In recent weeks passed on one summery evening, I was invited along to the newly revamped Art Centre’s Hamer Hall to dine at Sakè Restaurant and Bar, marking its arrival from Sydney and Brisbane. Being always somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to food, with “fusion” comes a degree of scepticism and hesitation. Sure, the view across Southbank is breathtaking and the interior design is impeccably stunning, with soft earthy tones and floral-oriental notes speckled throughout a lofty almost outdoorsy-feel space, leaving diners with a buoyant mood. But, is the food carried to a corresponding level? We shall see.
Kingfish Jalapeno, Hiramasa Kingfish, yuzu soy, jalapeno and coriander.
Salmon tataki jalapeno dressing.
Panko fried rice balls, soy bean, bamboo and shitake mushroom rice balls.
Toothfish lettuce cups, grilled miso-marinated Patagonian toothfish in lettuce cups.
Wagyu teriyaki, 7+ Wagyu beef, served on sautéed shitake and buckwheat with yakiniku sauce.
Shrimp tempura, creamy spicy sauce, yuzu dressed salad.
Buttermilk pannacotta, passionfruit coulis.
The night began with sashimi and tataki reinvented with a fairly light, well balanced jalopeno dressing that is enough to kick start the taste buds with a tiny kick of heat. The toothfish is a must try – it is a classic success story of an ugly fish dolled up to fit on a classy plate. It is juicy, fragrant with miso, but painfully bite sized though. The use of yuzu in several dishes is well received, bringing lively floral-citrus notes, though arguably underused in the heavier dishes to come.
From the heavier parts of the menu, the wagyu certainly cannot be faulted with a scrumptious buckwheat salad. But my utter approval stops here. The carb-heavy rice balls and heavily battered shrimp tempura (contrary to a true light tempura batter), though more-ish, falls too far into casual arena and is likely to leave one in a postprandial lethargic state. Failed attempt – no; moreish – yes; but certainly out of line with the lighter tones I love about Japanese cuisine.
The final sweet course, left me somewhat uninspired, craving for something more Japanese to finish the meal.
Rating: Yummy+1. The fusion fare offered at Sake provides promise, with glimpses of excellence, simplicity and elegance with a Japanese sake list that is incredibly charming. There are however, spells of controversy that for me stray too far from its Japanese heritage. When I eat Japanese, I *cough* expect red bean and green tea… but that’s just me.
[Sake Restaurant & Bar]
Where: Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd.
Contact: 03 8687 0775
[I dined courtesy of Sake Restaurant and Hot House Media & Events]
Some upcoming events at Sake for those interested:
The Famous Spiegeltent (9 March) a Sushi Ragamuffin Master Class with Shaun Presland.
Sake South Dinner (21 March) – a sensorial journey, drawing inspiration from the South of Japan… bringing together sake and other Japanese beverages matched with five courses.