Disclaimer: I was invited by HotHouse Media to attend the preview dinner event at Saké Restaurant & Bar. All thoughts and opinions are based purely on my experience at the time of visit.
To start off the proceedings, we were offered a twist on a Tom Collins - instead of using Gin, they substituted it with Shochu which has a neutral flavour to work well in the cocktail. It was sweet, refreshing and I do love to finish with a mascarpone cherry.
An inspired Tom Collins
That night, we dined on the Signature menu ($88) which consists of seven courses and would be ideal for those who don't want to think, just relax and eat. Our dishes were all matched with sake specially selected by Alex Watson, who was a few days fresh off the plane from his trip to Japan immersing himself in the sake culture there. We were all starving and the Kingfish tataki was a welcoming sight. The Kingfish, firm with a mild fishy taste, went superbly well with the citrus, salty marinade and the jalapeño gave it an extra kick of tang.
Kingﬁsh jalapeño - Hiramasa Kingﬁsh, yuzu soy, jalapeño & coriander
The Salmon tataki was delicate with the sauce reminding me of a Japanese mustard, karashi; although it lacked that little something to bring it up to par with the Kingfish.
Salmon tataki, jalapeño dressing
I'm not sake expert in any means but this sake was elegant and smooth with a slight acidity.
Kozaemon Junmai Daiginjo
Bearing many similarities with aracini, the rice was creamy and soft with morsels of soy bean, bamboo and shitake mushroom hidden in a crunchy coating. The panko fried rice balls with the wasabi mayonnaise were the perfect carb dish to fill up our hungry stomachs.
Panko fried rice balls with soy bean, bamboo & shitake mushroom
The miso maranited cod was smoky and salty balanced by the slivers of ginger and fresh lettuce. One was simply not enough, I could have eaten a dozen of these.
Silver cod lettuce cups - grilled miso-marinated silver cod in lettuce cups
The popcorn shrimp was an impressive serving and while I enjoyed it, the creamy sauce could have done with more spiciness; nonetheless it suited the crisp battered shrimp.
Popcorn shrimp with creamy spicy sauce & yuzu dressed salad
I much preferred the second sake poured - a crisp flavour that balanced out the heavy, fried dishes.
Kozaemon Junmai Ginjo Shinano (organic)
The pièce de résistance of the night was the Wagyu beef which was tender and had a wonderful meaty flavour. The buckwheat was a tad bit too salty for me personally but others thought it was fine.
Wagyu teriyaki 7+ wagyu beef, sautéed shitake & buckwheat, yakiniku sauce
The mixed green salad was seasoned beautifully however I found the miso soup salty.
Mixed green salad, steamed rice and miso soup
A glass of pinot noir accompanied the wagyu beef perfectly.
Two Paddocks 'Picnic' Pinot Noir 2010
To finish off our meal, the buttermilk panna cotta layered with passion fruit coulis in the beautiful Japanese ceramic bowl had the whole table cooing. The texture of the panna cotta was light and melted away, marrying well with the tart passion fruit coulis.
Chef’s dessert - buttermilk panna cotta with passionfruit coulis
The yuzu sake was by far my favourite - for those of you who don't know what yuzu is, it is a citrus fruit, like a cross of a mandarin and lemon - balanced well between sweet and sour. This is definitely one of those drinks you can drink large amounts because it's so tasty and refreshing and then suddenly, you're laying down trying to stop the floor from spinning around you.
Although I tend to favour the more traditional side of Japanese cuisine, I did enjoy Saké's fusion take using fresh produce and flavours. If you're interested in visiting Saké Restaurant & Bar, they have a couple of special events as part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival that you can check out:
- Samurai & Sakè
Date: 6 March
Time: 7.30pm – 11.00pm
- Sushi Ragamuffin Master Class with Shaun Presland with sounds from Mista Savona
Date: 9 March
Time: 2pm – 3.30pm
Lower Ground Hamer Hall
Arts Centre Melbourne
100 St Kilda Road
Melbourne VIC 3004
(03) 8687 0775
Lunch daily noon - 3pm
Mon to Thu 6pm - 10.30pm
Fri 6pm - midnight
Sat 5.30pm - 11.30pm
Sun 5pm - 10pm