Friday, 21 December 2012

Sake Restaurant - Hitting The Nail On The Head

Sake Restaurant which opened a few months ago at the newly redeveloped Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre Melbourne in Southbank is a concept that has been tried and refined through years of the brand successfully trading in Sydney and most recently Brisbane so I was looking forward to a polished and professional experience.

Situated at the St Kilda Road-end of the Southbank Promenade, the restaurant and bar have incorporated the design success and choices for that matter from their Brisbane property utilising the river to its advantage so when the weather is actually pleasing in our fine city of Melbourne that it doesn't matter if you are looking for a coffee, snack, alcoholic beverage or running the full gamut of seafood offerings, you will feel comfortable.

On this dining occasion, I had just seen Skyfall, and as I had deprived myself of food and beverage all day, when the epicurean emo and I presented ourselves very late one afternoon recently and announced that we wanted to eat and drink the restaurant into destitution, they were happy to oblige. Although there were spaces outside available which afforded views of the beautiful (sic) Yarra River which makes a good location for people watching, we instead opted for seats at the sushi bar since I am always keen to observe the chefs in action. The sushi bar actually mimics a proper bar and unlike at the Sydney property (and most sushi bars for that matter) the bar is not made of clear glass so there would be no show let alone fish on display.

The service manager, Scott, quickly came over to introduce himself and organised some Asahi beer for us to start proceedings. Scott is an interesting character who obviously took pride in his job and actually enjoyed it. I suppose working in Southbank does have its advantages and with the steady flow of professionals, locals and tourists all congregating in the same place, I am sure that I would find a great amount of amusement if not challenge in an environment myself.

A tuna tasting plate for two ($33) and sashimi tacos ($17) where our first foray into this locations epicurean goodness. The tuna and avacado sushi rolls were fresh, the white dressing enhanced the tuna takai salad and the tuna tacos, which are really just that, tuna sashimi in very small and delicate taco shells were easily consumed and washed down the gob with a shot of Kozaemon Junmai sake shot which is included in the price of the tasting plate. It only takes one taste of sake before I am in the zone so I immediately finished off my Asahi beer and then switched my allegiance to the sake list, which is quite extensive and I chose the first, which would not be the last, large carafe of Ymanadanishi.

Sake Restaurant is known for a few signature dishes. I decided to reacquaint myself with a few starting with the kingfish jalapeno ($22) which is Hiramasa kingfish with yuku soy topped with slices of jalapeno and coriander. Four of my favourite tastes merged into one certainly was not going to lead to a complaint but just a greater enthusiasm and a thirst for more of the fine sake but I could not help to see the similarities to the dish of the same name that you can get at Nobu. The patron ends up with more quantity of of fish though at Sake Restaurant whilst the quality remains consistently high.

Moving on to the Sushi Maki (cut rolls) part of the menu next, we ordered a couple rounds of dynamite rolls ($16) which include spicy tuna, shredded onion and cucumber with spicy tobiko. I could eat dynamite rolls like tortilla chips when they are prepared correctly and Sake Restaurant did not disappoint. Again, there was a fair quantity of fish, and rolls for that matter on offer, where the quality again remained high. Being in a cut roll mood, we then moved to the aptly named kingfish double crunch ($16) which incorporated the flavours of the signature dish, kingfish and jalapeno mayo with coriander, cucumber, tempura crunch (both inside and out) accompanied with a sweet soy and spicy tobiko. Again, a highly addictive roll and offering that made me lick my lips and down the sake like a madman in appreciation. Finally we ordered the nixon ($22) which consisted of a grilled eel enhanced with cream cheese, cucumber and tempura crunch mixed with jalapeno mayo once again but rolled inside out with avacado. A good reuse of the core ingredients and they complimented not only the sake but the eel and the cream cheese.

Throughout my visit, which lasted about three hours, the service remained engaging and professional. Once they realised that we both had dined at a Sake Restaurant incarnation before they were happy to leave us to our own devices to interpret and take pleasure from the menu at our own pace which was appreciated. I was not in a rush and the restaurant was happy to continually provide a consistent level of good service in a very clean and sleek setting. When thinking about Nobu and Koko and my recently experiences there, I would not only chose Sake Restaurant but recommend it with no hesitation.

Sake Restaurant in both Sydney and Brisbane are consistently awarded chef hats in the respective Good Food Guides and I believe that the Melbourne location has replicated the same winning formula so I am sure we can all look forward to another hatted entry in The Age Good Food Guide next year.  

Sake Melbourne Hamer Hall
Sake Restaurant and Bar
Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne
100 St Kilda Road, Southbank VIC 3004
Phone:(03) 8687 0775
My Rating: 14.75/20
Service: 3.5/5
Ambiance: 3.75/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

At the time of this post, 70% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Sake Restaurant.

Sake Restaurant & Bar (Hamer Hall) on Urbanspoon