Sakesan, the first mainland venture by Hong Kong’s Cafe Deco Group, recently opened up at Shanghai’s Taikang Terrace. The venue is divided into a sake bar and a traditional robata grill where you can watch the chefs grill up a slew of meats, fish, and veggies.
As the summer heat was causing us to sweat like Porky Pig at a luau, we plopped down at the sake bar to rehydrate with Sakesan’s sake concoctions. We chose the signature Sakesan (65RMB), an elixir of sake, shochu, cranberry juice, and orange peel which reminded us of a lighter cosmopolitan. And while we’re not usually ones for cocktails of the hot pink variety, the vibrant citrusy flavor and fresh-squeezed feel were refreshing and paved our palate for more drinks.
However, the same refreshing essence didn’t translate to other cocktails like the Saketini (65RMB), which tasted blandly saccharine like lollipop juice.
Fortunately, Sakesan offers a more than healthy selection of sakes, which come by the bottle or shot. Sponge up the booze with a variety of skewers, including chicken, fish and pork belly. We actually found the pork belly to be cloyingly sweet but hey, it’s fatty pork on a stick, and a lot tastier than beer nuts or other standard bar snacks.
You’d think at a place called “Sakesan,” the quirky drink inventions would reign supreme, but the food steals the show. With some exceptions, the names and descriptions of the “saktails” are more colorful than the actual flavors, while with the food, the opposite is true.
Something as drab-sounding as “Salmon Salad” (70RMB) is actually one of the menu’s best items with deep-orange cuts of fish that have steak-like substance and yet almost vaporize in your mouth. Oh, and they’re room temperature for once.
And in a nice touch, amber salmon eggs are dispersed throughout the greens, adding seasoning and bursting in your mouth like grenades of savory.
We found the dish so tasty that even after the bowl was cleaned, we pecked at the food debris with our utensils, in denial that the dish was finished while a clenched-toothed waiter hovered impatiently nearby.
We gave the same treatment to the traditional black cod in miso (150RMB), a flaky, sweet slab of grilled fish, and one of our favorites.
Since Sakesan is a Japanese restaurant whose parent company is based in Hong Kong, you won’t get a bargain on the food, but you’re getting what you pay for. The service is a bit clunky, but the new staff’s still finding their footing, and they’re nice as hell, so we’ll give them a pass.
Head to the sake bar for the Sakesan or a couple shots of sake, and then migrate to the robatayaki for the salmon salad, miso cod, and whatever else catches your eye. Everything’s sure to be good.
Sakesan – Taikang Terrace, 171 Jianguo Lu, near Ruijin Er Lu (建国路171号, 近瑞金二路). Tel: (0)21-6553-9333. Hours: Restaurant: 11.30am-11.30pm Tue-Sun, 11.30am-12.30am Fri-Sat, Last order one hour before closing. Bar: 4pm-1am Tue-Wed,
4pm-late Thu-Sat, 4pm-1am Sun, closed on Mon.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].