satsuki – subiaco
Sitting in the quiet restaurant, the counter seats were bare and the only other customers were outside. Devoid of customers, Satsuki was sedately and piously quiet. Too quiet.
Taking up Subi’s bermuda triangle location, where no restaurant or venture has permanently succeeded, the restaurant was so quiet that I thought we were in yet another doomed eatery. Unbeknownst to us, we were witnessing the the lull before the storm. Satsuki’s menu is refreshingly different from the repeated scripts of most japanese restaurants. You won’t find a california roll or even a bento box here. In the izakaya style – numerous small dishes are shared and orders are taken as the meal progresses, with a short wait between ordering and eating. In another words, this is really good food for drinks and Satsuki has an impressive range of japanese liquor – especially shochu and sake. I gave my liver a break that night but I can imagine the pairing must be fabulous.
Sitting at the counter, we had prime view of the sushi chef and the small window leading into the kitchen. The service here is meticulous. And the cleanliness is second to none. There is no confusion or dawdling with the orders, everything is prompt and exacting and it makes me wonder how so many establishments in Perth get their service so wrong. Satsuki’s staff make everything look so effortless – from judiciously sprinkling puffs of powder upon desserts to scrupulously making drinks – they are efficient and focussed, yet friendly and helpful.
We start off with an assorted sashimi platter and the plate is organised like artwork. Three to four pieces of salmon, kingfish and tuna precisely laid out. The garnish of paper thin cucumber, carrot strips and long, shreds of fresh daikon emphasized the freshness of the produce. Even the wasabi was surprisingly, freshly grated horseradish, which was a first for me. The fresh horseradish has a refined taste, making the usual nose throbbing powdered formula a secondary, distant cousin. My favourite sashimi, kingfish, was beautiful. Firm in texture and light in taste, the kingfish was cut into fairly thick pieces, with tiny slices of lemon separating each of them. The tuna was meaty and had a slightly ferric taste. A deep ruby red and exceptionally fresh, the tuna was light years away from the pale, limp ‘sashimi grade’ tuna served elsewhere. The salmon was rich, fatty and tender and consumed slowly and delightfully. Satsuki’s sashimi got us off to a great start – I can gladly say their sashimi is one of the best to be found in Perth – in more ways than one – exceptionally fresh and exceptionally presented.
The wagyu tataki arrived on a beautifully flecked ceramic plate. Each slice of beef was garnished with shredded spring onion, resting in dressing. The tataki’s beauty lies in each delicate forkful of rare beef, dressing and spring onion. The wagyu was fantastic – the taste of high quality beef pairs well with the acidic cringe of spring onion. The dressing’s weak flavour acted as a lubricant for the two flavours to combine.
My short attention span is kept occupied with the arrival of more food – the kitchen here is super fast (and the waitress will tell you if something takes longer than usual, like grilled food). The soft shell crab hailed us with its craggy landscape of tiny legs and claws. Dainty but juicy, each crab is crispy and juicy. When swirled around in the tobiko (tiny bright orange fish roe) and mayonaise, each bite is a rich amalgamation of creamy textures and fresh clean taste of crab meat.
With little fanfare, the adventurous isobe yaki is served. The seaweed wrapped scallops don’t look very exciting at all. But looks are deceiving. I gobble one down without inspecting the contents and discover the chef has paired deep fried cheese (yes – deep fried cheese!) with a spicy scallop and wrapped it all up in the freshest nori. The nori is crispy and the cheese, fried into an indistinguishable hard foam, is not entirely unpleasant with the tender spicy scallop.
The braised pork kakuni arrives in a deep bowl with a cute spoon and accompanying spoon rest. Three pieces of braised pork belly and an egg sat in a thin darkly flavoured broth, enhanced by various spices we could not identify. The fatty pork belly was entirely wholesome and eaten greedily with rice. We ladled the broth into our bowls – slurping the sloppy rice and the streaky pork was a delicious combination. The dish is reminiscent of a chinese braised pork dish but the japanese adaptation is lighter and has a delicate body. I later found out the chinese version (dongpo pork) was introduced to Japan via the Sino-Japanese trade route, through the port of Nagasaki.
Still a bit greedy, we ordered a serve of ‘deep fried sushi’. Love the name – the pairing of something healthy with something so so bad! As a testament to the kitchen, the sushi came out in five minutes flat, if that. The result: amazing sushi! How to make something deliciously sublime like tuna sushi even better? Deep fry it! Chilled sushi encased in piping hot batter - the raw tuna was meltingly tender, with the robust tang of rice, the nori and hot batter made the most delectable crisp crust on the sushi. It was unexpectedly very good – easily the dish of the night.
Having watched many desserts being skillfully assembled by the waitresses, we waived the seemingly popular chocolate fondant (which was continuously walking out the door) and ordered the creme brulee. A little porcelain bowl of creamy custard was topped with sugar and scorched with a miniature blowtorch, resulting in a thin, rippled sugar crust. The dessert was gratifyingly perfect. The brulee was just set to a slightly wobbly finish with a distinctive creamy texture and even creamier taste. What a way to finish our dinner.
As we exited Satsuki we realised the restaurant was full house. Indeed food of the calibre deserves word of mouth compliments. Over the course of dinner, the kitchen viewing was increasingly interesting viewing as more seats were filled. One of the more elaborate dishes was the sushi degustation plate. A beautiful masterpiece and a showcase of the chef’s talent, it comprises of seven sushi pieces, each freshly made and elaborately decorated. Each degustation plate was an opportunity to observe the art of sushi being played out live. Each piece of sushi (including a rubenesque spoon filled with globules of roe) were shrewdly fashioned, with each dexterous movement purposeful and incurring no wastage. One particular ingredient caught our eye – the egg ‘souffle’. An insanely yellow block of fluffy egg – almost cut through – set as a crown upon the daintiest block of rice. I should’ve taken a photo but it’s a bit weird to take photos of a dish that is someone else’s!
A few minutes later in the carpark, we realised Satsuki was the best meal we’ve had for a long while. And that’s really saying something. This is one of those places we’ll be raring to go back to and making any excuse to return. Satsuki is pretty much perfect. Yes, perfect.
- 19 soft shell crabs out of 20 -
Up’s: Everything – service, food, price point. Interesting food, familiar territory but pleasantly different. Deep fried sushi!
Down’s: None. Oh god, then why did I give it 19? I’m saving 20 for the ultimate fine dining restaurant!!
Satsuki, Shop 1/50 Subiaco Square, Subiaco WA 6003
T: (08) 9382 4367
Lunch Tuesday – Saturday noon – 2:30
Dinner Tuesday – Saturday 6pm – late
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