Restaurant review: Koomo

It may be best not to set your expectations too high when dining at this tenth-floor hotel restaurant with a sleek Japanese-inspired design and a ‘Pan-Asian fusion’ menu.

May 19, 2023, updated May 19, 2023
Koomo Restaurant & Bar was originally designed with a Japanese menu in mind. Photo supplied

Koomo Restaurant & Bar was originally designed with a Japanese menu in mind. Photo supplied

A sign at the ground-floor entry of the Crowne Plaza hotel reads, “Dine in the clouds, Koomo Restaurant & Bar”.

I guess the tenth floor is higher than most in the East End, but it’s not quite the clouds. For dinner, they might want to update their sandwich board to say, “Dine over the city lights”, or something similar. During the day, there are hills and the ocean ­– and probably views of the clouds, if you look up.

Out of the lifts and past the hotel reception sits Koomo, the hotel’s flagship eatery. Originally, they designed this space with a Japanese menu in mind, reflected in the sleek, minimalist interior with a slight nod to art deco. Earlier media reports did suggest that the kitchen would lean into other cuisines, too.

But that was late 2020, and things have changed a bit since then. A selection of dishes have a Japanese ingredient here and there, but it definitely reads Pan-Asian.

As quick as we order, entrees arrive, well before drinks. These were either pre-prepared, or the line cooks were at the ready. On a busy night like tonight, I expect the former – no problems here, as both are cold dishes.

Lobster rolls (two for $29) are small soft white buns encasing a filling made up of avocado, pickled shallots and tokibo, which are those little bright orange fish roe often found on sushi and typically salty in flavour. I can’t seem to find any here, either by sight or taste. The filling is mainly mayonnaise, and not that nice fatty kewpie sort, either. It’s all quite flavourless and, while I’m sure there’s some lobster in there, it’s difficult to tell. These petite rolls are gone in two bites, three at most.

Koomo’s lobster rolls. Photo supplied

The next dish is a “Japanese pumpkin salad” ($23) and it has much more flavour, thanks to a miso mayo with salty, umami balance, and punchy notes due to the nori, crispy shallots and toasted sesame, topped with a fresh bunch of mint leaves. We’re warned when ordering that this dish is served cold, but its revenge is delivered through some very large, undercooked pumpkin segments. Taste-wise it’s fine, but it’s all just a bit odd.

The Japanese pumpkin salad. Photo supplied

Our first drinks arrive mid-course. First, a retro throwback in the form of a Japanese Slipper ($22), with its signature maraschino cherry bobbing in the bottom of a murky fluorescent green concoction. It’s difficult to understand why, in 2023, it would still be on a menu, especially at a five-star hotel, but I had anticipated they might have put an updated spin on this “classic” to make it more palatable than the sickly-sweet version from the ’80s. No such luck.

My date has ordered the Sake Blossom ($24). It is much better but still on the sweet side and I question what kind of sake must have been used here, but perhaps it’s the Cointreau or “cherry blossom” that is to blame.

Moving on to mains around 10 minutes after entrees are finished and we realise that we have been here for 30 minutes and are at risk of finishing this three-course meal in the clouds in less than an hour.

Peering over to the well-staffed kitchen, this seems to be run as more of a production line than a restaurant kitchen, which explains the efficiency. The rush on food puts any chance to enjoy the experience, as promised through the venue’s promotion, on the backburner. 

There are some Japanese ingredients scattered through the list of larger dishes: a bit of nori here and miso there, yuzu and dashi, and even some tamanegi (that’s the Japanese word for onion). But really, this list of mains is similar to most western restaurant menus.

Tonight, we’ve decided on octopus ($47). A generous serve of char-grilled tentacles are tender, but quite cold. It swims in a pool of sauce that is partly made up of a “yuzu yogurt” and partly squid-ink dashi sauce. Dashi is typically a delicate broth made using nuanced seafood and umami flavours, but this is the exact opposite; it’s thick to the point of congealed, and it’s aggressively salty. Together, the black and white sauces combine to form a bit of a mess, both visually and taste-wise.

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A generous serve of char-grilled octopus tentacles. Photo supplied

A dollop of house-made chilli jam is probably the best part of the octopus dish, but by now it’s lost among a sea of competing flavours. There’s spring onion listed on the menu, but it’s not on the plate. There is, however, a bunch of micro herbs, which I suppose are there for decoration but end up being the hero. Oh dear.

The lamb is not quite what the menu promised. Photo: Paul Wood

Lamb ($65) is listed on the menu with edamame (Japanese soybeans), an endive and adzuki salad (adzuki is a red bean cultivated through East Asia) and tamanegi in brown butter. In its place comes two very nicely cooked double lamb cutlets on a bed of (unexpected) chickpeas, with (unexpected) puffed rice and (unexpected) sesame seeds, topped with (unexpected) snow-pea tendrils. This must be the most Middle Eastern-inspired Japanese dish I’ve tried. Talk about off-the-cuff (and off the menu) fusion.

We decide to try dessert, and then patiently wait as staff whizz by, seeming not to notice we have finished with mains. (I suppose it’s because we didn’t actually finish the mains.)

But the staff busy themselves. One to fold the napkin, one to pour the water, a couple of manager types standing around looking out over the floor ­– it’s difficult to work out who to interrupt to order dessert. But eventually we do. And add a couple of glasses of white to the order; something to wash down that octopus sauce.

Dessert is cherry black forest ($19) and, comparatively, it’s an absolute a delight. A gorgeous little cherry-shaped form sitting in a bed of snow-like powder, delicate and zingy. The faux-fruit cracks open to reveal frozen layers within, a cherry-flavoured centre and a creamy outer, all encased in an impossibly thin chocolate layer. Some minty flavour is offered from micro shiso (tiny Japanese mint with purple leaves) and it all melts together by the mouthful.

Koomo’s cherry black forest is a delight. Photo supplied

Technically, there are a bunch of things wrong with the food at Koomo, and generally it’s all just a bit uninspired. Nothing like a typical Japanese dining experience, or even a Pan-Asian one. It’s all a bit overpriced, too. But I guess that’s the cost of dining up in the clouds.


Level 10, Crowne Plaza Adelaide, 27 Frome Street
7077 2233


Tuesday ­– Sunday, 12pm-2.30pm and 6pm-9pm

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