The Sydney-based Urban Purveyor Group has opened Melbourne’s second (but the group’s fifth) Saké Restaurant and Bar in the ex-Woody P. site on Flinders Lane.

Don’t expect a duplication of the others – there are a few differences.

“With every new restaurant, we want the brand to evolve,” says Martin Heierling, UPG’s culinary director. “We also wanted to make sure this one fit in well with the culture of Flinders Lane.”

One key difference is the menu. “We’re taking more of a traditional approach with the food at Flinders Lane,” says Heierling, “but we’re using contemporary techniques and methods to make the dishes modern. This is something we haven’t done before.”

Jean Paul Lourdes (ex-Joel Robuchon Restaurant, Tokyo) is on board as executive chef of the Flinders Lane branch.

New dishes include chicken yakitori (different parts of the bird are served with different sauces and garnishes, such as wings with soy and mandarin) cooked on the robata grill. And a range of noodle and rice dishes, such as roast chicken dashi with toasted rye noodles, and a pork donburi rice bowl.

Beef tataki with shichimi togarashi (Japanese spice mix) and salted plum is another new addition. Saké favourites, such as prawn shumai with ponzu sauce, are there too.

Another key difference with Saké Flinders Lane is the sushi bar. While all the Saké restaurants serve sushi and sashimi, Flinders Lane has a separate, dedicated sushi bar, complete with its own kitchen team and sushi chef, Kengo Hiromatsu.

“We really wanted to showcase all the beautiful fresh produce we serve, like the toro (tuna belly) we get from Japan,” says Heierling.

There are Japanese beers, whiskies, sake and a range of flavoured shochus (shochu is the national spirit of Japan) – including a lemon-and-jalapeno flavour.

Construction begins next week on Saké Jr; Saké Restaurant’s casual “little cousin”. The food will be similar and more approachable. There will be sushi rolls and rice and noodle dishes. It is expected to open at 555 Bourke Street in July.

The UPG’s other new venue, at the old Stokehouse city site, is also expected to open in July. The Alfred, a New York-style steakhouse, will occupy the top floor. The first Melbourne branch of Sydney’s Fratelli Fresh, a casual Italian diner and provedore, will be on the ground floor. This will be the first of 10-to-20 Fratelli Fresh outlets UPG plans to bring to Victoria, along with 30-to-40 Fratelli pizzerias.

The hospitality group, which claims revenues in excess of $200 million and 2000 employees, says it plans to double in size over the next 24 months, and become the first billion-dollar dining group.

Saké Restaurant & Bar
121 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
1300 670 910

Hours:
Sun to Wed 11.30am–12am
Thu to Sat 11.30am–3am

sakerestaurant.com.au