There are restaurants around town that simply everyone recommends. You know, those talked about places where the food has the x-factor, the staff mix friendliness perfectly with attentiveness and where you come away from a lunch or dinner with the feeling that somehow anyone who wasn’t with you has had a lesser experience. Sake is one of those places and unlike many new kids on the block it has proved itself with significant staying power and consistently good food and service. It’s liked amongst casual diners and business professionals alike and after a recent long lunch there it is easy to see why.
A slew of people I know rate the karaage at Sake (photo below) as the best in Sydney but I find it hard to choose between Sake and Izakaya Fujiyama. Sake’s is lighter, spicier and more modern, while Izakaya Fujiyama’s is the classic Japanese style, the original deep fry, if you will. But I digress, as will you when you arrive at the lavish fit-out and enchanting bar slash restaurant housed on Argyle Street in The Rocks. Hosted by the equally enchanting Kavea, who some may remember from Tank night club days, a visit to Sake is the culinary equivalent of a long, warm hug.
A great way to start your journey is with freshly shucked oysters with Japanese salsa which is a prelude to the South American hints you see creeping into some of the dishes. The crescendo of these combinations and the dish you must try is the kingfish jalapeno, a wonderful modern take on sashimi with a dalliance of spice, soy and coriander. It’s spectacular in a way that is completely separate to the karaage although in no way less impressive. The delectable balance of opposites is evident throughout the menu with hot following cold, spicy mingling with salty, Japan with South America, and all washed down with a glass or two of Capanno Pinot Gris 2009 from the Southern Highlands of NSW. Delightful.
We further indulged with grainfed teriyaki wagyu, a fresh take on your traditional teriyaki beef that’s cooked medium rare and presented on sautéed shiitake mushrooms and buckwheat with yakiniku sauce (a dressing commonly used in Japan on grilled meats). Next up was a melody of tempura with tentsuyu dipping sauce (the classic tempura accompaniment) made up of prawns, fish and various seasonal vegetables. These are traditional Japanese dishes that have been given the “wow” factor through the use of fresh and unusual ingredients, and modern cooking variations. It is the clinical execution of these unique creations that has no doubt earned Sake a chef hat for two consecutive years.
Ending our meal was (obviously) dessert and it is worth saving some room for the chocolate fondant (top photo) comprised of a lusciously warm and moist chocolate pudding sitting at the other end of a plate of white sesame ice cream with a black sesame tuile (like a wafer) and scattered with grounded nuts. The balance of opposites was in full effect with this dessert and it crowned an exceptional lunch with the food rivaled only by the service. Sake has hit on a winning formula that appeals to many palates, and never fails to impress on your next visit, or the one after for that matter. This is Sydney dining par excellence.
Saké Restaurant & Bar
12 Argyle Street
The Rocks NSW 2000
(02) 9259 5656