As I write this, I feel the combined weight of too many holiday meals resting in my stomach, settling on my thighs, my upper arms, and all the problem spots women have when it comes to their bodies. This is the heavy â€“literally (!) and I daresay, unavoidable result of gorging that is incessant at this time of the year. I feel that the only thing I lack now is a pigâ€™s nose and utter a guttural â€œoink!â€
So when the owners of a new Japanese restaurant invited me over, I was a bit wary about inflicting even more damage to my already beleaguered stomach. Itâ€™s easy however, to work around Japanese food since it can be relatively light. I just needed to stay away from my favorite katsudon (fried pork cutlets over rice).
Sakae (sa-KAH-eh) Sushi is a franchise from Singapore. It has a delightful almost amusing tagline on its signage: â€œGood food, great sushi.â€ Jaded diners may groan about yet another Japanese restaurant, but a look into Sakae will quiet all quibbles.
For one, the sushi parades on a conveyor belt. This demands alertness on your part since youâ€™ve got to be quick on the draw: keeping an eye out on whatâ€™s available and once you see it, youâ€™ve got to snap it up, lest you wait for it to come by again. The sushi is a visual carnival zipping by on various colored plates (P89 â€“pink plates / P189 -multi colored plates). The selection is not commonplace; try the fish roe sushi wrapped in a tofu skin â€œband,â€ and the softshell crab sushi, garnished with sesame seeds. If you donâ€™t see what you want, peruse the menu or ask the servers who seem to pop out of nowhere. Break out of the comfort zone that entraps you into ordering the same things.
Owner Hubert Young is very proud that his restaurant stands on innovation. Sakae has three machines which facilitate the sushi-making: a rice washer, a rice cooker, and a machine that mixes the sushi rice. This technology ensures cleanliness to the highest degree with the only human contact coming from the chefs who arrange the specific sushi toppings.
Another cutting edge feature at Sakae is the ordering done by computer. Every booth is equipped with a monitor and mouse that navigates the user through the different menu items. Though confusing at first, itâ€™s actually no different than working at your office PC. Once youâ€™ve confirmed your order, a server will immediately materialize at your side with a computer print-out of your order which he/she will read out to you for changes.
Every booth also has a hot water dispenser so diners can refill their own tea cups. Itâ€™s a boon for those of us who believe that hot water with every meal will â€œmeltâ€ away the ingested fat and oils. Care needs to be exercised by those seated beside the hot water dispenser, and the accompanying Caution: HOT! sticker tells you all you need to know.
Because my dining companion Karen (Hubertâ€™s wife) and I were intent on eating light, we ordered the paper hot pot (P399-P499) , a dish which I think is available only at Sakae Sushi. Hot pot is not uncommon â€“ a â€œcasseroleâ€ of various meats and vegetables in broth placed over an open flame and served at table. At Sakae however, the food is placed in burn-proof paper which is then set into a stainless sieve and then set atop a burner. This particular paper is imported from Japan, possessing a curious texture: slightly furry on the bottom and smooth paper on the top where the food is. And no, the broth doesnâ€™t seep through the paper either.
I enjoyed the paper hot pot, even if I thought that the broth was bland. Itâ€™s meant to be that way, I was told, because at Sakae, the food speaks for itself with its freshness and vitality. Sauces and such will only serve to destroy it. This goes for the sushi as well. Dip, donâ€™t drown your sushi into the soy sauce and wasabi. Itâ€™s an epiphany to taste food without the cacophony of seasonings.
Something which isnâ€™t on the menu is hamachi, young yellowtail tuna. Karen ordered this at the start of our meal, and 20 minutes later, it still hadnâ€™t arrived. One of the Singaporean supervisors noticed our impatience and with a smile said to us, â€œGood food must wait.â€ Karen and I were stunned into quiet contemplation. How very true. So when the hamachi did come to us, we partook of its tender, juicy flesh with reverence; the only seasoning we dared to add was a zing of lemon juice.
Crescent West Park,
Fort Bonifacio Global City,
(near McDonaldâ€™s and UCC)
843-4891 / 843-5452