Restaurants Spirits & Wine

Nikka Whisky at Sake Restaurant & Bar

Winter means whisky season is in full swing and to celebrate the colder months, Saké Restaurant & Bar at The Rocks and Double Bay are holding Fire & Ice, a month-long festival in June featuring Nikka Whisky.

Nikka Whisky at Saké Restaurant & Bar
Nikka Whisky Sour

Nikka Whisky was founded in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru, a sake brewer’s son who became the first Japanese to study the art of whisky making in Scotland. He established the distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, chosen for its similarities with the Scottish town where he studied.

The Nikka Whisky Sour ($18) is the place to start. Made using Nikka from the Barrel shaken with fresh lemon juice, egg white, syrup and Angostura bitters, the cocktail makes a good introduction to the Japanese whisky. The drink is a well-balanced sour, refreshing and makes a good aperitif.

Nikka Whisky at Saké Restaurant & Bar
Crispy Whisky Kingfish

Pair it with the Crispy Whisky Kingfish ($15), a feature dish created by Sake Executive chef Shaun Presland which incorporates whisky. Bites of crispy rice are topped with chopped kingfish sashimi in a dressing of tama miso with Nikka from the Barrel, shallots and jalapeno. These tasty bites take two days in the making and yield an interplay of textures and flavours that go equally well with the cocktail as well as the whisky sipped neat.

Nikka Whisky at Saké Restaurant & Bar
Nikka Whisky Flight with Bites

The highlight of the Fire & Ice Festival at Sake (The Rocks) is the Nikka Whisky Flight with Small Bites ($20) offering 3 x 15ml Nikka Whisky expressions paired with food. The flight is not to be missed and makes a good introduction to the whisky and gives an appreciation of the different flavour profiles and food matching at a very reasonable price.

The seared scallop with miso cream and mushroom with salmon roe and bonito flakes is paired with Nikka from the Barrel (51.4% ABV). The creaminess of the miso cream and the saltiness of the scallop go well with the fruit and hint of spicy oak of the whisky.

Twice cooked pork belly kakuni with braised daikon, shallot and truffle oil is paired with Nikka Miyagikyo 12 YO (45% ABV). Another good pairing, the dryer style and tang of dried fruit along with the salty finish of the whisky cut through the richness of the pork belly.

Resembling a bite-sized sandwich, the tamago egg custard is filled with smoked salmon and chives with tamari sauce and egg miso and paired with Nikka Yoichi 15 YO (45% ABV). Complex flavours are in harmony with the salty-sweet tamagi egg and the dry and spiced notes of the whisky. The smoked salmon filling pairs particularly well with the peat coming through mid-palate from the 15 yo whisky – a superb combination and well deserving of a bold and complex Japanese whisky.

Nikka Whisky at Saké Restaurant & Bar
Chicken Karaage with Spicy Sauces

Also on offer during the Fire & Ice festival is the Chicken Karaage with Spicy Sauces ($15) paired with Asahi Black. While many are familiar with the chicken marinated in ginger, garlic and soy sauce, dipped in potato starch and fried to a crisp, it is the spicy sauces that make this dish.

The first is the mildest of the three hot sauces and consists of a delicious kimchi-base with mayo that eases you into the heat. Next is a combination of Peruvian panka chili sauce and paste that starts mild with a measure of cumin and lingers long with good heat. The last is the standout of the trio, Gochujang, a Korean chilli paste with miso, fresh garlic and chilli, finished with sesame oil. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself eating it by the spoon. The sauces deliver a spicy-hot flavour bomb and you’ll be needing a sip of Asahi Black to quench the fire.

The Fire & Ice festival at Sake Restaurant & Bar is running throughout June.

Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

Saké Restaurant & Bar Sydney
12 Argyle Street
The Rocks, Sydney
02 9259 5656


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.