Asian food is a cuisine that is rarely called upon in my world. I’ve nothing against it, I just prefer other types ahead, but like I am with my drink, on the odd occasion I will branch out, experience, learn and hopefully enjoy. With an invite to Sakana, the fairly new opening on Peter Street in Manchester, it would test my food based horizons.
What used to be a site occupied by Chicago Rocks, Sakana transformed the interior with clean, white decor that leaves no trace of the former tenants. The open kitchen at the back of the restaurant is a touch I always love, and the bar that greets you is a divide from the drinks to restaurant crowd. This is, of course, the first port-of-call for the Drinks Enthusiast, ordering a Sano Grog (£7) that blended Jack Daniels with Gosling Black Seal and Cointreau, topped with apple juice. Strong, with the whiskey and rum hitting the mark well, and the orange of the Cointreau dicing through on the odd occasion made it an interesting mix. Browsing the drinks menu whilst waiting for my plus one, I notice that the menu is actually split when it comes to the cocktails. My Sano Grog is classed as ‘Dai’, seen as classic cocktails that have lasted throughout the ages with a Sakana twist. I could have easily have gone for Blueberry Margarita with Olmeca Plata, or Strawberry and Coconut Caipirinha with Sagatiba, or indeed chosen from the Shakabuku or Kusuguri-Zeme lists which gave out recipes such as Lotus Blossom which includes Grey Goose La Poire, Kwai Feh lychee liqueur, Sake, lime, sugar and pear.
Upon the arrival, my guest for the evening opted for the One Inch Punch (£8.50), mixing Bacardi Oro, Cariel Vanilla vodka, lime juice, gingerbread syrup, blueberry puree, and ginger beer, this came under the Shakabuku portion of the menu that offered cocktails that gave a swift kick to the head that causes spiritual enlightenment.
Our helpful and polite host offered us our seats for the evening, a booth along the back of the bar that gave a great view of the kitchen and the master chefs at work. As it was before 7pm, the ‘Taste of Sakana’ menu looked the tempting option for two novices, with the chance to experience 4 dishes each for the price of £18.50 (you can of course go for less if required). So, as you would, 8 dishes were ordered including Pork Ramen which involved Loin pork, noodles and miso broth, also Donburi Pork Tonkatsu with deep fried pork in panko, Japanese rice and teriyaki sauce as well as Yuzu and Sesame Beef with grilled steak with a yuzu and sesame glaze plus fresh green salad.
Artistic measures are a must at Sakana, as all the dishes came to the table with thought, care and attention to detail, with each dish explained to accompany. All served at the right temperature, and we had a nice balance of fish and meat, with some dishes, for example the Pork Ramen, offering a lighter side as the pork soaked up the miso broth. The eight dishes seemed a lot to begin-with, but the bites were the right size for an informal dinner chat, with chopsticks and cutlery clashing as my lack of skills hampered the ‘right way’. Other dishes that just missed the cut were the likes of Spicy Fish Ramen with noodle soup with spicy thai fish cake and spicy broth, as well as Yakimiso Pork Steamed Bun which involved slow miso pork belly, served with two soft and fluffy steamed buns.
Value for money? £18.50 is for sure a brilliant way to spend on a wide variety. No room for dessert perhaps, but always space for a night-cap. Of course, Asian cuisine much be finished with some Asian spirit styles, with my friend opting for the highly acclaimed Yamazaki 12 year whisky (£6 for 25 ml), with myself heading towards the Sake expressions, in particular the Kishinamien Umeshu plum Infused Sake (£6.90 for 75 ml). Warm, well-balanced and to be honest a great and fitting ending to a surprisingly good meal. I didn’t know what to expect for a cuisine that I’m not overly familiar with, but I’ll be back again for sure.
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