Umami cocktails and canapés at Saké Restaurant & Bar

It’s always exciting to be invited to dine somewhere which you haven’t, but also slightly intriguing when you read “Umami Cocktail/Canapé” as being offered on the evening. A cocktail is a cocktail, right? And though I know little about specific cocktails, I do know what flavours I tend to like in mine. However, paired with my limited knowledge of foods high in umami, my imaginings for what we would be treated to went a little something like this:

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)
                                          6pm-10:30pm (dinner)
                        Fri  12pm-3pm (lunch)
                              6pm-12 midnight (dinner)
                        Sat  12pm-3pm (lunch)
                               5:30pm-11:30pm (dinner)
                        Sun  12pm-3pm (lunch)
                                5pm-10pm (dinner)

Sake Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

happy eating!


  1. I love the Mario 1-UP mushroom! LOL
    Sake is my fave Jap noshery in Sydney and the food is always glam.

  2. Wow - everything looks so lovely, glad you didn't get served a mushroom cocktail tho...shudder!

  3. Your temaki are perfect! And what a fabulous night of food and boozing! :)

  4. Awww, the Mario mushroom equation is adorable. Love the cocktails and food here.

  5. hahaha love the 1up mushroom cocktail! love cocktails with matching canapes

  6. Haha Mario mushroom!! I like the look of the teriyaki beef balls!

  7. Oh my goddd the food looks super sexy. I'd totally go a Mario cocktail though.

  8. everyone always posts such beautiful photos when they go to Sake, must book myself in sometime. I love umeshu based cocktails, mmm!

  9. The food at Sake is great I agree! They're very innovative there.

  10. I love the Japanese flavours - especially the Yuzu offerings. You're one lucky girl, sampling such delightful offerings

  11. Sake is on my to do list. Everything looks so amazing!

  12. LOVE the first pic! i havent been back to sake for a long time... think will have to revisit soon. everything looks fantastic!

  13. This looks and sounds so delicious, what a great night out :)

  14. I never equated mario 1 up mushrooms and umamii together. Shall never play nintendo quite the same way again ;p

    I am yet to visit Sake and it is high on my list. What a great evening showcasing the new season.

  15. This looks like my kind of dinner!! All the food sounds amazing! And I especially love an exploding hand roll... it means it has plenty of ingredients! :)

  16. Hey Joey, first time I've been to Sake and, I must say, I was impressed.

    Hey MissPiggy, I'm sure if there was a mushroom cocktail devised it would be delicious! Think of the mushroom macchiato you had recently...

    Hey Tina, haha thanks! Definitely a night of food and fooze there =p

    Hey Dumpling Girl, teehee, Mario 1-up mushroom cocktail!

    Hey sugarpuffi, the matching cocktails and canapes make for a nice change from the usual nuts or pretzels that you get standardly in bars.

    Hey missklicious, the teriyaki burger balls were so good on their own, but I reckon they'd be pretty good with a bowl of rice too =p Hope you're having a great holiday!

    Hey Rose, it seems the Mario mushroom coctail concept is catching on...

    Hey minibites, I'd never been myself so I had no expectations, but the food was really well-presented.

    Hey Lorraine, I found the food to be a lot of fun.

    Hey Kitchen Butterfly, I love yuzu in desserts and tea - not as in-your-face as lemon and sweeter than a mandarin as well.

    Hey Nic, a great place with a group of friends, I'd say.

    Hey gastronomous anonymous, haha, just don't expect to order a mushroom cocktail when you get there! =p

    Hey muppy, I was really excited to find a beer that I actually like as well!

    Hey sara, haha, perhaps each time you see the 1-up mushroom you'll now get unconsciously hungry/thirsty?

    Hey April, if I had a sushi party my friends would probably all try to make exploding hand rolls, I reckon!


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