To celebrate Valentine’s Day, James took me to the highly acclaimed Saké Restaurant & Bar, located at Eagle Street Pier in Brisbane. Eagle Street Pier, famous for its iconic waterfront precinct, was buzzing with life by the time we arrived at 6pm. The area is graced with numerous dining options and gorgeous views of the Brisbane River. This prime location is fitting for Saké’s award-winning status in the world of contemporary Japanese dining. The restaurant interior is modern yet cosy. It is surprisingly spacious and boasts a clean layout with interesting décor, soft lighting and various seating options (book early to get the best seating arrangement).
James and I started the night by ordering a Yuzu Saké Bomb ($10) – Draught Steigl with a shot of citrusy yuzu-infused sake – and a glass of Choya Uji ($9), a Shochu-based infusion of ume plum and green tea. You can probably guess who had what. The Choya Uji was surprisingly light, with a delicate palate cleansing quality that was very refreshing in between courses.
Our first dish, the Sashimi Appetiser ($19), consisted of eight lovely pieces of sashimi served with wasabi and soy. Beautifully arranged on ice and accompanied by large shavings of crisp daikon radish and other unusual garnishing, the sashimi slices arrived wonderfully cold and fresh. They could probably have been cut better (slices were a little uneven with noticeable discrepancies in thickness), but that minor detail did not detract from the flavour and texture of the raw fish. We noticed that the soy sauce had a distinctly smoky taste, which made the sashimi incredibly palatable.
Our highly anticipated Nasu Dengaku ($12) came next. This entailed two decent portions of grilled eggplant, perfectly cooked to a creamy tenderness, slathered with caramelised light and dark miso pastes and sprinkled neatly with contrasting sesame seeds. For anyone in need of squashing that craving for salty food, this is your dream dish. For me, it was just a little too overpowering, especially the portion with the light miso where they seemed to have put way too much paste on the eggplant, drowning out the flavour of everything else. The piece with the dark miso was much better, with just the right balance of sweet and salty.
Next, we had the Panko Rice Balls ($11), a magnificent concoction of young soy beans, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms and short grain rice all rolled into mini bite-size balls, coated in coarse panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) and deep fried to a crisp, then lightly sprinkled with sea salt flakes and served with a refreshing and subtle wasabi mayonnaise dip that impressed even James (who usually abhors the taste of wasabi). This is the ultimate in savoury comfort foods. Bite into one and the sinfully crunchy outside gives way to a soft, dense interior full of complex, mouth-watering flavour and textures. Dip them in some of that wasabi mayonnaise for an added layer of taste!
Finally, we indulged in their Buta No Kakuni ($28), which featured 12-hour braised pork belly, daikon radish, onsen tamago (64°C slow-poached hens egg) and fried tofu, all stewing in a gorgeous broth infused with truffle oil and topped with scallions. With its strong umami notes, this dish was heaven in a beautiful ceramic bowl for the both of us. Deliciously aromatic and comforting, the steaming broth is one that you’ve got to savour slowly. Break the onsen tamago and swirl the runny yolk around to give the broth a thicker, heartier consistency. The melt-in-your-mouth pork belly is sumptuously rich, impressively fatty and almost too good to eat.
Overall, we had an amazing time at Saké. We sat at the chef’s counter, which was actually really fun as this gave us a perfect view of the kitchen and the beautiful dishes that each chef was tasked to craft. The staff treated us very well and were all friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. The food that we ordered was definitely gorgeous. We would be more than happy to return! One thing to note though: the dark and intimate atmosphere that the restaurant provides makes this place better suited for couples than larger groups of people.