Jackie McMillan
18th Feb 2024

If Asian-Australian fusion is Sydney’s favourite destination, Toei is the next cab off the rank. This beige Surry Hills outpost presents the culinary journey of chef Kevin Jeon (ex-Ms G’s & Bentley Restaurant + Bar). The menu is succinct: nine smalls; four mediums; and a pair of larges; with sides and desserts in triplicate. The wine list is also succinct, with fewer than twenty bottle. Markups however are reasonable, with the 2021 Hutton Chardonnay ($85) at its top end proving an affable drop. 

Sydney rock oysters ($6.50/each) would have fared better if they were shucked to order and served by staff who knew where they were from, or, at a minimum, offered to go find out. And if diners are to be left to dress them in situ, with white kimchi mignonette and nori oil, a spoon would also help. Smoked pacific oysters ($6.50/each) arrived already  doused in coconut cream, fingerlime and wakame oil, but an oyster fork wouldn’t have gone astray. Maybe it’s a bridge too far for this stripped back, blonde wood casual setting? Korean beef tartare ($7/each) adorned with black olive crumb on fingers of crisp puff pastry needed nothing but your fingertips, but lacked the punchy garlic and gochujang hit of the yukhoe inspiration. Wedges of golden potato pave ($14/2) are iced in cod cream with baubles of soy cured roe and a dusting of furikake. 

In the medium dishes, quail katsu ($22) presented a mostly deboned crumbed bird in two halves with Bulldog sauce doctored with pepperberry and a petite fennel salad: tasty bar food. The orecchiette pasta ($23) sounded like it was going to punch umami with anchovy, kimchi and bottarga offset by warrigal greens. It arrived over-sweet with nary a hint of the promised tasty little fishes. Octopus ($28) glazed in gochujang was the first suggestion of the exciting flavours I came here to find, fancied up with confit garlic cream and puffed wild rice. In a crowded market, Toei might have to do more to stand out.