The eternal battle between light and dark has been typified in all manner of media. There have been countless depictions of yin-and-yang-type mumbo jumbo in movies (Vader vs Skywalker comes to mind), art, and music, but sitting down at One Oak is probably the first time I’ve ever thought about cosmic duality in terms of food.
One Oak is a singular spot where you can find both the raw, colourfully bright and light experience of sushi contrasted with a grilled, dark, heavy and bloody (depending on how you order it) steak on the same table. Just walking into the place, you know you’re in for something approximating astonishing. The entire wall of the entranceway is covered in pictures and testimonials from the people that came before you, like some sort of offering at a temple dedicated to delicately wrapped-up raw fish and scorched bovine meats.
Though I didn’t see an oak tree – not even one – there were the words 'One Of A Kind' all over the place, which really just about sums up my experience at one of th- oh, wait, I just got it. Clever. Anyhoo, the staff is great and were eager to get me seated and shove food into my face, even before they knew about all this Fancypants business.
The restaurant is set up in a way to be both inviting and familiar. Signs dot the walls, explaining all there is to know about steak - where the different cuts of meat come from, what the different levels of cooked-ness mean. This is very important information because, up until this point, I’d only ever repeated what I’d heard people in movies say when they ordered steak without any cognisance of what I was saying. The sushi bar has more helpful info plastered about it, plus a gigantic TV that was playing some intense underwater wildlife footage. I saw a crab and a shrimp fighting on the TV while, in real life, they were being rolled up and covered in delicious mango sauce. Is that irony? No, right? Didn’t think so; it was something, though.
All day before my One Oak adventure I had been thinking about meats and whether it was more efficient to eat sushi with a fork or steak with chopsticks. When I got there and they plopped a salad down in front of me, there was some reptilian part of my brain that screamed out in abject horror and demanded to be fed something that had at one point been alive. Once I regained control and my eyes focused, it turned out to be a great big beautiful Green Waldorf Salad. Full of green apple, blue cheese, red grapes, and walnuts, it was like a tasty rainbow without all the added sugar.
Appetisers arrived just as I managed to get the last of the salad’s strawberry vinaigrette out of my beard. Veggie beef roulade (for those of you who don’t speak French, roulade means rolled up so it’s easier to jam in your mouth all at once) was just enough meat to keep my dinosaur brain from acting up again. Alongside it was fried camembert cheese with some kind of diabolically delicious blueberry jam. Cheese and fruit combos are definitely the highlight of a fancypants life.
We got two steaks, both served medium rare – one striploin weighing in at a respectable 300 grams and, the other, a monster 450 gram T-bone. Both must have been involved in some kind of witchcraft because they were cooked within a centimetre of the very fine line that separates a medium-rare steak from a burned piece of timber.
We also got set up with the titanic One Oak 24-piece sushi platter, which includes, among other little rolled up morsels, the Maki Rocket Roll, which is the first sushi I’ve ever heard of that includes rockets. The vegetable, not the fiery death engine.
After several experiments trying to eat a whole steak with a chopstick and attempting to pick up sushi with a fork (most of the time you just mash it up a little), I ended up with a very full and happy belly, a couple of takeaway bags, and a location pin on my Google maps app. I will definitely be going back to One Oak because, like their clever name suggests, they know how to do and appreciate things that are one of a kind.
Photography by Ali Bahr in collaboration with ZoomBites.