Satisfying soba at Satsuki

Once upon a time Subiaco was the place to be when it came to diverse cuisines and a guaranteed good night out. These days since the emergence of ‘foodies’, food blogs and renowned chefs, there are so many great locations to dine at and Subiaco has started to trail behind.

Situated on top of the train station is a place that I have had on my radar for a little while now. It’s the  sister restaurant of Ha-Lu, which I have to admit was an unexpectedly incredible dining experience. I think it’s fair to say I had high hopes for Satsuki.

Jeremy and I set off there on a drizzling Wednesday night; managing to grab the last available seat in the covered outside area. It’s cold outside but this area is kept warm from some powerful heaters in the centre.

The staff here are all Japanese; sweet, humble and helpful. They’re attentive without being intrusive, and apologetic when things take even a minute longer than normal. Our first waitress is quick to advise us that this is a share philosophy dining experience – one that we’re happy to embrace.

We pour over the quite elaborate menu with gusto; our eyes scanning through the pages for anything that jumps out at us to order.

We start our meal off with a dish from the starters/cold dishes section of the menu. It’s jamon serrano with scallops and white fish sashimi ($24.80) which has a ume plum dressing and truffle oil. The plate looks gorgeous – the presentation on par with what I experienced at Ha-Lu. The spanish prosciutto is salty and tender; the scallops fresh and delicious.

There’s some salmon roe on top which is a nice touch for a burst of juice as is the array of spring onion slices which offer both texture and flavour. The best element of the dish is definitely the curled slices of white fish sashimi. They tastes so great it feels like the fish has just been caught and sliced in the minutes since we ordered. It’s a great start to our night out.

The cuttlefish tempura ($17.60) is a dish that appeals to us greatly – drawn in by the description of sashimi quality tender cuttlefish tempura served with Mentaiko chilli cod roe sauce. It comes out on a blackboard looking plate; the dull surface allowing the colours of the tempura and sauce to pop visually. The taste is lovely; the roe a bit too salty for my liking. But the cost for what you get is disappointing, which ruins the dish for me. It’s six really small pieces of cuttlefish that definitely don’t feel at the quality of the price tag they incur.

Jeremy spies the Nanban style chicken ($13) on the menu and adds it to our list of items for our meal. It’s a succulent, shallow fried chicken thigh that comes with an onion soy vinaigrette and a small salad on the side. The outside of the chicken is crunchy and addictive; the inside tender and flavoursome. It’s a simple dish that has a lot of flavour inside it and a nice combination of textures that play against each other.

The side dish serving of the chilled soba noodles with dipping sauce ($8) is really enjoyable. The dipping sauce of light soy, spring onions and ginger is salty and easy to devour. The chilled noodles are firm, palate neutral and something I could have sat there eating forever. It was a bit of an unexpected delight!

The next dish that comes out is the tenkatsu pork ($17.80), which is deep fried panko crumbed Linley Valley pork that has slices of camembert cheese and tonkatsu sauce. It looks beautiful and simple yet complicated at the same time. The tonkatsu sauce is sweet, thick without being gluggy. The pork itself is crunchy and tender in the centre; the cheese melting to the hot slices of meat on each side. It’s an interesting fusion dish.

The menu here recommends 2-3 dishes per person. We have a tendency to overorder so started with 2 each plus the soba noodles. However the servings sizes here are all on the small side so quickly add on a couple extra items to ensure we eat enough for our dinner.

The first of our extra dishes is the grilled anago eel sushi rolls ($12), It’s five sushi pieces that have anago sea eel inside and are topped with cheese, tomato, a nitsume reduction and Japanese sansho pepper. The roll is then torched lightly to give it a nice charred look and taste.

I have to admit, I was a bit sceptical about this dish, but was willing to trust Jeremy’s judgement since he was pretty keen on it. And I’m glad I did – it (weirdly) tasted great! Yes it did take me a moment to get adjusted to the use of the melting cheese, but the flavours worked well and before I knew it, it was all gone.

Thankfully the assorted tempura ($20.50) of tiger prawns and vegetables with tentsuyu sauce is a much larger serving than the earlier cuttlefish. There’s two tiger prawns, some cherry tomatoes, lettuce, mushroom, lotus root, onion, zucchini and sweet potato. All items are covered in the same delicate tempura batter which is crunchy and almost as light as air. The dipping sauce is thin but clings to the tempura in little shining droplets – adding as much flavour as the food itself. It’s balanced well and seasoned perfectly.

All up our experience at Satsuki was one that was, for the most part, pleasant. I have to admit that I do prefer Ha-Lu out of the two and it might not be the best place to go if you’re a big eater since the portions are tiny. But the flavours are true, and the presentation is like works of art. It’s food porn, but it has a price tag involved.

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