Sake Restaurant, Brisbane

I’ve discovered it’s not hard to develop an appreciation of the distinctive yet mellow taste of sake with a little guidance from sake sommelier, Miriam McLachlan.

It felt like a girl’s night out as I sat around the table with fellow food writers waiting to take a sip from the three glasses lined up in front of me.  

We were amongst the first to try Sake Restaurant’s new Sake Discovery Sessions where guests can try three sakes with tasting notes and bite-sized food matches.   

You can taste the sake in a private dining room as a 30 minute booked master class as a prelude to a dinner or more informally at the bar if you are a group of two.

It was a bit of a girls' night out - yay!

The private dining room sessions are designed for minimum bookings of six and priced at $40 per person. Each session includes three tasting spoons created by Head Chef Shinichi Maeda matched to three different sakes. The menu will change on a regular basis so guests are presented with a wide mix of flavours.

“Many people don’t know that there is a comprehensive range of sake styles and, like wine, flavours can vary from floral and fruity to nutty and earthy,” says Saké Sommelier Miriam McLachlan, who developed her expertise for matching sake and wine with Japanese food while working at one of London’s finest Japanese restaurants.

“We exclusively import a range of outstanding sakes from the 300-year-old Kozaemon brewery in Japan,” adds McLachlan. “During the Saké Discovery Sessions we highlight the distinguishing features of each variety – it’s a great opportunity for groups of friends of corporate teams to enjoy a dining experience out of the ordinary!”

Along with Saké Discovery Sessions, diners can expand their knowledge with a ‘Master Flight’ – a chance to try three of the world’s finest sake varieties for just $18.

Miriam loves her sake and shared lots of interesting information.  Here’s some of what I learnt.

Sake mould - and I still drank the sake after seeing this!
  • The difference in sake flavour does not come from the rice variety but the way the sake is produced.
  • Milling and polishing of the rice is the most significant factor
  • Making sake is like sculpture - the more you take away from the rice through milling the more you reveal.
  • Sake is made with multiple parallel fermentation
  • Mould is sprinkled over the rice until it grows thick and green. It’s a different yeast than used for bread but grows in hot humid conditions.
  • Sake bottles are called Go bottles and hold 1.8 litres
  • 60 mls of sake is about a standard drink serve
  • Sake only has about one third the acidity of wine and is more gentle on stomach with less preservatives and less sulphur
  • Drink sake however you prefer - chilled or not.
  • Prices cheaper than wine for the same quality
We tried three sakes with tastes from Head Chef Shinichi Maeda – a delicate scallop with ponzu and ikura with Amabuki Diaginjo; kingfish sashimi with Kozaemon Junmai Gino #38 Bizen Omachi; and a mini wagu burger with Kozaemon Yamahai Junmai Banshu Yamadanishiki.

After the tasting we enjoyed more of Shinichi’s dishes from his new menu.

I chose Venison tataki which came with crispy ginger chips, kumquats and cape gooseberries with a plum and sansho pepper dressing.

My main was a galantine of quail stuffed with yama-gobo and shiitake mushrooms coated with an orange-soy glaze and served with poached golden beetroot leaves and pickled golden beetroot.

Both dishes were an exceptional combination of clean, fresh flavours with ingredients normally not found on a Japanese-inspired menu.

Bottom line: An interesting opportunity for both seasoned foodies and beginners to explore the world of sake.  You’ll be surprised by what you find.

Sake, Top level, 45 Eagle Street, Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane. Ph 07 3339 0999

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Kerry Heaney 

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