A steaming ramen soup at lunchtime, pheasant terrine with miso apple in the evening: at Sōko, the combination of traditional Japanese recipes and dishes with the ingredients that the region has to offer succeeds. This culinary tightrope walk is led by Filipe Costa and Henry Jansky.
Vegetarian tartare with miso mayonnaise and avocado, deep-fried tofu balls in a crispy tempura coating or ramen with grilled pork belly, spring onions and pak choi: at first glance, the menu of Sōko at Kalkbreitestrasse 33 clearly has Asian, or more precisely Japanese, features. "But we see ourselves quite clearly as fusion cuisine between Asian and European influences," explains Filipe Costa, who runs the restaurant together with Henry Jansky.
'Always with an Asian touch. Always with a European nuance as well.'
"Important for our cuisine are certainly our ramen, the traditional noodles with all kinds of ingredients in Japanese soups. But we only serve them at lunch." In the evening, on the other hand, they work with a different menu and a very broad tasting menu that changes depending on the season. "Always with an Asian touch. But always with a European nuance as well. A tightrope walk." For example, the pheasant terrine with fermented miso apple or the venison loin entrecôte with shiitake and ricotta spaetzli.
'We want to avoid ingredients being transported halfway around the world.'
"It is important to us that as much as possible is produced here in house," explains Filipe. "With Asian cuisine, most people think that the ingredients are transported halfway around the world before they end up on the plate. We want to prevent that." So not only do they make their own soy sauce, yuzu lemonades or hibiscus iced teas, and carry out the so typically Japanese koji fermentation in the Sōko. "We also make the gyozas here ourselves by hand. Quite an effort, but in return we know exactly what ends up in the gyoza."
For the chefs of the Sōko, he says, this is a real challenge, but at the same time an invitation to let off steam creatively. "We don't want to tie ourselves down by saying that we cook purely Japanese." This allows team members like chef Oliver Oberlin, who until recently was sous chef at Restaurant Haute, to let off steam and come up with exciting creations. A pike-perch roulade with ginger, lemongrass foam and miso spinach, for example. "And we even have a vegan brie cheese made from cashew nuts on offer now," adds Filipe.
'We try to buy as regionally and sustainably as possible.'
The quality of the processed products is particularly important to Filipe. "We try to buy as regionally and sustainably as possible and to work with local partners. For example, the fish used comes from a trout and salmon farm here in Switzerland, the meat comes from farmers in the canton, and the soy for their own soy sauce and soy milk also comes from the region.
The distribution of tasks between the managers Felipe and Henry is not clearly regulated in the Sōko. "Of course we have a few things that one prefers to do rather than the other. But on the whole we help each other and also make the most important decisions together," says Filipe. The two have already worked together on the pop-up series "Freundeskreis". Freundeskreis thinkers Alexander Jakob and Maximilian Baumann are also behind the Sōko here in Zurich. "That's where our name comes from: Sōko means 'camp' in German. For years we went around with the Freundeskreis and cooked great dishes in great locations. With the Sōko, we now have our camp, our base, our headquarters," explains Filipe.
Umeshu plum wine, bergamot liqueur, Campari and Supasawa.
The balancing act between Asian and European cuisine is not only evident on the menu, but also in the drinks: "We are often asked if we don't have Japanese beer. Our answer: No. Because we are not an Asian restaurant." To drink, in addition to local beers, there are also selected European wines, for example from France or Austria. "Because we think they go better with our fusion cuisine," Filipe knows. The cocktails also clearly bear the Sōko's signature. "Of course, we have classics like Gin Tonic or Moscow Mule. But we are much more proud of our own creations." For example, the Ume Oishi. Ingredients: Umeshu plum wine, bergamot liqueur, Campari and Supasawa. "Our own ideas, our own style.