Review: Sakana Manchester
Wow! My breathe has truly been taken away by the high quality, pan-asian cuisine on offer at this brand new restaurant in Manchester.
The standard of food and service at ‘Sakana’ in Manchester has left me astounded. Never did I think every last detail on a plate of food could be at the pinnacle of perfection, nor did I think the service at a restaurant that’s only been open for three days would be as seamless as it was. Having heard about the grand opening of ‘Sakana’ this week on Twitter, I was itching to go and try it out for myself. Their opening night received glittering reviews, and the hype that has surrounded this £1 million development left me wondering if this restaurant could really be as good as it sounds. Stewart Yip, a name synonymous with high standard Asian cuisine, has opened this new venture along with his sons Simon, Andy and Ricky and cousin Tim. They are aiming to create a restaurant where you can either go and have a £20 or a £40 meal, an informal or formal dining experience, and either spend £4.50 on a glass of white wine, or £3,600 on a bottle. Can this really be achieved? Well, yes, actually. I think that in the talented hands of these five people, it very much can.
‘Sakana’, which means to enjoy food as an accompaniment to alcohol, sits on St Peter’s Street just off Deansgate in Manchester, formerly the Chicago Rock Cafe, and at first sight, you may be a little surprised. It currently is covered in scaffolding (they’re still working on the first floor of the restaurant which will be finished on 27th November) and to an onlooker, it would look closed which explains why there were so few, if any other, people eating on a Saturday lunchtime. The restaurant, which is able to cater for 240 at any time, was buzzing with staff in every corner ready to attend, and despite there being so few diners, the place didn’t seem empty and they have managed to create an open yet intimate space.
The decor of the restaurant is breath taking. We were sat under the famous Japanese Maple created by Sarah Gallagher-Hayes, and the artwork, which is dotted about the room adds even more elegance to the space. It was fascinating being able to watch our sushi being skilfully made by the chefs in the open kitchen too, and certainly added to our dining experience. As for the service, impeccable is the only word I can find. It was spot on, especially considering it’s their first week, and every single person we spoke to was helpful and attentive. We were provided with the lunch menu, but were also shown the a la carte evening menu to browse at whilst we awaited our food. Our bill also had a ‘Thank You!’ from our waiter, Bruno, which added an extra touch of personality.
The food, however, steals the show. I was overwhelmed at just how high the quality was. My absolute compliments go to chefs Stuart Ngai and Pedro Miranda.
From the lunch menu, we ordered a selection of dishes including a fish sushi selection, the salmon donburi, and a Bento box with the pork donburi. Bruno, thank goodness, explained exactly what our food was once it arrived and also how it should be eaten.
We began with the fish sushi, which is, at the chef’s recommendation, to be eaten with the fish touching the tongue first. We had a selection of mackerel, salmon, prawn and tuna, all of which were excellent, accompanied by four tuna rolls and four California rolls. The fish was clearly fresh and seasoned flawlessly. The tuna rolls were also expertly crafted into a tiny piece of heaven in a roll, and the California rolls were a gastronomical delight. Every single part of the dish was of the highest ranking, even the avocado (which is a personal dislike of mine) was fantastic. I have no idea how they did it, but it was incredible.
Next, we tucked into the salmon donburi. The salmon, which tasted exactly how I believe salmon should taste, was lightly tossed in panko breadcrumbs and fried. Amazing! It was a light meal, despite it being fried, and served with sticky rice. The fish, again, was fresh, and the panko gave it a crisp yet well rounded flavour.
I mentioned that every single detail on the plate was perfection, and it’s true. The wasabi was aromatic, not overbearingly hot but delicately balanced, the ginger was spicy but with a certain sweetness I was unaware could be achieved, and even the soy sauce had a flavour that no other soy sauce I have tasted has – a salty punch but then a burst of added seasoning. Even the watercress and peanut salad was of a high standard, the ingredients bonding together perfectly.
I finished the meal off nicely with their cardamom, coconut and mango panna cotta served with passion fruit. Panna cotta is a desert I leave for other people to eat, but Sakana have managed to change my mind. The texture and mixture of flavours was mind bogglingly good, and the presentation of the whole meal was the standard of a Michelin starred restaurant for a third of the price.
After the meal, despite eating a huge amount of food, I felt refreshed. I didn’t feel overly full or as though I’d overindulged. I actually felt energised and healthy.
I am giving this restaurant a 5* rating, unsurprisingly. I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone, and I hope that everybody experiences as good a meal as we had, though I’m sure they will. A well put together menu by well-trained chefs, every single aspect of the dish being well thought out and considered.