Saturday, September 25, 2010

Birthday Dinner, Sake Restaurant & Bar, Sydney

"No Memory Card Inserted" its every food blogging birthday celebrants worst nightmare. Between 3 iphones, and a point and shoot camera that had just survived a european holiday - we found that this was the smallest of the obstacles encountered on this birthday evening. 

Leading up to Gianna's birthday the struggle was trying to find a place where we could go out and celebrate. Japanese is something that we both like, quite a bit in fact and I thought it would be nice to go somewhere other than Toko. Don't get me wrong I love Toko. So so much, but I mean after the 40th or so visit....well you know. If Gianna had her way we would be at Makoto on Liverpool St. At the end of the day it came down to picking somewhere we haven't tried and where we could just drop some sake bombs and chow down on some sushi. Why not try Sake Japanese restaurant at the Rocks? 
The 3 hungry patrons and their Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Grenache Rosé 2007
Surprises and Gianna do not go hand in hand. All month she was nagging and trying to find out what birthday present she was getting and what we would be doing to celebrate. I stood my ground and kept the present secret but she had managed to uncover the plans for the evening. I made a booking for Sake a few weeks before. What I didn't anticipate was that she had done the same thinking that I wouldn't be able to do so of my own accord. Long story short I had made the booking for the spot that she was waiting to be cancelled. She is a pain. In the ass. In the nicest most possible way. So those difficulties aside the next obstacle was managing to pick something to drink. The indecisiveness between our little birthday party crew was astounding. After a debate that lasted 20 minutes on the merits of sake over cocktails or red wine we ended up settling on a bottle of Wirra Wirra Rosé ($41 / bottle). It was a good choice and served its purpose well..A bottle gone before the mains! 

Warm steamed Edemame with salt flakes
Fortunately picking food was not such an ordeal. The menu is quite varied and there are many things to pick and choose from that all sound so so wonderful. We decided on getting the edamame $8 (prerequisite for any Japanese meal) and  the chicken wing gyoza $14. The edamame was gone in a flash and the chicken wing gyoza were an interesting starter. The chicken was tasty and not typical of your usual gyoza dumpling. The stuffing was in a pocket between the chicken meat and crispy skin with a sweet dipping sauce that provided a nice contrast.

Chicken Wing Gyoza - with garlic chive pork mince stuffed wings, crispy fried with dipping sauce
For mains we picked Popcorn shrimp $25, Crispy Skin Pork Belly bites $15 and an assortment of sushi that consisted of Spider Maki $17, Philadelphia Maki $14 and Tuna Avocado Maki $14. Before we delve into details it must be said that the presentation of everything was just amazing. The colours popped and food was plated in a very well thought out manner. Shame that none of us had a good camera to capture it all, so we concentrated on what we do best - EAT. 

Crispy Pork Belly Bites with edamame puree, sweet cabbage, yuzu pepper and reduced balsamic teriyaki sauce
The dish thing we tucked into were the crispy skin pork belly bites - simply amazing. The skin was crispy and salty, the pork juicy and the flavours were out there. The sweet pickled cabbage was the standout for me, it just went so well with the crispy pork skin. Manners were discarded as we got to the Edemame Mash, not a smear was left on the plate. I think this serving is too small to share with anyone else.
Popcorn Shrimp prawn tempura with creamy spicy sauce
The second dish that came out was the popcorn shrimp. Now it does sound somewhat of a cheesy name but this would have to be hands down one of the best things any of us had ever eaten. The little balls of shrimp were in a crispy coating and bathed in an absolutely delectable spicy mayonaise sauce that made you just want you to suck the flavour from your napkin well after you had wiped the sauce from your mouth. Every time the chopsticks would go into the bowl everyone would eye each other out, it was very much a Mexican standoff as the shrimp plate got emptier and emptier. All the dishes are made for sharing - but they are so good, it would be the last thing you'd want to do.
Assorted seafood maki
Soon after we were well into the popcorn shrimp the maki rolls were brought out. Once again the colours were vibrant, the rolls looked so good you almost felt bad for even thinking about eating them. My favourite were the Philadelphia maki rolls. The salmon roe on top was a nice touch especially when they pop in your mouth and you get that little burst of saltiness. The spider maki was incredible, it's pretty hard to go wrong with soft shell crab. 

So at this stage we had decided to get a carafe of sake.  I can't remember the name nor Gianna. But it was good. Real good. It was one of those really smooth and easy to drink sakes.  So good that the alcohol content just sneaks up on you unexpectedly and then "BANG" there you go - hangover tomorrow. So full of Japanese courage we ordered desert but we had to get the Pork Belly Skewers $9 each for that one last savoury hurrah. Gianna and our friend Emmanuel chowed down on the pork that just melted like butter from the skewer. From the silence I gathered that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. 
Assorted seafood maki and pork belly kushiaki

After the pork belly our very friendly waiter recommended something to cleanse the palate. Wanting to try something different we settled on a sake variant that the waiter referred to as Japanese Limoncello - Kozaemon Yuzu. What can I say, it was just heavenly. It was smooth, lemony, sweet and above all else just so effortless to drink, just ignore the lethal side effects. We were well inebriated by this stage but as you can see in the photos we were still able to master the physics behind making our glasses sit in a way that they were not meant to.
Banana, shiso and caramel spring rolls, raspberry apple dipping sauce

Warm chocolate pudding with sesame ice-cream & black sesame tuile
Managing to string a few syllables together - barely, we ordered 2 serves of the Chocolate Fondant with Sesame Ice Cream $15 and Banana Harumaki $13. The banana harumaki is basically banana and caramel spring rolls served with a raspberry and apple dipping sauce. Very very tasty. The outer skin was fried to a perfect crisp and the banana just added that softness that made the dish an interesting take on the spring roll. Now the fondants...woah. Lucky we got two. They were perfect. You could tell from the minute the chocolate sauce just gushed out once the spoon split the outer surface. Simply wow. 
Our Dessert Selection and Sake Toasts
Finishing with desert and not yet content to leave we just had to try and relive our experience of Tokyo a few months back. It was our personal challenge to be the last patrons at the restaurant. Feeling a bit nostalgic we ordered some plum wine - umeshu time! A perfect way to finish such a wonderful dinner and sharing a laugh whilst reminiscing about singing karaoke in random shoe box bars in the streets of Shibuya after downing 10 or so glasses.. it was as close to Tokyo as we could get.
Demolished Desserts
Now for the final evening's hurdle. Gianna's friend Mr Coriander decided to give her another suprise birthday visit for a third year in a row - a massive allergic reaction! A little history - in 2008 a group of us celebrated her birthday dinner at Chopstix Thai restaurant in Balmain. By the time we were at her party at Ivy, she was covered in patchy red marks while dancing the night away, thanks to the sneaky Mr Coriander. Last year we celebrated at Longrain Thai - everything we ordered was laced with coriander, but we had already worked our way through the cocktail list so 'patchy' and I just headed on home. This year, we thought we broke the curse but unfortunately there was some stealth coriander - the gyoza is the prime suspect. Although we cut the night short, it was still a very memorable dinner - my poor girlfriend dressed to the nines and ended up being covered in red patches. What a way to end the evening! The general consensus  however was of how awesome the meal was - there was a huge selection of dishes to choose from and the service friendly and attentive, despite a full house. The upside to going home early is that she gets her birthday present a few hours earlier... the only clue i gave her all month was "Orange"
Happy Birthday Gianna, here's to more delicious meals and coriander outbreaks!

Sake Restaurant and Bar, 12 Argyle St, The Rocks, Sydney. (02) 9259 5656
Last Booking at 9.30, Bar Menu also available.

Sake Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Great post! I must admit that whilst the food had me drooling, so did the mysterious orange box! Love Hermes! :D

Juliet said...

This is amazing, wish I could have come with you guys! Demos : well done with the Hermes, my friend :)

the dainty baker said...

Looks like some one got spoilt!! x

Demos said...

Thanks Guys - Just a reminder to my lovely girlfriend that my birthday is next month and I would like a bike. That is all.

Thanks for reading our blog also.

Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said...

Thank you lovely BF for the yummy dinner, the special present and for resuing me from my impending coriander death.

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