I’m not cooking.
We have no reservation for dinner.
Time to think outside the square, off the strip, into the unknown.
Frankly, we’re not off to a good start, but armed with our bottle of Black Chook Sparkling Burgundy, we venture out into the night.
Kinoto’s a tiny shop lost in the suburban wilderness of Robina. Every so often, the kilometres of duplexes open up to a café or two, but it’s hardly a beacon. Located behind a service station, Kinoto’s a humble laminate tabled, tiled floor fishbowl with laminated A4 menu items pasted around the walls and a cartoon playing silently on the TV.
Underwhelming, to say the least, but it’s spotlessly clean and, although it’s only been open a few months, Kinoto already has a reputation for good fresh food.
From inside the open kitchen, Kinoto’s chef, Yoshihiro Otsu, smiles a warm greeting. Nobody else here is celebrating Valentine’s Day, but then again most of the other diners are Japanese families!
Service is prompt, and we’re soon armed with wine glasses and water to lubricate our food choices. The menu is divided into sections with several alternatives in each; not extensive, but ample for a restaurant which only seats 24! It’s also very affordable, with entrées priced from $4 – $7, mains $12-50 – $20 and lunches all under $10.
With illustrations to help our choice, it should be a simple decision, but I’m fixated by chips being served with many main courses. What are chips doing in a Japanese restaurant?
“Get over it!” says the Main Squeeze, so we order a range of dishes to share: Gyoza, Takoyaki (deep fried octopus balls), Salmon sashimi, Pink dragon sushi (with salmon, prawn, avocado and cucumber) and Grilled Barramundi (cooked in garlic butter, teriyaki and sweet chilli sauce, served with salad and rice). No chips!
Peter, Paul and Mary floats gently across the soundwaves, punctuated by cooking action from the kitchen, a subtitled Mulan fills the wall TV – incongruous, yes, but I hold off judgement. The kids at the next table are silently watching the tele, the wine’s warming my cheeks, and the waft of garlic tells me that our food’s on the way. Not romantic, but things could be a lot worse.
The entrée dishes make a good start: the gyoza’s made from scratch, the dumplings lean but with a tasty filling of minced pork and cabbage, the sauce in need of a dash more vinegar, but they’re almost addictive, as is the takoyaki. Both are good examples of Japanese bar food designed to accompany drinks.
It’s the sashimi and sushi, however, which really steal our hearts. They’re stunningly fresh, beautifully presented, thoughtfully scattered across a square plate, and well worth the journey to find this place.
At $15.90, the Barra’s a good deal, three thin fillets drenched in sauce and accompanied by rice and a nicely-dressed salad. On a return visit we discover that the lunch deal is also great value: your choice of 10 dishes, mostly chicken and tofu, served with salad, rice and miso soup, all priced under $10!
Judging by first appearances you might not bother to go inside Kinoto, but be adventurous! Look beyond the obvious humility of this restaurant. ‘Good taste, good deal’; the logo says, and it’s true! The food’s fresh and delicious. Kinoto’s a great example of affordable family friendly local dining…but hold on the chips!
2/110 Laver Drive, Robina Ph: 07 5578 9016