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One of my all time favourite restaurants ever is Sean Presland’s Sake at the Rocks in Sydney. Naturally, the branch at Eagle Street Pier has been on my list of places to dine at since I got to Brisbane, to see if it matches up to the original.
When I heard about their famous Dragon Egg dessert making its Christmas debut on December 1, I knew I just had to find someone, anyone to head there with me ASAP. After all, their Easter egg sold out within 24 hours! Luckily, it didn’t take long to twist my sister-in-law’s arm into joining me. Not bothering to find out much more about the egg other than that it would “blow my mind”, I was soon on the Qantas website making my reservation for both a table and 1 egg each.
Now, the only way to be able to taste the Dragon Egg is to partake in one of their set menus. As we sat ourselves down, we noticed that a menu had already been placed at each side of the table. In addition, it was at this point that our waitress informed us that, whilst they had received our request for 1 egg each, it’s actually designed to share between 2. Turning up to a restaurant and not having to make any decisions because the staff already know what you’re after is one of life’s little luxuries, I think.
SIL and I gave each other this look that clearly meant, “I’m not sharing, I want my own egg!” Out of politeness and not wanting to look greedy, we asked our waitress how big the egg was. She obliged by indicating with her hands the approximate size. Nope, pretty sure we can handle that. We’ll take the option of 1 egg each for $20 extra, thanks.
The first few courses were brought out expediently, the first one within minutes of us ordering our drinks. The great thing about set menus is that I often end up trying something I normally wouldn’t have ordered, and more often than not, am pleasantly surprised. This was the case with the first course, a duo of scallops on a shell, marinaded in a light and tangy ponzu sauce, set atop a mini crate containing ice to keep it fresh. The flesh was tender with just enough bite from being “cooked” by the acidity of the ponzu, and was balanced by the crispness of pickled radish, salty pops of salmon roe, and slurpy umami flavours from the bed of seaweed.
Our drinks arrived not long after. I think I may have ordered the Japanese Rose cocktail before at the Rocks. What can I say? I’m partial to peach, lychee, rose and lime flavours, and this drink certainly didn’t disappoint, being once again a perfectly balanced blend of flavours – a little bit sweet and a little bit tangy, slightly bubbly and yet oh so delicate.
Beef tartare is definitely not something I would usually order, the use of wagyu notwithstanding. Fortunately, I was again pleasantly surprised with the 3rd course. The yolk added creaminess, while the nori crisp, lotus chip, tomato and cucumber added different varieties of crunch.
Our favourite dish came next, crispy skin barramundi in a light soy dressing with just a touch of spice from dollops of jalapeño butter. I must admit, we weren’t fans of whatever fried stuff was sitting on top, as it had that flat chewy texture of something that’s been fried a few too many days ago. The fish itself though was perfectly crisp yet still tender and flaky.
After this came an oddly long pause before the next course. A slight break between savouries and dessert is perfectly understandable and even welcomed, but the next course was actually vegetable rolls. The combination of avocado, beetroot, daikon and cucumber was actually quite refreshing, but I think we would have preferred it immediately after or maybe even together with the steak, instead of at least 20 minutes after.
It was during our enforced intermission that I looked around and realised how generously spaced each table was. Restaurants these days are getting more and more packed, so it’s refreshing to be able to have a dinner conversation without having to raise one’s voice over the hubbub of other conversations in the background.
Luckily, we didn’t have to wait as long for our first dessert, as we were getting quite excited about the Dragon Egg by this stage. After all, we had sat through an entire set menu just for this egg! Yes, really!
The blood orange and lychee chawan mushi may sound like an odd combination, but take my word for it, this is one of the loveliest desserts I have ever sampled! Imagine a cloud-like panna cotta topped with a delicate syrup and succulent pieces of sweet lychee and slightly tangy orange. I’m sure you’re sick of hearing it by now, but believe me when I say that the crew at Sake know about balance of flavours and textures.
We had been pre-warned that they had been unable to procure liquid nitrogen in time for the egg’s debut, but that it was just for show and wouldn’t affect the taste anyway. I have to disagree with this. Liquid nitrogen poured over the eggs would have added not only theatre, but would also have made the chocolate shells more brittle and therefore more satisfying to crack open. Instead, it took me quite a few taps with my spoon, and in the end, part of my egg simply caved in instead of snapping the way that it was designed to do.
The egg was filled with a mandarin and ginger mousse, which was cute visually as the yellow is clearly meant to represent the yolk. However, we found it a tad too sweet, with none of the lightness I would expect from mandarin, or spice from the ginger. Add to that the salted almond sable it was sitting on, which was rich and chewy, somewhat like what I would imagine almond brittle ground up with nougat might taste like. There was a small amount of chocolate mousse beneath the mandarin, which added some much needed bitterness. But all in all, this was sweet encasing sweet and sitting on sweet. We soon realised the reason this dessert was meant to be shared between 2 despite its size.
The verdict? I realise it was our fault that, once again, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, but to be frank, the Dragon Egg was a bit of a letdown. The overwhelming richness of this dessert could have been mitigated simply by toning down the sweetness of the mandarin mousse slightly, and serving it on a lighter crumbly soil instead of such a decadent almond sable. Add to that the quality and quantity of the set meal that had preceded, and the impeccably balanced light and summery flavours of the chawan mushi – I would have been perfectly happy to end the meal on that note, actually.
What? Sake Restaurant and Bar. I didn’t realise until I got home that there are actually 2 set menus to choose from – the less adventurous Signature Menu for $88 per person, which is probably what I would have chosen had I realised earlier, or the Chef Selection Omakase for $110 per person, which is what we were served. In this instance, I’m actually glad the choice wasn’t offered to me, and I highly recommend you go for the Omakase menu. If the Dragon Eggs are still around, stick to 1 between 2, but if you must, a 2nd egg will set you back an extra $20.
Where? 45 Eagle St, Brisbane; (07) 3015 0557.
When? Lunch daily 12-3pm; dinner Mon-Thurs 6-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 5.30-11pm, Sun 5-9pm.
Why? Excellent, well balanced Japanese food topped off with delicious cocktails and desserts with a view of the Brisbane River.
Who? Go with someone special for the set menus. For a more low-key casual affair, the a la carte selections offer something for everyone, including kids.
Have you eaten at Sake Restaurant and Bar before? What are your favourite dishes there? Have you sampled the Dragon Egg? Did it meet your expectations?
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