Project Tokyo crept up on us.
Not every restaurant has a grand opening with a band playing, dancing girls or the A list in attendance. Some places just creep up on you slowly, depending on the elements of discovery and surprise; the feeling of ‘WOW! We didn’t expect that!’
That’s just how we feel when we dine at Project Tokyo.
Opening in July 2019, Project Tokyo, owned by Franz Zdesar ( front of house, ex-Jupiters, Nobu, Zuma, Roku, Hakkasan and Jumeirah Group) and seasoned Executive Chef Geoff Anstee (a French and Japanese-trained chef who has worked in the Marriott UK and Aubergine with Gordon Ramsay), is well-situated in the Yuen’s ‘Markeri Food’ complex, Mermaid Waters.
Markeri Food has finally come of age, its eclectic dining mix exciting enough to draw a crowd.
Though Project Tokyo fronts the carpark, it has ambience thanks to artisan designer/builder OJ Thompson (Etsu, Iku, GoTo, Oi), who has created a light, modern Japanese sushi bar and restaurant from timber and stone tile. A mural of cherry blossom gracing one wall, the tiny space flows out to the veranda, boosting capacity to 35 diners while still maintaining intimacy.
The intimacy continues in the service and food. There’s a polished, ‘invested’ European-style feel to the service, with Franz stopping for a casual chat, giving recommendations and treating each customer as though they are special.
The food too is exceptional. With a modern Japanese-inspired range of share dishes, the menu provides headings to help us choose: Snacks and starters, Signature dishes, Gyoza, Tempura, Char grill, Nigiri and sashimi, Sushi rolls and Sweets. However, if you’re like us, we love almost all Japanese food, so the choice can be difficult.
For that reason, choosing an Omakase Set Menu for the table is a great idea. Meaning ‘I’ll leave it up to you’, we follow the Japanese tradition of leaving the food and drink selection up to the chef. Fortunately, Project Tokyo has two omakase set menus priced at $39pp and $50pp, a third one in the making. There are vegetarian and vegan options as well, wine pairing an extra $35pp.
With a glass of Atlas chardonnay in hand, the food begins to arrive in timely succession: Seared beef tataki nigiri with truffle and wasabi; Seared tuna sashimi salad with the delicious house onion, yuzu and sesame dressing, and Head Chef Misa Singh’s signature creation – Lotus chips with hats of miso kingfish and salmon tataki.
Already a theme is emerging : commitment. Using the finest local ingredients in each dish, from sashimi to meat cooked over the grill, food is handled and presented with loving care and attention. It’s not just about presentation, but about taste – clever combinations, an accent of chilli, spice or pickle, lashings of homemade dressing…
“Are these the best gyoza we’ve had,” we ask ourselves, “the most lovingly spiced yakitori chicken, the most tender lamb cutlets?”
It’s as though the chefs have tried to outdo themselves on every dish and we notch up many favourites.
From its Japanese origins, the food is transported into a modern milieu: Kingfish sashimi topped with yuzu, soy, coriander and a little jalapeno to grab our attention; Moreton Bay bug and scallop tempura presented lengthwise along the plate and served with rich yuzu truffle mayo.
To top off our lunch, the chocolate fondant dessert with green tea ice cream is not to be missed. It’s small enough to excuse your indiscretion yet large enough to share the guilt. What a delightful way to ‘cheat’, especially after such an array of fresh dishes!
From the bar, there’s not only sake, umeshi and a few Japanese spirits on offer but, moving away from classics, there’s also a range of Japanese-inspired cocktails and world wines chosen to complement the food, together with the satisfying Orion beer from Okinawa on tap and Sapporo by the bottle.
This is a place we can happily recommend for its quality, the consistency across dishes being the clincher. Whether you drop in for a bento box, donburi or ramen lunch, a few Japanese-inspired cocktails on your way out, for date night or a celebration with family and friends, you can enjoy fresh, vibrant food at Project Tokyo, together with consummate personal service and the charm of Tokyo, right on our front doorstep.
Next time at Project Tokyo, the joy will be in the anticipation rather than in the surprise.
Project Tokyo, 10A/90 Markeri St, Mermaid Waters QLD 4218 Ph: 07 5526 1075
Open: Mon, Wed 5.30pm – 9pm; Thurs, Fri 11.30am – 3pm, 5.30pm – 9.30/10 pm; Sat 5.30 – 10pm; Sun 11.30am – 3pm, 5.30pm – 9pm; Closed Tuesday. BYO Sunday and Monday.