After living most of my 40+ years on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and my Nan selling tickets for the Manly Ferry for 45+ years it came as a huge shock to me that Manly Wharf even had a second level. I was amazed that restaurants would be opening upstairs and also excited to be able to get up there and see one of the best views in Manly from a higher perspective. It was going to have to be one decadent restaurant with elitist pricing to be able to afford (what I dare not even imagine) the rent would be. SAKÉ MANLY was born.
It was a fantastic lunch outing with regular review-dining companion, Claire, and an honour to have lifelong friend, Martine, down from Queensland for the festivus. We decided to start an annual post NYE extravagant lunch from now on. It should be noted this meal was paid for.
SAKÉ MANLY STORY:
Saké is a multi-award winning high-end contemporary Japanese restaurant “chain.” I don’t know if chain is the correct term, that seems to foster thoughts of fast food. I would be leaning towards a series of restaurants run by the RockPool Dining Group, nay Empire. They also have Saké venues in The Rocks and Double Bay in Sydney, Flinder’s Lane and Hamer Hall in Melbourne and Eagle Street Pier in Brisbane.
Special mention to the exceptional service we experienced. Our waitperson Neani looked after us like royalty and when she couldn’t look after us she advised a replacement person would be. A lot of the dishes we ordered based purely on her suggestions and not once was she intrusive. By the end we would have been happy inviting her to drink with us.
SAKÉ MANLY VENUE & AMBIENCE:
Saké Manly features a 30 seat interactive sushi counter, a 60 seat sophisticated bar and an outdoor terrace with sweeping ocean views out to Manly Cove, making it the idyllic location to enjoy Japanese and cocktails. No word of a lie – best views in Manly.
The place is mind blowing in it’s fitout from Rachel Luchetti of Luchetti Krelle (think Terminus Hotel, Manly Greenhouse and Acme) . The outdoor terrace is marvellous, the interior is mammoth seating up to 300 people and the bar is around the corner, a bar that is as mammoth as the restaurant it caters.
To the side of the bar and outdoors is a large minimalist zen garden and even the entryway to the toilets at the back of the venue is architecturally impressive. But the crowning glory of Saké Manly is the Moongate Private Dining Rooms. They are a design masterpiece, the title photo of this review is a shot looking through them.
The Moongate Dining Rooms sit behind the main counter and go all the way back to the rear of the venue. I would prefer to sit on the deck and take in sweeping Manly Cove views but for private events at night each moongate can be closed off for an intimate experience.
WHAT WE ORDERED:
Mirin you, Mirin Me – Pampero white rum, Hon-Mirin, Mount Gay XO, house grilled tiki syrups and citrus
Hattori Hanzo – Tanqueray gin, yuzu sake, cucumber, jalapeno, lemon and elderflower
Miss Wednesday – Shochu, rose and lychee liqueurs, vanilla and lime
2017 Singlefile ‘Denmark Family Reserve’ Chardonnay, WA
Homare Daiginjo Sake Small Caraffe
Heggis Vineyards Botrytis 2016 Riesling, WA
New Style Sashimi – salmon, snapper, lightly seared, ceviche dressing
Sashimi Tasting Plate – Large
Umeboshi soaked in wine
Omelette Tamago Nigiri
Red Samurai Makimono – avocado spicy tuna and wafu dressing
Spider Maki – fried soft shell crab with cucumber, spicy masago and chives
Popcorn Shrimp with yuzu and spicy mayo
Nasu Dengaku – tempura eggplant with den miso and ito togarashi
Shumai – steamed prawn dumplings with spicy yuzu
Bug Tail Tempura with jalapenos and amazu ponzu
Spicy Brussel Sprouts with Kimuchi Vinaigrette
Glacier 51 Toothfish Saikyo Yaki with renkon pickle and daikon oroshi
Tajimi Wagyu Strip Loin with potato puree and wagyu teriyaki
Dragon Eggs – white chocolate, roasted banana, hazelnut, banana cream and miso caramel
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Oh where to begin! I am still mind blown by Saké. Firstly the very modernised cuisine from Chef Shaun Presland and Head Chef Shoji Toru offered an endless amount of choice and happiness. I will always order anything with Seafood Bugs (Moreton Bay or Balmain) and I will always order Brussel sprouts so I was happy to see both.
There are a few things we were all disappointed in so will get them out of the way first. Our meal and drinks for three people was over $700- with tip. This is high-end fine dining. As the bill was coming out we were placing bets as to what we thought it would cost and the highest bet taken was $180- each, it ended up being $240 each, for what we got this seemed high. Admittedly we dined on a Sunday and this incurred a 10% surcharge so AVOID SUNDAYS and PUBLIC HOLIDAYS.
And chopsticks – for a $700- meal I do not want to see disposable chopsticks anywhere in the venue. This is unfathomable that a venue of this calibre would serve their fine dining food with chopsticks I can get delivered with my takeaway. The waitstaff replaced our plates a few times but then lifted our chopsticks and moved on to a new plate. One of my guests was germophobing hard on them touching her utensils and moving it to be used again. Could a chopstick rest and more stylish utensils not be provided?
The drinks menu is overwhelming – it is 37, I REPEAT THIRTY SEVEN PAGES long. Most of the drinks we allowed the lovely Neani to choose for us because we didn’t have time to read an entire thesis on alcohol to select. The wine, cocktails, sakés, whiskeys, gins and on and on are all at the peak of the best of the best but the menu itself is just overwhelming. The cocktails listed are all modern Japanese inspired cocktails and they were heavenly. You can order more traditional cocktails on request, they just weren’t on the menu.
The sake was blissful and we had to stop after one carafe or I would have ended up crawling home giggling.
Our wine was a 2017 Singlefile ‘Denmark Family Reserve’ Chardonnay from Western Australia and it was brilliant. Sadly we also had a gripe on this one. We were asked if we wanted to discuss wine with the sommelier and it was a big yes so we could perfectly match our remaining hot meals. Our sommelier brought the wine and poured. He explained the wine and how it was good with our meals but we were provided no options and, while the wine was superb, we weren’t “sold” the wine, we were given it and then paid for it. This wine came in at $98!!! A big surprise that would have been better if explained to us when ordering. We would most likely have ordered it but it was all very “here’s your wine.”
The New Style Sashimi was our first dish and immediately told us the level of technical skill we were going to receive. A lightly seared salmon and snapper ceviche style sashimi dish that had us all smiling hard.
The sashimi tasting plate that followed emphasised the skill point and brought it home with some of the freshest sashimi I have eaten in recent years. We were all taken by the single wine soaked Umeboshi on the plate. These little Japanese plumbs were insane and we got gifted a bowl of them. We still can’t work out how they look more like a lychee insead of the smooth surface of the plum. Regardless – we loved them. And the use of a single Japanese maple leaf for a garnish was stunning, we all commented on it.
The omelette nigiri was a must for me, another thing I will always order, egg dishes. It was delightful but paled to other, more complex, dishes. The Red Samurai Makimono was a lot larger than we were expecting – we assumed two or three pieces but it was a large plate of them. The flavours and mild heat was wonderful. And finally the Spider Maki was ordered for Claire, not a huge fan of soft shell crab we were determined to change her mind – it was a success.
The popcorn shrimp we were told to eat by friends. It was a nice dish and one of their most popular on the menu but for me it was very standard and didn’t highlight the technical skills like other dishes. I would consider this more a comfort dish that kids will LOVE.
The Nasu Dengaku aka Tempura Eggplant was a favourite dish of all of us. A friend of Martine’s told her we “had to eat it” and I am glad we did. The Shumai was delicious but the menu says steamed dumplings – we were certain they were fried, unless they are finished in a pan? Regardless they were delicious.
The Bug Tail Tempura was another favourite, it was so light and fluffy and appeared more like a salt and pepper squid but when you bit into them they were like wonderful little clouds of subtle flavours that melted in the mouth. I will have this dish many times again.
The one dish I did not like was the Brussel Sprouts, a hard dish to screw up for me as I worship them. Spicy Brussel Sprouts with Kimuchi Vinaigrette – Kimuchi is basically kimchi. The sprouts were fried light and perfect and the outer leaves exhibited that fried kale consistency that drives me to a culinary orgasm but the sauce was oversweet and tasted close to a bottle of Trident Sweet Chilli sauce. Claire’s own words “the sprout sweetness made me retch a little bit,” not ideal. Lessen the sweetness level and this will be a wonderful dish.
TWO OF THE BEST DISHES OF 2018:
Next up were two of the best dishes of 2018. The Toothfish aka Black Cod aka Butterfish is my favourite Japanese dish and probably my favourite seafood. Imagine a fish having sex with a block of butter then bathing in a miso soy, this dish would be the child. Voila – you’re welcome! It was superb but did not better my fave toothfish from RAW BAR, but it was so close and my fave dish of the day.
Final main was the Tajimi Wagyu Strip Loin. A near perfect beef dish that melted in the mouth. I will eat this again for sure!
None of us wanted to share the Saké Manly signature dessert, so we ordered a Dragon Egg each, had three on the table and all fantasised of walking them into a fire naked so we could eventually have sex with John Snow. Sorry, distracted.
The dessert was a technical and artistic marvel – and each layer looked superb. BUT – it is such a heavy dish and more suited as a winter dish. Give us a much lighter version for summer pretty please. Eating this in 35 degrees clogged my arteries, thank god I downed it with a sharp and sweet botrytis to mellow it out. The girls consumed their John Snow totem with Espresso Martinis and were very happy.
SAKÉ Manly was not without faults but the view, the service and the technical expertise of the modern Japanese food ensures this will make my Top 20 Restaurants of 2018. It just slipped in being the last venue I dined at before the NYE celebrations. Saké Manly is a special occasion restaurant, no normal person can regularly afford a meal this expensive but I do look forward to returning.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 2/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets & 1/1 bonus
SAKE MANLY DEETS:
PH: 02 8099 7076
LEVEL 1, (UPSTAIRS) MANLY WHARF
PRICING: Very Expensive
Monday – Thursday 12 – 3pm | 5 – 10:30pm
Friday – Saturday 12 – 3pm | 5 – 11pm (bar and bar menu available all day)
Sunday 12 – 9pm
LOCAL DELIVERY: No
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Not ideally – if they are OK dining in a fine dining restaurant
BYO: No – fully licensed
*** Spooning Australia Paid for This Meal ***
For more reviews of Northern Beaches Restaurants – check them out HERE