Sake Bar Restaurant
71 Francis Street
(08) 9328 3380
After what was officially The Shittiest Semester Ever, my law exams finished last Monday. Naturally, I've been out for dinner and drinks and coffee and tapas and lunch and midnight banana split escapades almost every day. Places I crossed off the post-exams hit list this week were: Little Creatures Brewery, Sake Bar Restaurant, The Precinct, Clarence's, The Moon, Greenhouse, Pepper Lunch, Kailis Brothers Fremantle, Fast Eddy's, Foo Wah Chinese Restaurant, The Subiaco Hotel, The Atrium, The Raffles Hotel and drunken drive-thru at McDonalds (the one on Canning Highway, twice, at 4am). But out of all the meals I've had lately, Sake would have to be one of my favourites.
Figure 1: Shots shots shots shots shots shots MINASAN!
Sake, the namesake of the restaurant, is a Japanese alcohol made from rice produced by a brewing process. So even though it's referred to by most English speaking countries as 'rice wine', it's technically 'rice beer'. When we ordered the Sake for our table, all of us got a little dish which I thought was for soya sauce, but turns out that was the cup you drink the Sake out of, called a choko. The Sake itself is poured out of a cute little flask called a tokkuri. We had our Sake warm, but it can also be served at room temperature or chilled, depending on the quality of the Sake, the season and the preference of the drinker. Because I'm a foodie and not a drinkie, it's hard for me to describe what it tasted like, but it went down very easily indeed, especially after Nagulan made me do about 20 shots of it. Bully.
Figure 2: Recently opened opposite Dragon Palace
A lot of people have remarked on Urbanspoon that the interior decor of Sake is really neat - which is true. I didn't get any good photos, but everything looks charmingly traditional and and there are these booths along the sides of the restaurant with little bamboo windows. The service is friendly and accurate. The only other comment I would make would be that the menus are pretty confusing. There's a page for entrées, then another one for sushi, then a separate cocktail menu which has a bar food menu within it which is really more entrées, then one for sashimi, then another one for mains, and another for sides (the mains don't come with rice or miso) which includes some items that could also come as entrées. And none of the items have explanations under them. I think I actually spent a solid 20 minutes with no idea about what I wanted to order. I realised this was time well spent when our food arrived though.
Figure 3: Wagyu Beef tataki
First up, me and Jeremy shared a Wagyu Beef Tataki ($18). The beef came thinly sliced, a few millimetres thick, in a light sauce and topped with three types of onion: a crispy sliver of eschalot, some red onion and some spring onion. As expected, it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and rich in flavour from the marbling. The acidity and crunch of the onion balanced the smooth creaminess of the meat really well. Even though $3.00 per piece is quite expensive, I'd still recommend it.
Figure 4: Quail leg tori ($13.9)
I didn't see anything from the mains that particularly caught my eye, so I just ordered a bunch of small dishes instead. I'd never had quail before, so I ordered some from the bar menu, and it came in a serving of four little quarters. I had no idea quails were so tiny! I ate these as politely as I could, but just ended up using my fingers to pull all of the delicate flesh from the little bones. Nothing too special, but the skin was nice and crispy and the meat was nicely cooked, not too oily.
Figure 5: Gyoza
Then I moved onto my Gyoza ($9), which was really satisfying. Gyoza are usually made with a ground pork, shredded cabbage and spring onion filling. The dumplings are steamed, then fried, which is why they are tender and moist but crispy on one side. Like much of the food I saw at Sake, it wasn't flamboyant, it didn't have a wow-factor, but was just executed really well without making a big fuss of it. Modest food.
Figure 6: Aburi Sushi
I definitely had my reservations about buying six units of nigiri sushi that was more expensive than some of the mains on offer, but I agreed to split the Aburi Sushi ($19) with Jeremy anyway. The dish was three types of sushi: king fish, salmon and scallop, which had been seared so very slightly and topped with a single flake of seasalt. He challenged me to a bet that it would be the best salmon I've ever had, loser buys the winner a drink.
The salmon was subtle, clean, fresh. I was amazed at how something so simple could taste so good. Dipped in a little soya sauce and wasabi, it was the best thing I ate that night. The scallop and kingfish sushi were just as delightful. Promise me that if you go to Sake, you'll order this dish, eat it slowly, and savour every bite.
Figure 7: Scallop nigiri sushi
Figure 8: Dragon ($20.9) and Spider Rolls ($22.9)
When I say most of the food at Sake doesn't have a visual wow-factor, I mean most of the food not including these two rolls. I was happy with what I ordered, but was still pretty jealous when these came for Joyce and Jackie sitting opposite me. I'll definitely get at least one of these next time, if not both. I am a complete sucker for soft shell crab.
Figure 9: Dragon Roll
Figure 10: Salmon Misoyaki
I also managed to steal a little bit of this Salmon Misoyaki ($22.8), which so fresh that the segments came apart as if someone had sliced the fish with a razor sharp knife. It came with a little garnish of some sort, the orange stick-looking thing, and when I bit off the top of it and swallowed, it actually scraped my throat on the way down. Maybe avoid eating that bit, but the fish itself was delicious.
Figure 11: Deliciously flaky
Figure 12: Takoyaki
Again with the scabbing, I had a piece of Joyce's Takoyaki ($8.9) which was perfect. Crispy on the outside, light and cloudy on the inside, topped with onion flakes and a salty-sweet takoyaki sauce. Most of the takoyaki I've had in Australia is always soggy, but the texture of Sake's was just divine. I could have eaten all six by myself, but my bill including drinks was a whopping $70, so I'll just have to wait until next time.
The verdict? Sake is a pricey place, but makes up for it by delivering quality dishes that are presented beautifully. Maybe save this one for a special occasion, when you can commit and order some sake-based cocktails as well. I've heard the Super Atomic produces interesting results.