381 King St
Newtown, NSW 2042
I have been a dog person my entire life. I love the way dogs are just bundles of energy and unconditional love, and the fact that they’re so cute definitely doesn’t hurt either. On the other hand, I’ve always thought cats were aloof, smarmy little devils, and no amount of pleading from my cat-loving sister could change my mind. Despite that however, I now live with a cat. Whilst I can confirm that they are indeed aloof, smarmy little devils, they’re also hilarious little gremlins full of shenanigans, and have plenty of love to offer… but all on their terms, of course. I still love dogs, but I daresay I now love cats just as much. And although that’s not the reason I decided to visit Neko Neko, I was definitely felt more kindly towards the feline-centric eatery after getting my own live-in furball.
Neko Neko, being a pescatarian/vegan restaurant, is unsurprisingly found in Newtown, and unsurprisingly found in the part of Newtown where all the veggie restaurants congregate. It sits directly opposite Gigi’s, a veteran and trailblazer of the vegan foodie scene with their entirely plant-based pizzas. So if all else fails, just look for the long line of people outside Gigi’s, and Neko Neko will be right nearby.
Although you can’t exist in Newtown without some degree of cool-cred, I was still surprised by how well fitted-out Neko Neko was. The décor was decidedly Japanese-zen, but there are little homely touches here and there that turn the space into something a little more casual and warm, plus plenty of greenery as a nod to the millennial obsession of covering every surface with plants (guilty as charged!). The music is mellow but decidedly bass-heavy, pairing well with the chill yet friendly service.
I was initially going to get the sashimi carpaccio set, but unfortunately they were out of fresh salmon that day – dammit Covid! – so I decided to have the Pan Fried Teriyaki Balsamic Tasmania Salmon Teishoku Meal Set ($27) instead. If you’re prone to FOMO, the teishoku is the thing to get. Each set comes with 7 different sides, and ranges from the traditional – braised eggplant, cucumber pickles – to the unconventional – turmeric-spiced tofu scramble, fennel and celery pickled in beetroot. There’s also a serve of perfectly cooked purple rice, each grain plump and nutty, and just sticky enough to be picked up with chopsticks. As for my main dish, it’s generous in portion, and the sticky-sweet teriyaki glaze was on-point, but unfortunately the fish itself was dry, which is rather impressive (and not in the good way) given how fatty of a fish salmon is. But all up, I was happy with this dish, especially on a hot summer afternoon where I was looking for something light yet nourishing.
Just like cats, I was against the idea of vegan ramen until Lonely Mouth taught me how good it could be. And seeing as Neko Neko even has an amazing poster advertising their vegan ramen, who am I to argue against their Tan Tan Ramen ($23)?
Ok so this isn’t quite as good as Lonely Mouth, but that’s a hard act to follow. Nonetheless, this is still a perfectly respectable bowl of noodles. The creamy soy milk-based broth didn’t quite have as much depth as I would have hoped, but the generous slick of smoky chilli oil gave it a welcome flavour boost, and the soy mince was rather convincing too. My favourite part however is taking big bites of the thick chewy noodles, interspersed with a rainbow of crunchy veggies – the combination of textures is just so incredibly satisfying.
Neko Neko is a sweet little spot for some lovingly made Japanese food, especially if you’ve got a few dietary restrictions under your belt. It is admittedly a bit on the expensive end, and portions lean towards conservative, but given the care that has clearly been put into the food, as well as the current economy, it is largely justified.
Rating: 12.5/20 – go to my instagram (@sweetandsourfork) to see photos of my cat!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.