Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sushi Yoshitake Hong Kong

Currently, there are only 4 sushi restaurants in Tokyo that received the Red guide highest accolade and one of them is Sushi Yoshitake. It must have been a big deal in Hong Kong (HK) when Masahiro Yoshitake-san decided to open his first and only overseas establishment on the ground floor of Sheung Wan's Mercer hotel. The "humble" location is a bit surprising to some people as it's very contrast to his Tokyo's sushi bar at the elite Ginza. The new restaurant is lead by a veteran sous chef, Yoshiharu Kakinuma who used to work in Atlanta for 10 years, with the help of Masa-san from Tokyo. Finest ingredients, especially seafood, are brought almost daily from seaports all over Japan. Like many other top sushi places, the sushi counter, created from one slab of wood, can only accommodate eight guests daily. With comfortable lighting and atmosphere, dining here will be an intimate and pleasant experience that diners will remember for months to come. Yoshitake-san is very committed to his HK's branch as he usually comes nearly every month. There are 3 menu we can choose from and I opted the one below that's supposed to mimic the experience at Tokyo.  

Miyabi Dinner Menu


Baby squid served with Miso vinaigrette sauce and spring vegetable - The squid had fine flavor and good texture; I liked a little spicy kick coming from rich miso mustard
(Braised & marinated) Octopus - This Japanese tako had fantastic texture - not chewy at all; it was burst with flavor enhanced by the 'sweet' sauce. I didn't know that octopus can be this good ..

Kinmedai (Golden eye snapper) served with soy sauce made from the snapper’s bone - Good texture and clean taste
(Steamed) Abalone served with its liver sauce - The restaurant's signature dish and deservedly so. The thick cut of Chiba abalone, served cold, was succulent, naturally sweet and briny; it's perfectly complemented with the intense abalone's liver reduction. Then, the chef would give you sushi rice to mop up all the 'sauce' - an amazing dish!

(Lightly seared) Skipjack tuna served with grapefruit jelly sauce and mashed ginger scallions - The chef wanted to display a combination of Bonito's smoky & crispy skin and its oily raw flesh. The refreshing 'orange/citrus jelly', scallions and light soy sauce added a nice complexity to the dish   


Ika (Squid) - firm and chewy but flavorful
Amadai (Tile fish) - tender and tasty
Sakura masu (Small sea Trout) - beautiful, striking and yummy; has similar texture and taste like arctic char

Chu-toro (Medium fatty tuna) - wonderful color with silky texture and of course, delicious
O-toro (Fatty tuna) - Very tender, oily and melting in the mouth; paired well with the warm sushi rice. Note that the shari at Sushi Yoshitake is prepared with red vinegar, which is more acidic but supposed to be healthier

Kohada (Gizzard shad) 'roll' - served with shiso leave and kampyo that nicely contrasted with the fish. An interesting presentation and it made the kohada firmer and more 'complex'
Murasaki Uni (Sea urchin) - Probably the most generous and creamiest (Hokkaido) uni I've ever had. Its sweetness swallowed the wasabi's flavor. Superb!

Kuruma ebi (Imperial prawn) - A lovely boiled morsel (marinated before wrapping the shari); it's sweet & succulent with wonderful texture though I was doubtful at first since the prawn had been cooked when I arrived
Torigai (Cockle clam) - A very fresh shellfish, meaty with mild flavor. I gotta pay extra for this clam

Anago (Saltwater conger eel) - the delicate eel, glazed with sweet sauce reduction, was slowly grilled with shiso leaves. The outcome was fragrant soft anago that's melting in my mouth. Well done
Tamago (Egg) - Sweet and spongy, it tasted more like a 'cake'. There was also miso soup made using wheat

Dessert: Japanese strawberry - with condensed milk. Sweet, light and refreshing  

The meal is really delicious. The Awabi with its liver sauce stood as the best abalone creation I've ever eaten - even better than the Crown brand Yoshihama dried abalone served at Sun Tung Lok. Additionally, the Tako with 'sweet' sauce was simply fabulous; perhaps the octopus was massaged before being cooked to produce this kind of texture. For the sushi part, it's been more than five years that I finally eat sushi that's almost as good as the one I had at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza. Sushi Yoshitake served generous portion of fish slices. My usual top 3 nigiri pieces: Otoro, Kuruma ebi and Uni are all excellent! The best surprised is probably the Sakura masu; I don't expect salmon-like fish at Edomae style zushi can be this good.   

The frequently asked question for the meal here: is it worth it? A very tough question indeed. It's easier to answer this question when you pay this kind of price complemented by impeccable service and dining ambiance like the ones at Robuchon luxurious restaurants or Ducasse palaces. Over a year ago, I thought that Omakase Shin at Shinji Singapore was insanely expensive; well, Yoshitake Hong Kong exceeds it. The same omakase menu at Yoshitake HK cost almost twice as expensive as the one served in Ginza; this makes my meal at Urasawa Beverly Hills looked very reasonably priced. Anyway, I don't regret dining here - possibly once in a lifetime experience. However, I don't intend to return here in the near future. Pictures are located at below link, 

Food (and Wine): 95 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 91 pts

Overall: 93.5/100


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tenku Ryugin Hong Kong

Ever since the Michelin was introduced in Tokyo at the end of 2007, the name (Nihonryori) Ryugin was instantly becoming the talk among serious foodies. Seiji Yamamoto, the perfectionist chef owner, has pushed the boundary of contemporary Japanese cuisine with precision cooking while still respecting its tradition. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to savor Yamamoto-san's cooking at his famous restaurant located in Roppongi district. However, I was glad when I found out that Chef Yamamoto opened Ryugin's first overseas outlet in Hong Kong. Nothing was spared; Chef Yamamoto sent five experienced chefs from his original outlet lead by his protege, Hideaki Sato. Almost all of the finest ingredients and the kitchen tools are imported directly from Japan. The restaurant's location was at ICC Sky Dining on the 101st floor offering spectacular views of HK's skyline across the Kowloon's harbor. The decor, dominated by light-colored wood, is minimalist by fine dining standard, but distinctly Japanese. Like the Tokyo restaurant, Tenku Ryugin only offered one menu, 10-course kaiseki meal and below was my degustation menu in April 2013

Tasting Menu (Presenting Seasonality of Japanese Produce)  

Lightly simmered spring vegetables with ice fish in "Okaki (rice crackers)" on a boat of sasa bamboo - A nice opening to tease one's palate. The fish was not oily, the veggies had light flavor and showed texture contrast - I enjoyed the crunchy bamboo  

Hot egg custard topped with yuba and sea urchin - The chawanmushi (the organic egg was brought from Kyushu) was smooth and tasty with heavenly uni. The clean tofu skin added some complexity to the overall dish while the wasabi would reduce any cloying taste (if any)

Quickly simmered "Iidako" (seasoned baby) octopus and refreshing wasabi cucumber salad - The octopus was surprisingly lovely, not simply chewy. It worked well together with the seaweed and the crunchy salad

Soup of simmered abalone and scallop dumpling with fragrance of "Fukinoto (butterbur buds)" - The ichiban dashi was flavorful; the spring butterbur was delicate and a bit bitter as expected. The slow-cook abalone was tender and delicious; the scallop dumpling (with green soy beans) was a bit sweet - wonderful dish!

Sashimi of "Yokowa" baby tuna served with spring onions, fragrance of shiso leaf and lime - A lean and fresh tuna that melted in my mouth; about as good as chu toro, delicious! This young bluefin tuna was around 35 cm in length and usually only available during spring season

"Amadai" tile fish wrapped in kadaif with aroma of binchotan salad of five green colors - A perfect piece of tender and well-cooked amadai (1st deep fried, then grilled on white charcoal); very flavorful. The refreshing salad (green apple, mint etc.) would 'remove' the fish's grease - another great dish

Sukiyaki "Kuroge Wagyu beef sirloin" served with white asparagus, morel mushroom and onsen tamago - The barely cooked beef was succulent with sweet sukiyaki 'sauce' that worked well with soft-boiled egg. The French morels were fragrant and delicious while the asparagus was Ok. I liked this a lot ..

Rice simmered in "Sakura tea" with deep fried "Sakura shrimp" from Surugawan Bay - The Japanese rice with gummy kernels and covered in briny sweet shrimp is very comforting. Chef Sato did a great job to bring out the small shrimps flavor; the miso soup was light and sweet 

Fruit tomato poached with "Umeshu" encased in a fragile glass - The 'glass candy' and granite at the bottom were to add some dimension to the fresh and sweet Shizuoka tomato. The tomato quality was comparable to the one from Passard's garden

Meringue of Sakura flowers served with almond flavored ice cream and fresh strawberries - Put together the sweet meringue, strawberries, light flavor almond ice cream as well as azuki bean to get the best out of this dessert. Overall, not too bad  

A very well done and thoughtful kaiseki menu; it's not often that I easily loved more than half of the dishes offered in any tasting menu. My meal was accompanied by half bottle of dry and cold sake - Suwa no Ryugin (Junmai Karakuti) from Nagano. I enjoyed the exceptional service at Ryugin HK; perhaps because I was lucky enough to be attended most of the time by Ms. Hiromi Takano, the assistant manager who displayed impeccable Japanese hospitality. The locals waiters, while had quite good knowledge of the dishes and spoke decent English, generally could not really connect to their foreign guests. Towards the end, Chef Hideaki Sato also greeted diners as well as explained some of the dishes to guests - a nice gesture. Sato-san was very passionate about cooking and he was pleased that he had chances to create new dishes on his own here, of course only with the approval of his master, Chef Yamamoto. If the "branch" restaurant can be this good, I could only imagine Nihonryori Ryugin will be fabulous! Please visit the website below for the pictures,

Food (and Wine): 94 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 94/100