Yoko is a two-storey izakaya next door to owner Jonathan Barthelmess’s enormously popular Greca restaurant. Outside, a long line of riverside booths are offset by a beautiful bento box-inspired fit-out inside. Crisp American ash plywood hints at a sizeable kitchen and a bar area upstairs. Off to the side, a dispense bar sits backed by vintage-style fridges and a slushie machine, the venue’s heritage-listed warehouse frame peeking through with iron girders and oak beams.
Inside, a retro-futurist shade of yellow shows up as a highlight throughout – in the tiled dispense bar, a bit of veneer here and there, and the floor staff’s nifty shoelaces. Much of the venue’s colour instead comes through the clever lighting that glows red in the corners and shines bright from the hanging fluorescent bulbs above.
This is perhaps Barthelmess’s purest expression yet of his love for Japan, where he has an instalment of his enormously popular Sydney restaurant The Apollo. In particular, he’s looked to capture the atmosphere of Tokyo’s late-night vinyl bars.
Yoko Dining has about 70 seats outside, 50 inside and capacity for another 50 in the upstairs bar populated with large collections of sake, Japanese whisky and vinyl records along with various other knick-knacks. Pride of place is a pair of turntables, ready to spin tunes late into the night.
The menu starts with snacks and izakaya-style plates such as grilled prawns with kombu butter; pork gyoza with ponzu and chilli crisp; and soft shell crab temaki (hand roll). There’s also a raw section with oysters and various sashimi dishes, and a hibachi menu featuring cuts of Wagyu, grilled market fish and more.
For drinks there’s close to 150 wines with a bunch of drops available via Coravin. Upstairs there’s a collection of cocktail jugs, mocktails and yuzu-spiked slushies on offer.
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