16 Jan Sake Jr (St Collins Lane), Melbourne CBD
Sake Jr has expanded, and now has a second restaurant in the new and snazzy St Collins Lane food court. At lunch time the Bourke St and St Collins Lane branches serve the same menu, but come dinnertime, the St Collins Lane location shows its differences. Starting from 4pm, they start serving bao, Japanese fried chicken (JFC) and abura noodles. We’ve visited Sake Jr before, so were interested to see what their dinner menu had to offer.
Both the JFC chicken wings and boneless chicken thigh are very juicy, and its batter retains its crunch, even after sitting there for a while. It’s a light, airy batter that doesn’t absorb quite as much oil as Kentucky Fried. Having had a small taste of all the sauces, my favourite is the creamy and tangy yuzu sesame.
Bao can be filled chicken, pork, beef or tofu. Our tofu bao comes with kimchi and pickled cucumber, and we’re recommended to try it with the yuzu sesame sauce. The tofu is soft, and the outer has a slight crispiness to it. The tofu is not as smooth, and the outside is not quite as crispy as agedashi tofu, but it’s enough to provide a bit of textural variety. Gochujang is the recommended pairing for the crispy pork bao, which uses the same juicy pork that’s used in the noodles and build-your-own-bowls.
Abura, or ‘oil noodles’, can be had in both udon and ramen varieties. It’s a soupless noodle dish with soy and kombu tare, wakame, bamboo shoots, spring onion, niboshi and egg. We choose beef for our abura udon, and the beef is tender. Some pieces are quite large, requiring a bit of chewing, but the amount given is generous. Our pork abura ramen comes with four pieces of their crispy-skinned pork, which is a little fatty. Niboshi, or dried baby sardines give little touches of saltiness. The texture of the ramen is firm, reminding me of the texture of wonton noodles. We break the onsen egg and mix it through the noodles. Not sure if that’s the way it’s supposed to be eaten, but we love the creamy coating it gives the them. Sauces and excess egg pool at the bottom of the bowl – the best bit, particularly with the udon.
It can sometimes be pretty quiet at The Aviary on a weekday, but as things warm up and more eateries file in, Sake Jr will provide a decent Japanese option in this fancy food court.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Sake Jr as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time
Sake Jr (St Collins Lane)
The Aviary, Level 2
St Collins Lane
258-274 Collins Street
Melbourne CBD, VIC, 3000