According to Korean culture, the most auspicious sign of the zodiac is the rabbit, which is a symbol that, for local Korean chef (and rising hospitality star) Jason Kim, has become something of a recurring motif. Now, Kim is harnessing the lucky symbol for his new culinary venture, Tokki (Korean for ‘rabbit’), a delicious restaurant and wine bar serving the kind of Korean food you’re unlikely to have ever tried before.
Born in Korea but raised in New Zealand, Kim’s cuisine is beloved for the way that it straddles the two cultures in which he was raised — where authentic bites are delivered in a contemporary way, and fresh New Zealand produce is harnessed to create truly unique dishes.
You may be familiar with Kim’s Commercial Bay outpost, Gochu, famous for its milk buns that regularly sell out. Otherwise, you might know him from his tenure in the kitchens of some of Auckland’s best restaurants, including Sidart, Cassia, The Grove and Clooney. Tokki offers something different. Its menu heroes pared-back but delightfully inspired cuisine that puts an unexpected twist on authentic flavours, while its inviting space is set in the heart of Milford’s bustling main street (a northern suburb not previously known for its culinary offering). In a way, Tokki marks a return to Kim’s roots, and the result is pretty special.
Kim describes the Tokki menu as authentic fare, with none of the fried chicken, bubbling clay pots or lashings of chilli and cheese one might expect from a typical Korean restaurant. While still a casual affair, the food here offers a more playful take on Korean cuisine without losing its refined edge. Ultimately, Tokki grounds itself in a menu of considered and elevated traditional dishes that reimagine classic street-food tropes and snacks that speak to the chef’s heritage.
“Korean cuisine is not just strong flavours and cheap and cheerful,” he shares. “Traditional Korean is more subtle and elegant. It’s about highlighting beautiful produce and the flavour and freshness of the ingredients and not messing around with it too much.”
You can find this homage to traditional foods in dishes like the crispy chicken wing, carefully stuffed with prawn and mushroom, or the Tokki toasties, filled with layers of mortadella and oiji (pickled cucumbers). And, of course, the mouth-watering beef short ribs with black garlic jus and white kimchi. For dessert? Melona smores, of course — a traditional Korean ice cream, presented as little works of art.
This ode to traditional cuisine is concerned with more than just flavour alone, seen in one dish made of noodles up to a metre long, something that Kim tells me is believed to be beneficial for your health in Korean culture. This attention to detail is seen at every level of Tokki’s menu, with many of the ingredients made and fermented in-house, including the kimchi, soy sauce and soybean paste, and a strong focus placed on traditional foods, with specialist produce sourced from Korean growers in Silverdale.
As far as drinks are concerned, Tokki’s menu comprises an impressive offering of wines curated by Hiro Kawahara, a sommelier and friend of Kim’s. Showcasing a range of exceptional New Zealand and French wines, alongside a selection of fine natural wines, exquisite Japanese whisky and authentic soju digestifs, the libations on offer run the gamut from classic drops to specialised spirits and promise to complement the food perfectly.
Despite its North Shore neighbourhood, we’re expecting news of Tokki’s delicious food to draw people from all over Auckland to sample its unique offering. Our advice? Book a table now to experience it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.
Tuesday — Saturday, 5pm until late.
Closed Sunday & Monday.
Is there a new opening you believe should be on our radar? Let us know at [email protected]
87 Kitchener Road,