TUCKED away on the lobby level at Jupiters Hotel and Casino is a portal to a culinary journey the Gold Coast rarely enjoys.
The last time I can remember dining in that space the plaque at the door welcomed us to Charters Tower, Jupiters' signature restaurant for many years. There were fond memories there, including a marriage proposal and evenings filled with fine food, wine and laughter.
But the shadow of that bygone era fades quickly as we settle in at the bar of the new Kiyomi restaurant. There's a new kid in town.
From the earthy tones that bend the body's speed dial back a couple of notches, to the intimate spaces and subdued lighting that envelop our small group, there is an expectation that this will be a special night.
Culinary master Chase Kojima, who splits his time between the Gold Coast and Sydney where he has made his mark with Sokyo at The Star, instantly has us poring over the menu and making impossible decisions between the grilled octopus with green sauce and watermelon, and Kojima's signature dish, the crispy rise spice tuna.
The menu is well defined, with culinary creations separated into four categories sashimi (raw), izakaya (small plates), tempura (fried) and binchotan (grill).
On the surface it is familiar ground for Japanese food lovers, but it's not until the dishes land on the table that you realise that the rules don't apply even down to the home-made gluten-free soy.
The charred flavour of tender octopus combined with the refreshing sweetness of the watermelon, at first glance, is a flavour combination that just shouldn't work, but it does. The crispy rice spice tuna might have been more predictable, but the textured layers were sublimely balanced to make it even more memorable.
There was a taste of the exotic with the Dengakuman toothfish with caramelised miso and cucumber. The fish is caught in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, some way off Perth's sunny shores. Light on but definitely a worthy indulgence.
Tempura Moreton Bay bugs brought the flavours closer to home, accompanied by grapefruit, sambal, mayonnaise and vinegar (pictured right). Sweet flavours as expected.
As for the sushi, I have to go back for more. The soft shell crab with avocado was so delicate that the sushi standard became a new experience all over again.
The highlight was the Wagyu roll a warm sushi that was both hearty and a great accompaniment to Japanese beer.
Sashimi was priced from $5 to $24, sushi from $9 to $23 and traditional sushi from $8 to $12.
Japanese restaurant often means dessert is an afterthought. Again, the rules don't apply.
Let's start with Goma Street, a tempered dark chocolate, caramelised white chocolate mousse with black sesame ice cream. It was voted the most favoured by the table.
The Apple Jack (pictured left) appeared more familiar, combining confit Granny Smith apples and spiced up with gingerbread honey ice-cream and Jack Daniels foam. Loved the flavours and it was my pick for the perfect end to the meal.
The Mango Shiso combined mascarpone and yoghurt cream, shiso meringue, toasted milk powder, and mango sorbet - a refreshing combination.
Kiyomi's menu is first rate, combining creativity and flair. The ambience ticks the boxes for either a romantic dinner or a business meeting it's designed to impress. Service also was excellent, as we would expect of Chase Kojima.
But if for nothing else, I have to go back for the Wagyu roll.
Main picture: Binchotan Duck Breast with Beetroot, Sansho Pepper and Wasabi
For your chance to win a $200 dining experience at Kiyomi Restaurant, email [email protected] before COB Friday 24 April with KIYOMI in the subject line.
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support