Monday, April 24, 2017

Kashiwaya Hong Kong

Michelin Japan, introduced about a decade ago, has 'changed' the Japanese food industry. There are more and more people flock to Japan, made restaurant reservations at top dining places become increasingly very difficult. On the opposite direction, to meet the 'demands' for high quality Nihon ryori, many Japanese chefs (particularly from elite sushi-yas and top kaiseki places) ventured out in which Hong Kong and Singapore have become their main destinations. While Tenku Ryugin opened a few years earlier cooking more modern Japanese cuisine served in chic dining room, the latest Kashiwaya HK focused more on the traditional kaiseki served in a room with authentic Japanese decor. Knowing that this Kashiwaya, centrally located near the CBD area, was the sister restaurant of the famous 3-star from Senriyama Osaka, I did not doubt that it would be good. Upon entering the restaurant (on the 8th floor) and walking along the hall way, the atmosphere was discreet and elegant. I learned that the interior was done by Japanese artists and painters themselves. Since I was dining alone, I was seated at the long and bright main counter. I ordered the Akane menu, consisted of 10 courses. The lunch took place during the Autumn season of 2016

Sakizuke (Amuse-bouche): Kuruma Prawn served with delicacy, grated chili, Mizuna leaf, and red + yellow Daisy crown - The ebi was fresh and slightly grilled. It was nicely paired with refreshing leafs and 2 different chrysanthemum leaves. Below, there was lightly flavored dashi. A good opening

Kae ("Change"): 
Part 1 Sweet soy stewed River fish served with roe, Mozzarella cheese, Rock mushroom dressed with wasabi, and fresh Sea Urchin - The Ayu fish and Uni brought richer tastes; they're balanced by rather mild cheese and wasabi.
Part 2 Two kinds of soy marinated wild catch Avocado, Tuna, Sea Urchin, wasabi, Shiitake mushroom, grated radish and red crown daisy - The marinated Maguro was good; they're integrated by creamy avocado and uni as well as firm mushroom.
The dishes were meticulously prepared using premium ingredients and they were satisfying. My only 'complaint' was that there seemed to be too many things put together.

Nimonowan (Simmered dish): Sake steamed Tile fish served with sweet potato, carrot, wheat mochi, Matsutake mushroom, green vegetable and yuzu - The Amadai was carefully steamed resulting in tasty and tender fish; the Matsutake was meaty and delicious. The most important part was the perfectly balanced dashi with clean & umami flavor that held all elements together. An awesome soup!

Tsukuri (Seasonal Sashimi):
-Karei (white fish of right eye Flounder) was fresh, pure, rather tender with clean taste. It was served with tart ponzu sauce and radish
-Ika (Squid) was a little bit sticky but tender and naturally sweet
-Otoro (Fatty Tuna) was relatively rich in flavor though not immediately melting in the mouth
They were served with special soy sauce that's cooked with kelp, hence became thicker and more intense. I prefer the 'normal' or lighter version of the shoyu.

Hassun (Small side dishes representing the season):
1st Kelp marinated White fish with Crab miso, yellow / red / green crown daisy and grilled Matsutake mushroom - The kelp intensified the fishy taste of the white fish; the miso and mushroom were other dominant flavor here
2nd Sweet potato and diced Hamaguri clam in checkered pattern - The clam had interesting texture in contrast to the potato's
3rd Crown daisy tempura with Gingko nuts - It was crisp but plain in taste
Overall, they were alright. Hassun, more often than not, was better for the eye than for the palate

Yakimono (Grilled dish): Grilled Butter fish marinated with Yuzu soy sauce and fried Sweet potato - The Ibodai was juicy, rich and delicious. The sweet potato, surprisingly, complemented the fish well. At first, I suspected they would be too strong when consumed together; nice small portion 
Hachimono ('Simmered' dish in a bowl): Carrot cake, Blue swimming crab and Enoki mushroom in thick sauce with Crown daisy tempura and grated yuzu - The Watarigani were served in generous portion (as if they looked like noddles). The sauce, made of the blue crab and enoki, was light but flavorful. Inside the soft yellow carrot cake, one would find fish, lotus and carrot. Overall, the dish was refined without being cloying that I had expected initially

Shokuji ('Rice' dish): Matsutake mushroom Congee served with Mitsuba leaf and egg - The congee was more like rice inside a soup. It might not be a very inspiring gohan dish, but it was more than decent. A warm soup with plenty of egg and some mushroom (also accompanied by some sour & crunchy kono mono) served in the middle of cool Autumn was enjoyable

Okashi (Sweets): Chestnuts paste with sweet Red bean - The confection looked pretty, quite tasty and not overly sweet; quite good given that I'm not a big fan of red bean

Mizumono (Seasonal Dessert): Papaya, Muscat, Pione grape served with milk pudding and cointreau jelly - The dessert was not complicated and delicious. The fruits were fresh and sweets, mixed with delicate pudding as well as orange-flavored jelly. A refreshing way to end the kaiseki journey

Although I might not be able to point out to any dishes that were spectacular, the food was consistently good. Dishes were labor intensive and meticulously prepared using premium, seasonal and fresh ingredients. Compared to the price in Japan, it's definitely not cheap. Because of this, I decided to consume hot ocha only. The hospitality was polite and friendly; my tea was almost always hot and the pace of the food was just nice. Seated at the counter and having 1-2 junior chefs in front of you certainly helped in terms of explaining the dishes. Only 3 people was at the counter, but there was a large group consisting of about a dozen people (from Mainland China) in the hall/main dining room. A veteran hailed from Kashiwaya Osaka, Chef Atsushi Takahashi was in charge of the Hong Kong branch. The restaurant took pride of the food; if Takahashi-san were not around, Kashiwaya would be closed that day. It was a very pleasant experience indeed: delicious food accompanied by high quality service inside a comfortable dining room. As of now, it will not be easy to find a better restaurant serving exquisite classical Japanese kaiseki in Hong Kong. You can see the pictures: Kashiwaya HK Nov '16 

Food: 94 pts

Service: 93 pts

Overall: 93.5/100