Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant
Sake isn’t your typical Japanese restaurant. Located underneath the Arts Centre along the Yarra river, the modern Japanese restaurant is a perfect spot for post work drinks, a pre-theatre meal, or a more romantic date night. The huge space is split up into a myriad of cosy spots, making for still a rather cosy and intimate experience.
We started off mingling with cocktails in the bar area, I loved the Mr Brightside, actually concocted up by the mixologist while at another bar. It’s like a Godfather alternative, using Yamasaki single malt whiskey, Disaronna Amaretto and Ardberg Islay whiskey…when you’ve got a cold like I had that night, it’s exactly the thing you need. Strong but smooth. Definitely having a whiskey moment.
We got to eat in the upstairs area which is really lovely and cosy, with a beautiful lit up tree which just mystified me, and reminded me of Avatar quite a bit.
As I was saying, Sake isn’t your typical Japanese restaurant, as although there are definitely Japanese dishes on there, Wayne Brown, the executive chef, who speaks very gently but with great fondness, brings an innovative approach to some of the dishes. We were here in particular, to try some new dishes being introduced for autumn (my favourite season in the year personally!)
Our evening started with Aburi Hokkaido scallops with salted capers, tofu and lime, which included scallop jerky and scallop carpaccio served at room temperature. Wow. What a village of textures that lived here! A bit of crunch and chew from the jerky, silky and light tofu and creamy and full scallop in the mouth, that’s just been lightly torched. The citrus really came through as well, adding a nice pop of contrast. An overall great way to start the meal, especially when paired with Amabuki Junmai Daiginjo sake. Beautifully light and floral, yet relatively full bodied as well.
The wagyu tataki with soy egg, charred onion and Korean miso had me swooning. Although it sounds rich on paper, it’s actually not overly, perhaps because the Korean miso was so strong and dominant, which I loved (but I could see it not being everyone’s kind of thing). It seemed to balance out well with the tender wagyu, and I just loved smearing the soy egg on top all over the beef like a delicious sweet paste.
The second sake that was served, I only have Kozaemon in my notes, I’m not sure exactly which one was served, but this sake was massively different to the first, a lot dryer, and earthier with a sharper texture on the tongue, but much more length down the palate. I actually ended up liking this one more compared to the other one.
The fragrant duck breast with red den miso, snow pea tendrils and mikan marmalade was a surprisingly generous serve. The meat was served beautifully, blushing pink, with a lovely texture. It was like a Japanese take on a French duck a l’Orange.
The shiso granita palate cleanser was firstly adorable, in it’s gorgeous shade of pink, but secondly, surprising in flavour. It’s was very aromatic, and sweet, but yet herbaceous as well, and refreshing on the palate like mint. Very different (and I would totally be open to having a bigger serve next time, or stealing someone else’s serve…)
Last but not last, dessert was spectacular. Goma (black sesame) with salted 70% South American chocolate mousse, caramelised white chocolate and sesame ice cream. Oh my. Happy sighs. This dessert was absolutely everything. Crunchy, sweet and rich, sesame and chocolate works surprisingly well together, which was proven here! I’m honestly sitting here wishing I had better words to describe this dessert, but it’s really the kind of thing I feel like you must try on your own. This was my favourite dish of the night (I know normally dessert is, but this was really a spectacular dessert).
And of course, since we got a serve of Kokuto umeshu as well with dessert, I couldn’t have been a happier camper.
I’ve always been a fan of Japanese food, but particularly with Japanese food, it’s always interesting to see other people interpret it and find modern applications and new ways of doing things, which I think Sake has done in a very elegant fashion.
I’m certainly interested in coming back and seeing more of the menu (which is huge! Have you looked at it online?). I have a feeling it might be the kind of place I need to save more for an occasion; but it would therefore be a very enjoyed meal.
Hamer Hall, Arts Centre
100 St Kilda Road