- RICK RUNION/THE LEDGER
Published: June 21, 2012 10:45 a.m.
Last Modified: June 30, 2012 10:52 a.m.
Last Modified: June 30, 2012 10:52 a.m.
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Hours:11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday
Price:$8 to $19
FYI:The restaurant closes for a few hours several days a week between lunch and dinner.
Must Try:Potstickers, tilapia sandwich, tuna nachos.
Few sushi restaurants in these parts go to such extremes to showcase the myriad styles of this alcoholic beverage that is brewed much like beer, can be consumed hot or cold, and remains ever so mysterious to the average American, myself included.
But Sake is more than just a pretty place to have a nice glass of high-octane junmai ginjo. The restaurant at the Posner Center in Davenport has something for everybody, though its menu is heavily invested in uramaki sushi, or stuffed rice roll, and sashimi.
Sake does not adhere to the school of sushi as painstaking art. My roll, $10.50, unadorned and loosely packed, was nonetheless tasty, with tidbits of tempura shrimp, nori and vegetables, served with the ubiquitous, pasty dab of wasabi and pickled ginger.
A recent rainy evening heightened the cozy mood of Sake's beautiful dining room done in soothing grays and earth tones, every table illuminated with a tiny oil lamp.
The music is soft and perfect for conversation over a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, my preference to pair with an appetizer of meaty mushrooms, vermicelli noodles and large cubes of tofu, lightly browned. The $6.50 plate, diminished by a heavy hand on the soy sauce, was a delicious small dish that easily could make a light meal.
Sake is a sister restaurant to Zen Asian Grill, also located within the sprawling Posner Center on U.S. 27, just a hair south of I-4. Both restaurants belong to Jack Jia of Orlando.
Jia, a native of China, invested heavily in Sake, which he originally named Sino Sushi, and is more upscale than Zen, whose menu tilts more in the direction of Chinese-American.
Sake features comfortable booths, pendant lighting and service that is efficient, friendly and never pushy. No one attempts to strong-arm you into a bottle of sake, or wine, or even a glass of one of the many rare, single-malt Scotches available at the handsome bar.
Rather than serve free munchies or bread, Sake invites one to select from an ample list of appetizers that includes some very good pork-filled potstickers, $8, which can be ordered steamed or fried.
A side called "tuna nachos" featured medallions of fresh, nearly raw tuna served atop planks of fried wonton and topped with a bright, green tangle of mildly sweet seaweed, slivers of purple onion and mild red pepper. The dish, $8, is visually beautiful and a study in Japanese restraint, letting flavors of the sea, subtle, not at all briny, shine through.
Less successful is a $17 entree billed as short rib, which I assumed would be braised and rendered moist and stew-like. Rather, the beef, heavy with the flavor of a soy and ginger marinade, is sliced into slivers and browned, as in a stir-fry.
Equally disappointing, especially for the price of $18, is an entree of shrimp and rice with a citrus cream that was too bland to discern any hint of citrus - lemon, orange, yuzu? Who knows?
On the other hand, the restaurant could give lessons in the art of cooking bok choy, which so often shows up bland and watery. Not this. Sake's version is silky and full of flavor, as if braised in a light, chicken stock.
There is a delightfully crunchy, $9.95 fish sandwich that makes excellent use of tilapia and panko bread crumbs. And Sake makes a mean french fry, as well.
The dessert menu offers a number of items, none of which are made in house, and all equally uninteresting, such as a wedge of deep-fried cheesecake. I half-heartedly requested a dish of ice cream, green tea-flavored, if I recall, but there was none to be had that particular night.
During an April 27 inspection, the restaurant was cited for four violations, two critical, including a hand-washing sink lacking in hand-drying provisions, and refrigerated food missing a date mark.
Sake remains a soothing getaway in a busy, frenetic part of the county, perfect for a cup of hot tea, or something stronger.
Ledger Reporter Eric Pera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7528.