Traditional, cosy, dainty Japanese.
MUST ORDER Oyster in mandarin oil; egg and prawn; monaka, caramel and almonds
AMBIANCE Cosy, traditional, professional.
WOULD I GO BACK? If I really wanted cheap, fancy, traditional Japanese
I was seated at a bench encasing a chef overseeing a stone pot and grill. There were a few seats outside (that would be freezing and windy. Glad I wasn’t there.). This place is perfect for a date (but probably not a first date). It’s very intimate and there’s no obtrusive music. Lighting is bright and everyone is enjoying themselves.
I order the omakase (tasting menu) for $80. There are seven courses, plus a small dessert, a small bowl of rice and small soup.
Unlike any chopsticks I’ve ever eaten with, the fine ends of these are like pincers. I felt like I was eating with tweezers, but was surprised that it actually made manipulation easier. I didn’t notice the extra precision required (and I’m terrible with chopsticks).
One of the nicest ways I’ve ever started a meal was with this oyster and mandarin oil. Oh, the freshness. Oh, the lightness.
At first I didn’t think I liked the confit scallop, celeriac and kombu (brown seaweed). Probably because of the unexciting celeriac purée. Then I got a hit of the shiso paste, which tasted like pesto, and I was sold. The potato crisps were a bonus.
My favourite dish of the evening was definitely the egg and prawn. An egg custard (called chawanmushi) was gorgeously silken, and somehow held its own, while floating in dashi. My only complaint about the dashi-poached king prawn was that I wanted more.
Bonito, apple and ponzu sings my name. I love these sorts of sashimi-with-bonus-element dishes. The bonito tataki was lovely with ginger, chives and garlic chips. Somebody bottle and sell that apple ponzu sauce.
Asparagus, corn and matcha was simple and welcome alongside the sweet corn custard and matcha salt. You can’t dislike tempura asparagus, especially with this pleasingly minimal, light and crunchy batter.
Ocean trout with egg yolk and ikura was a bit noring. I wanted the yuan-yaki trout to be cooked with butter or miso (it lacked flavour) but matched with fennel. The ocean trout roe wasn’t that tasty.
Duck, yam bean and leek was creative, but odd to the extent that it was two dishes in one. I separately consumed the rather-too-chewy roast duck breast and the homemade sausage with grilled leek. The sauce was, again, bottle-able.
One of the other highlights was the rice. I was brought out a bowl of rice scattered with enoki and a few other types of mushrooms. It was made in a stone pot front of me in that traditional way which is painstakingly careful (washing, rinsing, draining, soaking, working the rice with a paddle, adding vinegar/sugar/other sensational secret flavours). I’ve only had this sort of rice a few times in my life, and it is SO MUCH BETTER than normal rice. It’s not watery or mushy; it’s full of flavour; the grains are individual but not hard; it’s slightly sticky; warm; and has a fresh taste as though the actual grain has been made from scratch. A marvel.
The menu item called soup turned out to be a well-seasoned bonito broth with white soy. Chugged it.
Hitokuchigashi (one small dessert) was included. Monaka, caramel and almonds (normally $7) was absolutely superb. Monaka is a Japanese sweet where two wafers encase a jam or ice cream. This ice cream was soooooo smooth and along with nuts…I’m a happy camper. I paid extra to try another dessert, the choux, dark chocolate and whisky ($8). I don’t know why, because I’m not a fan of alcohol in desserts. I think the choux tricked me into ordering it. The alcohol ruined it for me (couldn’t taste the chocolate as a result), but most people would love this.
The pace of service was delightful, with five minutes tops between courses. Whenever the staff did anything they say “excuse me”, “have you finished?”– even when my plate was scraped dishwasher-level clean. Pet peeve diverted. Tick.
This is fabulous value for money, but I can see why it’s a bit on the cheaper side. Everything was so precisely presented and so flavoursome that it didn’t detract too much from the meal, but I thought the quality and freshness of the duck and seafood wasn’t the best. But I’m unfairly comparing Sasaki to places like Saké, Sushi e, Sokyo, Azuma and North Bondi Fish, where you pay through the nose for an outstanding standard of fresh fish. The existence of those others is the only thing not making me hurry back. My reviews always account for relativity.
Visit date: 10 May 2018
Sasaki is located at 102/21 Alberta Street, Sydney. You need to walk into a little alley to find it.