At The Bar with Darling Group’s Executive Chef Ashly Hicks

A new Japanese inspired Izakaya diner has arrived in South Yarra. Token is where you’ll find Darling Group’s Executive Chef Ashly Hicks alongside Head Chef Jun Sun  – both having worked in some of the finest spots in Melbourne including Crown’s Nobu and St Kilda’s Ichi Ni Izakaya.

The food at Token leans on all the hallmarks of Izakaya dining, where raw reigns supreme while coal-grilled dishes are flamed to perfection.

Ashly Hicks talks to The Write Drop about the menu at the new 150-seat-diner, sharing tips on pairing dishes with cocktails and wines.

“For me, it’s hard to go past starting with a house gin martini with umeshu and one of each of the temaki,” says Ashly Hicks.

He adds a margarita pairs perfectly with the pan-fried wombok gyoza and crispy pork, while a glass of Bandol rosé is the ticket when ordering the Miso ‘Cacio e Pepe’ furikake with toasted nori.

MY CITY 

Melbourne. The cultural diversity, the sport, the food and the hospitality. Being from a northern state and having lived in Melbourne for 14 years, I can safely call this city my home.

FAVOURITE FOOD MEMORY

I have quite a few of these, but the one that is the most emotional would be dining at Michelin-starred restaurant Tom Aikens in London after my 1.5 year stint there in the kitchen, and it was number 8 in the world at the time. And….the most surprising was stumbling across a Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Sapporo, Japan, as a walk-in and being shown the epitome of what hospitality is and what it means in Japanese culture.

FAVOURITE BAR

Any bar that Kev Peters worked behind, he is one of my closest friends. I never placed an order. He always knew what to give me in any mood I was in post-dining service.

WORK THAT DESCRIBES YOUR PERSONALITY

“Ichiro’s malt wine wood reserves Japanese whisky” neat – a bit of spice at the beginning, but it smooths out once opening up.

BEST HANGOVER CURE

Pushing through the hangover. I try not to think about it and a double espresso.

FAVE WINE

Oooh this is tough! I have a few, but one was a magnum of Ruinart Blanc De Blanc shared celebrating close friends’ birthdays and lockdown endings and beginnings.

FAVE WINERY

Vinea Marson Winery near Heathcote. A multi-generational family-owned boutique winery. Sitting out on the sandstone terrace, you are transported straight to the Italian wine country.

NEXT DESTINATION

Japan! We are taking our daughter on her first overseas trip and going up north to Hokkaido for the snow festival, to Tokyo, Kyoto. We’ve been before and have been busting to get back since.

DRINK LIKE A LOCAL AT TOKEN

We have 2 local tap beers: Mountain Culture Status Quo and Hop Nation Rattenhund Pilsner.

INTERNATIONAL DRINK OF CHOICE AT TOKEN

I like Moriki Rumiko Kimoto 2020 sake.

A CLASSIC JAPANESE COCKTAIL TO TRY

Definitely the Lowball is our Bar manager Tyler’s riff on a Highball, a Japanese izakaya staple.

 

 

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