When Shaun Presland appeared on Masterchef with half a hand missing, I thought, “Hey, this guy’s got balls”. It wasn’t until visiting Sake some months afterwards that I realised the payoff of the man’s extreme dedication to the art of Japanese food.
Sake is chic, stylish and contemporary with a cool LA sort of vibe. It’s no wonder that there’s a celebrity sighting here every other night. While our visit was A-list free, Sake was still entertaining at full capacity despite being a rainy Tuesday night.
Browsing through the Sake menu, I was hit with dejavu. Kingfish sashimi with jalapeno, miso butterfish, sashimi tacos… these were all Nobu dishes I’m sure! Having dined at Nobu only recently, the experience was very fresh in mind and I was curious in finding out how the two fared against each other.
We started with sashimi tacos, which were quite a mouthful. Sitting on a crisp taco shell, the filling of tuna and salmon was brought to life by a bright tomato salsa. There were also two accompanying shots of sake which seemed almost ceremonial in their purpose. What a way to start our meal!
Sake 1, Nobu 0.
The sushi was next to arrive. ‘Amazing’ falls short of describing just how truly fantastic this was. I haven’t had sushi of this quality and freshness outside of Japan. The scallop was the most memorable, soft like marshmallow and sweet on the tongue. It was true bliss.
Sake 2, Nobu 0.
Nobu’s signature kingfish jalapeno came next and Sake’s version had me at the first bite. The kingfish slices were laid out in row, each crowned with a thin slice of jalapeno and a single coriander leaf. This means the jalapeno isn’t shaken off and the coriander isn’t tossed aside and makes for a neat package of flavours. The yuzu soy dressing really higlights the freshness of the kingfish and is also heavier in acid than the Nobu version, which I much prefer.
Sake 3, Nobu 0.
When the miso butterfish arrived, we were impressed with the portion. But sadly, the fish was not up to scratch and tasted dry and overcooked. We thought this might have had something to do with the choice of fish and not the sauce or cooking style. In fact, I much prefered the sauce at Sake which was thick like jam and creamier and sweeter than at Nobu. We were convinced that if paired with black cod, we would’ve been won over a hundred percent.
With three wins out of four, Sake had trumped Nobu and we were glad that the win came at a surprise.
With the contest out of the way, we moved on to other dishes, such as the grilled green tea salted scampi. Cooked just perfectly, the scampi was soft and juicy, and the green tea salt really brought out the sweetness in the meat. I even munch on the head – something I never do! In the centre, there is a bed of shredded daikon tossed with yuzu and roasted black sesame seeds with a wonderful nutty aroma.
Meanwhile, the S Express roll had me weak at the knees. With a supple scallop centre, the sushi was dressed in pieces of ‘just’ seared salmon and drizzled in an addictive spicy mayo sauce. The witlof helped balance out the dish by adding crunch and a slight bitterness.
We finished our meal with the popcorn shrimp sushi roll, which had a prawn tempura centre. The highlight of the dish was in the sauce, which was sweet, smokey and spicy all at the same time.
Our dessert was a warm chocolate fondant with white sesame ice cream. Though I wasn’t in the mood for fondant, one bite into its oozey chocolate centre had me hooked. It was dark, decadent dessert – in heavy contrast to our relatively ‘light’ dinner. The white sesame ice cream is interesting, but sadly lacked the addictive heady aroma of black sesame.
12 Argyle Street
The Rocks, NSW 2000
# 02 9259 5656