I would’ve actually found it quite funny had we been presented with a mushroom-flavoured martini, but thankfully a lot more creative thought and work had gone into these new menu items created by Saké’s Head Sushi Chef Shimpei Hatanake and Bar Manager Wayne Shennen. Much like food and wine pairings, the Umami Cocktail & Canapé menu offerings ($25 each) are designed so that the drink and food flavours balance and complement each other but whilst maximising umami-ness.
‘The Nightingale Song’ made with umeshu, pear vodka, white wine, bianco vermouth and lemon juice gets my vote for the evening with its sweet, fruity flavours and slightly dry finish. Savoury flavours aren’t really encountered in the cocktail until you get to the settled umeboshi bits at the bottom, whose flavours remind me of dried Chinese plums “wah mui/hua mei” (話梅). This cocktail is flanked by a delicate ‘Scallop Ume Spoon’ with scallop sashimi dressed with grape seed oil, white soy, lime, pickled plum paste and finely cut shiso leaf, sitting on a paper-thin cucumber slice providing crunch. ‘Yuzu Snapper’ is the other accompaniment where snow pea sprouts have been rolled into a slice of snapper sashimi dressed with olive oil, yuzu, shio-kombu (salted kelp) and tobiko.
‘The Honey Dragon’ is what I can only describe as a manly cocktail with its combination of honey, single malt Scottish whiskey, cinnamon, lemon zest and hint of chilli. Whiskey and I have yet to get to know each other beyond acquaintance level, but I am more than happy to devour the pieces of salmon belly served with yuzu soy alongside.
We are served a selection of food from Executive Chef Shaun Presland for the rest of the evening which is great for picking at alongside some drinks. Little portions of ‘Char-grilled Octopus Sunomono’ are tender and dressed with a kiwi sauce which surprisingly doesn’t taste of kiwi, and ‘Steamed Prawn Dumplings’ are a light “har-gow”/”siu-mai” hybrid but with a shaggy, shredded-skin outer.
The ‘Teriyaki Burger Balls’ are tender, meaty fun on sticks with an ever so more-ish sweet teriyaki glaze. And who can ever say no to crispy, deep-fried chicken? Served with jalapeño oil, spicy mayo and tomato salsa, it is the perfect partner to a Hitachino Nest Beer White Ale. I’m not a beer-drinker but this is light and smooth enough for me not to be turned off by what I usually perceive as a yeastiness about beer, plus the bottle sports a cute owl logo (heh!).
A DIY hand roll sushi session ensues with an array of ingredients at our disposal and leaves us wondering whether we can nab the idea for use at future dinner parties. We are shown the basic technique for making a hand roll and are told that the result should be tight enough to not fall apart but loose enough to (theoretically) let smoke through! This is, of course, much easier when watching it being done by a professional and more of a challenge when it’s our turn, and in maximising our fillings end up with exploding sushi.
Mini portions of ‘Buttermilk pannacotta with raspberry coulis’ topped with toasty coconut round off the evening of umami cocktails, with more innovative pairings to come soon. A concept bloody Mary and a miso/yakult combination were mentioned – both quirky and exciting to look forward to!
Mademoiselle Délicieuse dined as a guest of Saké Restaurant & Bar and Lindy Thompson.
12 Argyle St (near cnr Harrington St), The Rocks NSW
Tel: (02) 9259 5656
Opening Hours: Mon-Thurs 12pm-3pm (lunch)
Fri 12pm-3pm (lunch)
6pm-12 midnight (dinner)
Sat 12pm-3pm (lunch)
Sun 12pm-3pm (lunch)