Sake Jr may be the baby of famed The Rocks' establishment Sake, but it has no intentions of mimicking the restaurant from which it was spawned. After Sake's parent company, the Urban Purveyor Group, acquired Neil Perry's Rockpool Group last year, they brought on Perry to head up the menu for the spin-off, which is a much more casual affair — it borrows name, cuisine and quality from the Japanese restaurant, but this is a completely different dining experience.
Located in the quiet Grosvenor Place courtyard just a stone's throw from Circular Quay, Sake Jr attempts to straddle the day-night boundary that can prove limiting to many daytime establishments. Separating their menu into day and night variations, Perry's crew utilises the same core ingredients across the two menus for very different applications.
They've done well to cater to the business lunch crowd, with takeaway poke bowls and salads, as well as build-your-own bowls where you can add all manner of Japanese-inspired veggies with protein like ocean trout and miso pork ($12-15). Among other Japanese stylistic touches like individual USB ports and a revolving LED screen, are two vending machines stocking organic kombucha and sparkling juices ($5), or you can saunter up to the counter to get in on some just-made iced tea ($4).
Come 4pm, the evening menu kicks in. With it are new drinks, like the on-tap, Sydney-brewed Japanese-inspired beers — a lager and a pale ale ($8.50 each) — as well as two refreshing cocktails ($11) which see the afternoon's ice tea spiked with sake.
And what goes better with alcohol than some good old-fashioned fried stuff? Say hello to old mate JFC (that is, Japanese fried chicken; $8.50-19) or, for vegetarians, the Japanese fried shiitakes ($11). Want something softer? One of their six cushiony baos ($4.50 each) could do the trick. The warm bao bun blankets the crunchy kimchi and spicy sauce for what works out to be a seriously excellent combination of flavours.
But the main event is undoubtedly the ramen ($13.50). Coming into winter, this dish could not be more welcome. As is the norm, you can build your own ramen right down to sauce. For those who shy away from ramen for fear of feeling like a human fish tank, go for the Abura ramen ($13.50) — it uses soy and egg for moisture while retaining the traditional ramen flavour, sans broth.
With Sake Jr's other Sydney eatery situated inside Westfield, the Grosvenor Place location is a welcome standalone store. Its takeaway feel limits its capacity to be a late-night hangout, but with an excellent array of drinks and quality fare, it makes for a convenient and well-stocked after-work spot.