Today I left for Sydney for work and was going to catch up with Sonia and her girlfriends for dinner. Sonia booked Sake restaurant at The Rocks which I am so excited about. I have seen Shaun Presland on Masterchef 2010 and was desperate to try it out. I’m in love with Japanese food and especially sashimi.
Shaun Presland is as Japanese as you can get without actually being born in the shadow of Mount Fuji. After two years in a purist ryokan in Yamagata in the mid-1990s learning both the language and the cooking, he returned to Australia to work with distinguished sushi masters at Unkai at ANA (now Shangri-La), later opening the Hemmes family’s elegant Sushi e at The Establishment before being nicked by Nobu Matsuhisa for Nobu Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Now he is back, teaming up with long-serving Sydney restaurateur John Szangolies, owner of Lowenbrau Keller and the Bavarian Bier Cafes, to launch Sake at The Rocks, just by the Argyle Steps. Housed in a heritage-listed building in what used to be Reds, Sake feels part rustic drinking tavern and part moody cocktail-fuelled club, thanks to some sympathetic design work by local team Luchetti Krelle.
You’ll find a simple wooden communal bench where patrons are able to overlook the open kitchen along with wooden bar stools and granite bar. There is also a raised area for traditional shoes-off tatami dining and cosy izakaya-like booths or if you like, you can also opt for either public or private rooms. One feature wall is built of hand-lettered sake barrels, another of metallic stencil-cuts and an alcove holds a vase of spring blossoms. It portrays a simplistic and warm ambience with friendly staff that are eager to serve and recommend their dishes available.
We were ushered to our table in the main dining room which was already busy with patrons. While we looked at the menu and decided on what we were going to order, we started off with some edamame which are soy beans still their pods, steamed and lightly salted.
We decided to order a few dishes to share, some cold dishes, some hot and some of their delicious deserts! We definitely had to have sashimi and on the sashimi platter, there were salmon, kingfish, tuna, scallops, squid and snapper. They were so fresh and beautifully presented. Salmon and kingfish were my favourites.
Our cold dishes were the kingfish jalapeno that is Hiramasa kingfish, sashimi sliced and topped with yuzu soy and topped with jalapenos. Again, the delicate slices of kingfish were extremely fresh and succulent. The yuzu soy is light and citrusy along with the heat from the jalapenos will give you that kick in your mouth.
Also another favourite of mine is the spider maki which is deep fried soft shell crab with slices of cucumber and mayo rolled up with sushi rice and topped with spicy tobiko and chives. I love soft shell crabs, so much so that we had it for our wedding reception dinner. Not a lot of restaurants can cook soft shell crab correctly and can become quite mushy. Not at Sake, it was lightly tempura battered and not too oily too.
How can you go to Japanese restaurant and not have wagyu?! We had to order their wagyu new style where thinly slices of wagyu beef lightly seared with hot oil and finished off with ginger, chives and yuzu soy. The beef is just beautiful, you can taste the sweetness and just lightly cooked from the oil and went perfectly with the citrusy yuzu soy. Simple and delicate flavours.
Then there was the popcorn shrimp which to me is such a fun dish. It is bite sized prawn tempura pieces tossed with a creamy spicy mayonnaise. I would love to be watching a movie and eating popcorn shrimp instead, it was that delicious!
We also ordered the steamed prawn dumplings which were Chinese inspired Shumai (or pork dumplings) served with a spicy ponzo. The rice paper wrapped around a tender succulent prawn, so simple but the sauce packed a punch and gave the dumplings the kicker it needed.
We couldn’t go past the desert menu without ordering some and boy, were we not disappointed! They were to die for! The chocolate fondant is a warm chocolate pudding served with white sesame ice cream and a black sesame tulle. The pudding was perfectly cooked and oozed with chocolate sauce when you break into the pudding. It wasn’t overly sweet and along with the white sesame ice cream is a perfect match. I am definitely going to try to make sesame ice cream the next time. And I loved the black sesame tulle, much like a thin Chinese biscuit make out of black sesame. It reminds me of a peanut and sesame cookie that we have at Chinese New Year.
We also shared the green apple mille feuille. Mille feuille is a vanilla slice, cream slice, custard slice, also known as the Napoleon, is a pastry originating in France. The name is also written as “millefeuille” and “mille feuille”. Traditionally, a Mille-feuille is made up of three layers of puff pastry, alternating with two layers of pastry cream, but sometimes whipped cream, or jam. The top is usually glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white (icing) and brown (chocolate) strips, and combed. Alternatively the top pastry layer may be dusted with confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, or pulverized nuts (e.g. roasted almonds). At Sake, they made theirs with green apple mousse which I must say is so light and fluffy. It is THE best mouse I have ever had, you can taste the slight flavour of the green apple, the tanginess that comes from the green apple. The mousse is layered between thin crispy pastries and served with beautiful, apple vanilla syrup. One of the best deserts I have ever had!
The meal cost us $90 person which included 2 bottles of wine and I thought that was pretty reasonable seeing the quality of the food that we had and great service too.
On the whole, 10 for the food quality, 9 ½ for the atmosphere, 9 for pricing and 9 ½ for service.
12 Argyle St
The Rocks Sydney
02 9259 5656
Open Monday – Sunday for lunch & dinner