After 4pm each day, Saké Jr transforms into Jr by Night, a unique and compelling menu created by Neil Perry that is a postcard for a casual-fast food Japanese experience.
Blonde wood maneuvers into industrial, polished concrete with black power outlets spaced every few metres to let you work and recharge as the aromas of ramen broth and seafood meld with the sounds of sizzling fry pans and R’n’B music over the speakers to create an ultra-calm atmosphere.
Choosing what to have on the menu was the only stress of the evening. For the Ramen ($13.5) we chose udon noodles over the ramen noodles with a shoyu – soy chicken broth, panko prawns and Japanese Fried Chicken (JFC). There are three other broth choices: mushroom dashi, chilli miso and a brothless, soy alternative. For protein there are the alternatives of tofu, fried shiitake,free range chicken and miso-glazed pork. The broth was deeply earthy and balanced saltiness as it bathed a soft-udon noodle bed beneath pickled bamboo, spring onions and a free range egg.
The Bao Buns ($4.5) have the choice of tofy, fried shiitake, panko prawns, free range chicken, Japanese Fried Chicken and miso-glazed pork. The JFC and miso-glazed pork were too good to pass-up. The bao bun is the perfect mix of fluffiness with denseness, that doesn’t leave it feeling too heavy, yet will please your appetite. For us, the chicken (which we added chili sauce too) clearly beat the pork as the crunch of the coating met and broke the soft bun and this chicken-delight continued into the chicken wings as crisp coating drizzled with chili sauce covered white chicken meat that further made us daydream about what the Japanese Fried Chicken Burger must be like. Not usually a lover of the sesame taste, the sesame mayo on the fried shiitake mushrooms were pleasantly weighted, and complemented the further earthy and juicy mushrooms.
Although the centerpiece for Sake Jr is the ramen bowl, for Jr by Night you’ll struggle to find your hero in your brief visit to this Japanese ode and it will have you planning your combination for your next visit.
Saké Jr. Bourke St, Melbourne: 555 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Saké Jr. St. Collins Lane, Melbourne: St. Collins Lane (Shopping Centre), The Aviary, Level 2260 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3000
Saké Jr. Westfield Sydney: Westfield Shopping Center, 5019 Castlereagh St & Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Saké Jr. Grosvenor Place, Sydney: Grosvenor Place Courtyard, 225 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
For more information on their full-menu and to order online, you can head to their website.