded coconut on cooked tuna, avocado and cucumber roll, $5. Looking at the ingredients, I can see why it wouldn’t quite work.
Salads are $5, and a good range of soba, seaweed and sesame spinach all suit our vegan friends, and miso soup at $3, misses the tofu, but is good nonetheless.
And drinks? I yearn for Ume sake, which is plum sake, and something I fell in love with over there. It arrives, rich and syrupy with a plum in the base of the glass to savour at the end. $12, and I’m in heaven!
The only small quibble I could make is what to do with the empty plates? They are stacking up on our small table, so we load the train up and they bang every post on their way back to the kitchen! A small embarrassment. And we have to pull Heather back from the button pushing to give us time to stack! And in true Japanese style, the plates are gorgeous, each one for its dish, works of art, and our table tops are blackheart Sassafrass, a Tasmanian timber I love, and have as a cutting board.
The desserts aren’t a high point, and with a measly selection of three, I choose the deep fried chocolate spring roll with green tea ice-cream, $7.50 and it’s much better than it sounds, so we leave happy, and sated.
Does it work? This team of invisible oompa loompas in the kitchen churning out food? Yes! And this is one instance where innovation is fun and works. Have you tried this yet?