Sakana: Traditional Pan-Asian Cuisine in a Modern Setting
When I moved to Manchester, Peter Street was the territory of raucous stag nights and lairy hen parties.
Then all went quiet as the Northern Quarter and Spinningfields rose in prominence. But in the last year or two, Peter Street has come back fighting with South American cocktails in Revolución de Cuba, Mexican food at Lucha Libre and Rihanna and Gagabowling over in All Star Lanes (not every night granted). All this coupled with Manchester’s fastest rising music venue the Albert Hall and the ever reliable Radisson Blu standing guard; Peter Street is again a contender as a Saturday night hotspot.
It was only a matter of time before a swanky restaurant renovated one of the drinking dens of yesteryear. Situated in the old Chicago Rock Cafe building, Sakana nestles in the heart of Peter Street, next door to the Albert Hall. On the night I went with two friends in tow, scaffolding surrounded this £1 million revamp so it was difficult to judge its kerb appeal.
On entering, we were met with an intimate cocktail bar. We were right on the nose time-wise but were still offered a drink at the bar before going through to our table. I admit it was only six in the evening so service had barely started, but there are other restaurants in the city which seem to pride themselves on getting you through a three-course meal and cocktail in less than 45 minutes. What a refreshing change to be unhurried.
The cocktails were magnificent. I opted for the amazing Asian Pear Martini but was pipped at the post for best drink of the night by my companion who went for the Samurai. The bar staff were really friendly but not in your face, helping my friends to decide what they wanted then giving us peace to enjoy our drinks.
Then to the table. As I mentioned, we were early so there were only around four tables occupied – but the restaurant was obviously armed for battle with about seven waiting staff and the same in the kitchen smiling to greet us. A little unnerving, particularly as they didn’t move the whole time we ate. Luckily I had my back to them but my friends felt a little under the microscope as we progressed through the meal, silently hoping for a large birthday party to come and give them something to do.
As we perused the menu, it was obvious we were struggling as to what to order. Disappointingly, the waiter wasn’t much help. We opted for the Maki selection and, not long after, the waitress plonked the plate down and pointed out salmon, tuna and the vegetarian option. Although it’s still a bit of mystery as to what we ate, it tasted amazing. After the first bite we were lost in the food. It was superb.
For main course, I ordered scallops in a Thai spicy sauce. Scallops is my fail safe restaurant food and I can honestly say these were the best I have ever tasted. For a start, they were huge (always a good thing) but so delicately cooked they literally melted in my mouth. It was one of those food experiences you never want to end. My friend had beautifully seared beef fillet and my other mate scoffed smoked duck okonomiyaki, a cross between a pancake and a pizza. Both were delicious.
By now the waiter had warmed up a little and was giving us great dessert advice. It took a lot of persuasion to dissuade me from the chocolate pot and lime crumble but he was insistent we all went for molasses tart – and earned his tip right there. There aren’t enough superlatives to get across the taste sensation he brought to the table. More like a salted caramel tart mixed with homemade apple miso ice cream, it was king of desserts.
As Sakana has only been open a matter of weeks, the staffing glitches can mostly be overlooked because they’ve got the main thing right: the food. I would unhesitatingly recommend this place for a treat and will be going back, even if it’s just for a cheeky slice of molasses tart on my way to the tram.
By Chris Park
Rating (out of five):
Where: Peter Street, Manchester
When: Mon-Sat 12pm-10.30pm, Sun 12pm-9pm
More Info: www.sakanapan-asian.co.uk
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