Sunset Sabi is a relatively new venue in Manly (maybe six months). It is a chic Japanese inspired venue from the masters of Manly food cool, Sean and Luke Miller (not related). These are the guys that own Chica Bonita, one of the coolest little hole-in-the-wall Mexican places this far North of the border. My love for their chimichangas and fish tacos is slightly obsessive – at last year’s Manly Open of Surfing I lived on them for a week :).
I haven’t met the guys but I like to imagine them as Manly hipster surfers who are well travelled and masters in marketing. They travelled and surfed through Mexico and lived on the local food and a lightbulb went off that said “this will fracking slay in Manly.” They made it so and Chica Bonita most definitely slays. A couple of years later I reckon they did some travelling, snow boarding maybe, to Japan, and a bigger lightbulb went off and they turned to each other and went “no fracking way.” And Sunset Sabi is their new genius creation and we are the luckier for it, this place is superb.
SUNSET SABI VENUE:
Sunset Sabi is an all glass frontage on Pittwater Road in Manly, they are right next door to my hair and beard maestros, Captain Sip Sops. From the moment it opened I was hearing about this place from some friends in Manly and we kept trying to make plans to attend and plans kept failing. It took my birthday to make it happen. Feasting and drinking partner in crime, James, and myself hit it up to have a mini celebration together – it was James’ birthday week as well.
James isn’t afraid to order up big on food, or alcohol for that matter so we had a blast, I went broke, but hey – it was sooooooooo worth it.
I am yet to visit Japan but imagine this is what an upmarket bar venue is like, an izakaya style that isn’t sake heavy but embraces all the alcohol and foods. It boasts a huge open bar and then tables all around the floor space, there is bench seating at the front along the glass frontage, couples tables and group tables. The one thing you can’t help but notice, this place is constantly packed, you need to book and it is not a place for a long dinner. Perhaps for the last sitting of the evening but we had a 6pm sitting and I believe that means we had two hours to be filled and merry.
The staff were regularly attentive but not invasive, we had a lot of fun and a few chuckles with our waitperson, she knew everything about every dish and I took her recommendations on a few of our orders.
The drinks are very different to the usual, they have a unique Japanese inspiration similar to everything else in the venue. My first cocktail was the SPICY SNOW BEAUTY (above) – creamy sake, habanero, vanilla absolut vodka, mint and lime for $16-. Do not expect anything you are used to and expect to ask the waitstaff what half the ingredient names mean. But this was part of the experience. I am not a fan of spicy drinks but these worked. If you are used to martinis, daiquiris and the like you may find this daunting but ask the staff, I am sure they can make you anything but step out of the box, go something that scares you.
My second cocktail (the green drink in the tumbler below) was the SABIRITA – wasabi, yuzu, lime, arrette blanco, triple sec, agave $15-. It was bloody delightful and the wasabi was really mild and the effect fell on the tongue more as a flavour not as a spice.
We washed our cocktails down with a bottle of the Spanish Rioja Vega Tempranillo $56-. My favourite grape, I will always hunt down the tempranillo at any venue because just YUM. It paired beautifully with all our dishes, giving a light balanced accompaniment. Both of us are huge shiraz drinkers but it wouldn’t have worked with this food. The wine list is impressive but exxy.
And if sake is your thing – get into it – I really wish we had some sake – I LOVE IT, but we went two rounds of cocktails and a bottle of wine, and I was driving. It wouldn’t have been cool – next time it will be an Uber, a late sitting and a lot of SAKE!!!
The food is next level multiple foodgasm cuisine, I never expected it to be this good, but wow – it was mind blowing. We started with the Japanese standard starter, edamame. But nay, no standard edamame here – this is SABIMAME – edamame, white truffle, chilli, orange, salt $7-. Insane – best edamame of all time for me. The chilli doesn’t really penetrate to the bean but the flavours on the SABIMAME are on your lips and tongue and give it this incredible light flavoured warmth.
Following this we had my favourite dish from the venue, a stunning orchestra of citrus, salmon and beetroot. Remember the name ORANGE CRUSH SALMON TARTARE because it is a MUST ORDER!!! Sliced raw salmon in white miso with orange essence and veggie chips (not sure if they change the chip flavours as they list it as veggie chips but they were all beetroot) $15-. No word of a lie – I would have been happy ordering five of these and nothing else – 5/5 dish.
DYNAMITE AND SHITBALLS:
Odd title I know but these were the name of the following two dishes and they were both sublime. DYNAMITE: baked sushi roll – prawn and scallop baked in a creamy spicy sauce (good for 4) $12-. OK – it says “good for 4” on the menu – but that’s just lies, with four pieces of the delectable baked sushi roll you will definitely want more than one!
Below is the delightful SABIRITA – see up in the drinks section for the deets.
And then there was SHITBALLS. Pat, the awesome rockstar and manager who does my hair from CAPTAIN SIP SOPS (next door), this is his favourite dish from SUNSET SABI. SHITBALLS (Yaki Nigiri): pickled shitake mushrooms, parmesan – a fried rice ball $10-. A subtly flavoured cheesy earth flavoured ball – call it a Japanese Vegan Arancini if you will. If it fits it sticks. SHITBALLS rock!! These will be had again!
SUNSET SABI MAINS:
We kicked off the first of the mains with a special recommended by our amazing waitperson. TUNA ME ON – I do believe it’s only a special so ask for it when dining. Furikake seared tuna with avocado salsa, white soy ponzu and crispy fried bonito! I am insure of the pricing on this one but whatever it is JUST PAY – this dish needs to be eaten and the elements need to be eaten together. The tuna was perfection, the avocado salsa gave it more accompanying mild-flavoured moisture and the white soy gonzo was perfectly tart and on point to cut into the joined forces of the tuna and avocado. The bonito flakes were the cherry on top. An elegant meal that was all class and something I had issue sharing with James :).
Next in line, as I loosened the belt, was James’ favourite of the evening (I think). BEEF TATAKI: black angus beef seared and served nigiri style with egg yolk cured in kombu and truffle micro shoe string potato $14-. A truly nuanced delicate dish with somewhat bold flavours. Another highlight of the evening.
I really wanted to steal two of the wine glasses – beautiful glasses to aid me in my red grape alcoholism! James said no – he sucks.
By this stage I was satisfied, we had already eaten quite a lot but James could eat a suburb so we plowed on. The last two dishes were my least favourite of the evening. They were much more subtle dishes and I thought we needed to eat these ones earlier in the meal before the bolder flavours of the Beef Tataki and even the Shitballs. The SOBA TROUT was my choice to order, it sounded insanely divine and if I hadn’t eaten everything prior I would be in love with this dish. This is the meal I want to eat for a weekday lunch that makes me feel confident that I am at least partially healthy. Light and balanced, a dish that would drive vegaquarians into foodgasm.
One of my closest friends from school is my favourite chef on the planet. Azza runs SPICE BAR in Mooloolaba with his divine wife, Kymmy. He is a maestro of Asian fusion and he makes a duck okonomiyaki that is the okonomiyaki I judge all others by. When I stayed with them years ago I ordered and ate the okonomiyaki every single day. It is one of my favourite meals on the planet.
This vegetarian version just couldn’t cut it for me, sadly. It was prepared well but my brain, heart and mouth can only love one okonomiyaki. Veggie pancake with pickled shitake mushrooms, bonito flakes, sabi kewpie, bulldog bbq sauce, ‘house of sabi ponzu kimchi’, pickled ginger, sesames. $10-. This was our waitperson’s favourite dish – she is a recovering vegan and I forgive her. It was nice but there can be only one for me.
If you have made it this far into my Sunset Sabi thesis then congratulations.
Sunset Sabi is now my favourite venue in Manly, previously held by Jamtown. Jamtown is still awesome but the boys at Sunset Sabi has taken the somewhat stale elements of Manly food culture and lit a fire under its ass, there is a reason it is always packed. For funky Japanese venues, that do it all, Sunset Sabi is good enough to enter the world stage of competition. I will be back for more.
Sunset Sabi Deets:
26-28 Pittwater Road, Manly, NSW
Phone: (02) 9977 7461
Tue – Thur: 5.30pm to 11pm
Fri – Sun: 5pm to to 11pm
Confirm hours with venue before you book – they do two sittings and hours may vary.
*** SHOCK HORROR – JK PAID FOR THIS MEAL