MELBOURNE | Sash Japanese is a new Windsor restaurant from Kyle Stagoll and Dave Nelson (Bondi Espresso), that aims to bring something different to Melbourne’s dining scene. We were intrigued when we first heard about the concept, and were happy to accept an invite to check out the offering. The “something different” here is a blend of Japanese, Hawaiian, and European dishes and flavours. Head Chef Ken Tut (Ichi Ni, Ichi Ni Nana) has put together a menu that’s predominantly Japanese, with free reign to throw in other influences if he can make it work. The result is 12 fusion Japanese pizzas, along with things like poke bowls, sushi tacos, and sliders.
We opted for the “Give It To Me” option, which allows diners to get an assortment of dishes that represents the breadth of what’s on offer here. A spanner crab pizza started proceedings – a charred black squid ink base topped with chilli spanner crab, lemon, orange, and ginger. The pizza didn’t just look exciting, it tasted great too. A generous amount of toppings were present and the different flavours worked well together.
Next was the Kingfish ceviche, which saw plenty of chunks of kingfish mixed in with orange, strawberry, daikon, lime, rice, sliced ginger, and fresh wasabi. Another tasty dish, but one which worked better with each component eaten separately rather than together. The use of fresh wasabi was really appreciated and added a nice kick to things. The only real criticism here was the use of ginger. Luckily you could put it to one side but it didn’t really add anything to the dish. In fact, almost every dish here is generously topped with ginger, sometimes to good effect and other times unnecessarily – and we’re big ginger fans. It’s not a big deal, as you can easily take it off if you don’t want it – perhaps a little bowl with ginger on the side would be better.
Next was the only dish of the night that didn’t really work. A ‘sashizza’ of hoisin duck, orange, and ginger. The toppings were tasty, and the duck perfectly cooked and seasoned, but the base – a flattened, oven baked rice concoction, was chewy and crunchy, and didn’t work at all texturally. We scooped off the topping and left the base behind after a few bites.
Things got back on track with the spicy tuna tacos – crispy gyoza-skin-shell tacos filled with raw ahi tuna, avocado, alfalfa, Sriracha, mayo and wasabi tapioca pearls. A well balanced combination of flavours with beautiful textural complexity. We could have happily munched on these all night. The activated charcoal bun spicy fried prawn sliders were another winner – thick perfectly cooked prawns, and just the right amount of chilli mayo made each bite hit the spot.
For dessert, the “Give It To Me” option usually comes with macaron ice-cream sandwiches, but as there was a diner with a nut allergy, we were treated to the taco waffle filled with blood orange sorbet, chocolate ice-cream, and salted caramel ice-cream. Easily the least inventive of the dishes we tried, but delicious all the same.
Head bartender Kyle Rose (ex GoGo Bar), ensures that the drinks menu matches the food, and features an assortment of cocktails with a Japanese twist. We loved the Geisha Girl, with cranberry, plum yuzu, gin, and lemon juice, as well as the less sweet, sake based Dragon’s Milk cocktail.
The space is narrow, dark and moody, with distinct zones that stretch past the front bar, and past the open kitchen, towards the back of the surprisingly spacious venue. It’s slick and modern, with splashes of street art and greenery providing vibrancy when needed. In a town where trends are king and much of what opens is a carbon copy of something that already exists, we applaud anyone who’s willing to have a crack at doing something new. While not all of the food at Sash works, most of it does and given that it’s still early days, we looking forwards to seeing how the menu evolves to make the most of the restaurant’s concept over the coming months.
113 Chapel Street
Telephone: (03) 9510 4016
Mon – Sun: 5:30pm to 11:00pm