Sushi has become so commonplace, it's usual to see it revolving around kitchen staff on colour-coded dishes on a conveyor belt or packaged in Woolies trays for the lunchtime business rush. There's not a lot of genuinely great sushi chefs in Sydney, but we've found a venue home to a few: Sake in The Rocks.
Inventive sushi turns customers' head here for different reasons. And if the food doesn't get heads spinning, the 40 plus sakes on offer will.
Three years since it opened in the Argyle complex in The Rocks, Sake still has its hat and its Aussie executive chef Shaun Presland at the helm. He trained and worked in Japan for 15 years before being headhunted for Nobu's Bahamas outing, then transferred to Sydney, at the Establishment's Sushi-e and Sake.
Famed for his spicy but clean-on-the-palate platter of kingfish jalapeno ($22), Sake has an extensive menu that's printed on fold-out paper, perhaps a vague nod to the art of origami, but it's more akin to opening up a Tokyo train network map. Appropriate, as there are many potential trips through Japanese cuisine to take, from delicate silver cod lettuce cups ($20 for four) to steamed dumplings ($17), either Chinese-inspired prawn shumai with spicy ponzu or wagyu beef with ginger and chives, both delicious.
The mains are once novel but now familiar eye-catchers such as popcorn shrimp ($29). More interesting is the carmelised silver cod ($38), the staff's choice as a centrepiece dish, that has been marinated in miso. It's quite easy for diners to be marinated themselves if each dish is matched with a glass of sake, so the dessert extravaganza could be a much-needed sugar-rush hit. Certainly every assortment of ice cream, chocolate mousse and finely cut jelly is present, to cater for the inner child.
As for the surroundings, Sake's faux traditional Japanese entrance foyer is simple and unassuming, with wooden stools and tables. The long walk into the main room reveals a cavern-like space divided between tables, booths and shoes-off and bum-on-floor tatami dining. Like the food, it's a blend of old tradition and flashy modernity.
Three years down the line, this particular sushi train has not derailed. To extend the analogy, if anything, it's still Sydney's Japanese bullet train.