Close friends of mine know that one of my preferred Japanese restaurants in Sydney is Sake Restaurant & Bar. Sure, it’s not my favourite (I think Sokyo takes that crown), but there’s something about the types of food served here that’s just…right when paired with the ambiance. Besides, what other Japanese restaurants serve sashimi tacos and popcorn shrimp? The latter being one of my favourite dishes.
So it was, that I decided to visit Sake once more with parents to try out something I have not partaken in before – their chef’s menu – a la degustation.
Date Last Visited: 19/7/2013
Address: 12 Argyle St The Rocks, NSW 2000
Recommended Dish(es): not the degustation
The chef’s menu is not prominently featured in their menu. It only takes up a small spot on the lower right corner, and isn’t emphasised. Discreet and discerning is the key, but are the dishes themselves the same? For $110pp, let’s find out.
As usual, Sake’s interior is pretty but also loud – it really is like a fancy pub. Makes sense, given its namesake.
But still, despite that, this is a restaurant of the Argyle, where quality is a big deal. Take Ananas for example. Presentation strives to be immaculate.
As it was a bit of an occasion, we all got some sake to start things off. Now I’m almost a teetotaler, so I don’t even remember what we ended up getting – but they were all quite strong, befitting the amount we get. Dad’s had a more plum overtone to it, while mine was peach, and mum’s apple. Don’t be fooled though – that’s just a mask as the overall taste is still 95% sake. If you like sake, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be unsatisfied by Sake’s range.
One of my favourite fish starts the deg off. So far, so good. The jalapeno salmon is most delicious, each fatty cut chows down excellently with the jalapeno mustard sauce. Bonus points for presentation – each cut has a line of fat on the side and layered to form a work of art *cough*.
If the rest of the deg is like this, then it has merit!
Now this is a unique one I have not seen before. The wagyu tartare is not something I’ve noticed on the menu, but I’m glad it made its way into the deg. Flavours were not overtly strong, more muted. While I’d have liked a strong flavour base, the extant palate was quite good already.
Where it shines is texture – as it’s tartare, it’s either love it or hate it due to its “rawness”, but really allows you to taste the beef. Love it!
Unfortunately, this is where the deg begins to take a bit of a turn for the worse. The silver cod lettuce cups promised great tasting fish with a san choy bao-style wrapping, but what I got instead was too much lettuce, too little fish and overall not all that much flavour.
Chinese-inspired steamed prawn dumplings sadly also fail to make the mark. The problem was two-fold. One, there was not enough prawn relative to the dough, and two, the flavours, particularly in the sauce was just too weak. As such, it’s like dipping flour balls into distilled vinegar. Not all that impressive, I have to say. Certainly not Sake standards.
The deg picks up with the pan seared ocean barramundi, a fantastic dish. A perfectly seared skin covering a belly of tender meat with a delicious, delicious butter soy. My mouth waters as I write about this dish. It’s great!
In terms of pure flavour, the scampi tempura really takes the cake home. The sauce and crispness of that batter just win so much. A safe dish, to be sure, but one that doesn’t disappoint. Full of flavour and crunchiness. After all, when did deep fried stuff paired with good sauce displease?
Another high point of the deg, the nigiri sushi at Sake, as always, is a necessary buy. Need I say more?
To close off the meal, a decent, but not impressive chocolate fondant is presented to us. As shown below, the fondant is texturally sound, with a firm cake surround and gooey innards oozing out, but the letdown was surprisingly the taste. It just wasn’t all that good.
The vanilla bean ice cream was a bit better, and I preferred it over the fondant, especially in its ability to cut through the fondant’s dullness.
So…what’s the verdict? A degustation is really meant to be a menu for which a newcomer to a restaurant can sample the best of that restaurant. In that regard, I very much would not recommend the deg – Sake does so much better if you know what dishes to order. It’s just unfortunate that they didn’t put their best dishes into the deg. With a price of $110 per person, it would also be much better to just go a la carte – e.g. for $220 between 2 people, you can get so much more variety.
A side of popcorn shrimp and avo maki rolls, much?
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Awesome: half the dishes in the degustation
Not so Awesome: the other half