Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saké Restaurant @ Eagle Street, Brisbane

The last time I had an invitation to a restaurant review was when I was back in Malaysia, somewhat when I was still very active in food blogging. That still, invitations were as rare as you see Wagyu beef on menus 2 years ago. However, from what I see in the food blogging scene back in Malaysia, invitations seem to be as common as eating Wagyu beef nowadays. 

However in Australia, invitations to me seem to be as rare as eating kobe beef (oh wait, make that Matsusaka beef).

That being said, after blogging in Australia for close to a year, I am proud to say that Lots of Cravings have been noticed and scored its first invitation in Brisbane last Tuesday (which does not mean I got to eat the Matsusaka beef). 

And may I add, not to some faraway place like my first invitation (from what I can remember back in 2008) at the hotel in the KL International Airport (which was an 1 hour drive away).

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invite from the wonderful Caitlin from Cocom PR to Sake, one of the newer additions to the upmarket Japanese restaurants in Brisbane. With the Sydney outlet being a one hatted restaurant and the executive chef being somewhat famous (any chef appearing in MasterChef is considered famous in my eyes), who could say no?

With the menu being the Winter menu, I sat down along with the food bloggers of the town, prepared to be dazzled.  


Whisked into one of their private rooms, we were served with our first glass of sake; the Amabuki Daiginjo. Like any good glass of alcohol, it doesn't burn your throat when it goes down and tastes much more complex than drinking pure alcohol. This glass was a good start, a fruity slant in the mouth. 


We were quickly served our amuse bouche, a slice of amberjack freshly caught that early morning with a ginger dressing. On the side, it was a starchy soup which I would have guessed as potato which turns out to be yam. While I would haven't served soup with sashimi, it was an interesting contrast.  


When the plate of Southern Blue Fin Tuna sashimi was placed on the table; my eyes glittered. Not exactly a fan of the leaner cut of Akami or the more lay man name of "Maguro", it was the fattier cuts from the belly being the Chu-toro and the O-toro that I enjoy. At AUD 5, 7 and 10 a slice respectively, you better enjoy how the fish melts in your mouth.    


Continuing with the sashimi, we had two Kumamoto Oysters topped with a bonito dashi jelly and flying fish roe and a scallop that was lightly seared topped with salmon roe and ponzu sauce. No complaints as all the toppings and sauces complimented the fresh seafood. 


A venison tataki appeared on the table somewhat similar to a carpaccio except for the light sear on all sides. The topping of crispy ginger chips, pickled pears and plum topped with a sansho pepper dressing are all delicately placed. It is almost like art, alas art does not make you full as I stared for another 5 seconds before polishing the plate. 


Days before the dinner, we had been drinking beef bone marrow soup, a cheap delicacy recipe from a Korean friend. Soothing broth and rich creamy marrow although in a different league (lower) to the tuna marrow version here. The lighter and clearer consomme was paired with a spanner crab and yellow tuna dumpling with a variety of mushrooms. A outer tuna layer had a dry texture which is luckily compensated by the sweet almost raw like crab filing. 


The Quail done three ways definitely didn't look like it came out from a Japanese kitchen. The main star of the trio is the galantine stuffed with yama-gobo and shiitake mushrooms. It is complimented by a piece of quail karaage and a roasted wing. Although it looks more comfortable on a table of a French restaurant, the Japanese flavours are evident especially the sweet soy glaze. 


Another beautiful plate; this time a winter salad that had persimmon, kumquats, daikon, celery, minza, spinach, renkon and radish with a ginger and guava dressing. Most were lightly pickled or fresh. The highlights were the beetroot leaves and the fried lotus roots. 

By this time, we had one more main dish before a dessert and apart from sashimi, this omakase or kaiseki had not seen the appearance of any classic Japanese dishes, like your tempura, nabe, teriyaki or noodles i.e. udon and soba. Despite being labelled as a winter menu, there were no stews or heavy soup dishes that I associate with winter dishes. Everything was very light yet tasty. However, by now, I realised Sake was not having any of that. In a new school of thought, the meal was almost designed to be carb-free and we ended with a bang with the Wagyu beef. 


Having eaten Kobe Beef, the Grade 7 Wagyu Sirloin came a close second. Grilled beautifully, it was accompanied with a white sesame and ginger miso emulsion which should be taken in small quantities because of the salty feature, confit sato-imo (tiny yam) and onion bulbs. I would be happy to be served this dish alone but with double the amount of cow. 

With 7 courses tucked in, it was finally dessert time (although I was still pretty sure I could survive another 2-3 courses more before calling it a day). 


Inspired by an incident which involved the head chef kicking a soccer ball into his mom's herb garden, causing a big mess, the Chocolate Garden had a dark chocolate bavaroi, chocolate sand, white chocolate sorbet and chocolate liqueur jelly. A mess it tried to replicate but look carefully, again it was plated with care. A beautiful way to finish off the meal and a must order if you love chocolates. Totally unexpected dessert to come out from a Japanese kitchen, where did the black sesame ice-cream go?

As an option, a flight of sake from the Kozaemon label can accompany your meal and you be amazed how the sake interact with each of the dishes. Tasting glasses were in the AUD10 range.

For AUD 115 (just the food), the price appears to be on par with most of the high end places (if not slightly cheaper) and if I had a reason to celebrate, Sake will definitely be at the back of my mind. 

Address and contact details:

Saké Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

  Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. You get what you pay and even though I didn't have to pay a cent, I be happy to pay the price because I definitely enjoyed the flight of dishes; flavour profile was distinctly Japanese but were all beautifully plated like Modern Australian fine dining cuisine. 
Exactly what you want to get when you leave the choice of what to eat to the chef. Speaking of which, Shinichi Maeda has done a great job in modernising Japanese food away from the typical dishes. A quick look into the ala-carte menu though, still shows you have the option to go back, but why would you if you can have all things fresh and new?


Michelle Chin said...

Congrats congrats. Hehe. :)

The Bakeanista said...

Yay you got invites from Brisbane PR agency! That's good! :D And those pictures are looking good. Now i want good Jap food too!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

bakeanista: haha its an "invite", although i wont mind more.

mchin: why, thank u thank u.

Baby Sumo said...

The plating of the food is gorgeous. Hopefully the PR company sends more invites your way after seeing this :)

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

babysumo: yeah i know, its really a first for me to c such intricate plating in jap cuisine.

Sean said...

quite a spectacular spread. must remember this place if i'm ever in brisbane :D

Cora said...

Beautiful photos Joe! Do you have the ones you took at the start of the night of the group?

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

cora: hey thanks. erm, no i dont remember taking pictures of the group, someone else perhaps?


oh you lucky thing!
I hope Sake lived up to your expectations? :)
I have already visited twice. Next time I will probably try their tasting menu! hehe
I wonder where you will be invited to next! ;)

James Pearson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

james: hope u get to visit australia one day and continue eating jap food!

omggimmenow: yes u should give the tasting menu a go, i think the perfect way to sample a bit of everything so you can save your money and calories on another restaurant.