Located along the escalator in Soho, Sakesan by Café Deco group is as much a bar as it is a restaurant. As such, there are high seats near the entrance perfect for sipping their extensive Japanese liquor-based cocktail list while people watching. For diners, there is a robata grill for some live action as well as more intimate booths in the back for date nights. The décor is modern, with an overhead projector displaying funky black and white cartoons and neon screens depicting Japanese urban life, making Sakesan an ideal location for getting an energetic night started with friends before moving on to the bars in the area.
Sakesan offers a menu that incorporates elements of other cuisines such as barbecued baby back ribs, lemongrass and truffles into this traditional Japanese art of grilling meat. The menu is diverse in that it also offers sushi, sashimi and tempura. First off the robata grill is a plate of green and white asparagus with wasabi and shiso. This is a great starter as it is light and the vegetables not only retain a crunchy texture but also a smoky flavour from the grill, which complements the subtle shiso in the sauce. Less successful are the cherry tomatoes with sake sauce: often this dish is seen on yakitori menus, wrapped in bacon. Without some sort of wrap, the tomatoes fall apart into an unappetising warm mush, without any contrast in texture. Another starter we had high hopes for were the wagyu beef croquettes. While this deep-fried dish is decent, the name is misleading as the contents of the croquette are primarily sweet potato: the minced beef are far and few in between. Moving onto more substantial meat dishes, the pork belly with sanso salt and lamb chop with black garlic sauce is enjoyable, but by far the highlight are the baby back ribs, which are cooked to perfection. Tender to the point of almost falling off the bone, they have a perfect proportion of fat to meat and an appetisingly spicy aftertaste. To go with all the meat, we ordered a bowl of cold udon which are served at a tepid rather than refreshingly cold temperature, and there was also too much flour, making them heavy rather than chewy. Another highlight of the meal is the dessert of Valrhona chocolate mousse with Asahi ice cream and chocolate pop rocks. Although the chocolate mousse is made with milk chocolate, it is still flavourful enough to satisfy the most ardent dark-chocolate-only fans. The Asahi ice cream and chocolate crackle pops are fun, whimsical and most importantly, delicious.
Sakesan is naturally proud of its sake selection, which includes junmai-shu, ginjo-shu and daiginjo-shu, with a price range of HK$255 to HK$6,000 for a 4.5 litre bottle of daigionjo-shu. Other alcohol includes shochu, awamori, whisky and umeshu, as well as an impressive range of Japanese ales, stouts and lagers that are difficult to find elsewhere.
The staff at Sakesan are considerate, alert and efficient. As it was one of the first warm days of the year, the air-conditioning was on quite high. But before we even had a chance to say anything, our waitress came over to ask if she could adjust the temperature to our liking. Food arrived promptly and on the one occasion we asked after a dish, our waitress said that she had asked for it to come later as it seemed as if we had a lot of food on our table still.
A meal for two will come to less than HK$900: considering its location and the quality of the food, this is not a bad deal for Soho.