Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Sensational Sushi Shikon

Some gastronomy experiences are so fantastic that it would be rather futile to try and put into words exactly what made them sublime. This is the case for my meal at Sushi Shin, where frankly, I don’t know enough adjectives that would fully capture and describe each morsel.

Formerly Sushi Yoshitake, Sushi Shikon has now been awarded three Michelin stars, just like the original Sushi Yoshitake in Tokyo. However, there is a sticking point to this sushi experience- the price. My eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets to see only two prices- $2,000 per person for the Lunch Menu and $3,500 for the Omakase Dinner Menu. No choices in what you order, you get what you are given, and at that price tag, you hope you get given something good. And it is more than good. A superb offering of 12 nigiri sushi pieces, followed by soup and dessert in the most intimate of settings. Sushi Shin has only 8 seats at their sushi counter and a 6 seat private room at its home in the unassuming Mercer Hotel in Sheung Wan, so the entire experience feels as though you could be in Japan, shut away from the outside world, with nothing but the rhythmic sound of fresh wasabi being grated on a sharkskin grater in front of you.

Sushi Shikon counter

Sushi Shikon counter

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I sat down and perused the Sushi Etiquette page I’d been given, and after two minutes of etiquette cramming, had a bit of a worry over how to take photos swiftly and look elegant whilst eating, when I read that the sushi should ideally be eaten within 30 seconds of being served and not in little bites if the portion is too large for one’s mouth, (you ask the chef if this is the case and he will cut them up for you). We were also told by Chef Yoshiharu Kakinuma that we should use our hands to eat the sushi as we would have a greater sensory experience and he could also serve the “Shari” sushi rice at a softer consistency. Some of us already knew not to mix the wasabi in with the soy sauce (I imagined us being death-stared by the staff if we did this), and I was interested to see they had mentioned that soft drinks are not served as they “overwhelm the delicate flavours of sushi and disturb the ambience”.

Lunch menu

Lunch menu

Fresh wasabi

Fresh wasabi

All that aside, once everyone had settled in at the sushi counter, Chef Kakinuma began to weave his magic. We started with the outstanding steamed abalone, which was nothing like abalone I had had before. Smooth and tender, and almost steak-like, the succulence of the abalone went so well with its accompanying velvety liver sauce that I felt I needed to chew extra slowly to prevent the inevitable end of this mouthful. I can only describe this as a complete umami taste. Chef Kakinuma then brought a smile to my face by giving us a blob of their signature red vinegar sushi rice to mop up the remaining sauce.

Preparing the steamed abalone

Preparing the steamed abalone

Abalone

Abalone liver sauce

Abalone liver sauce

Steamed abalone

Steamed abalone

The ‘tender octopus’ should have been renamed ‘exquisitely tender’. My brain grappled with something to compare the taste to, and came up with pork belly. Who knew that octopus massaged and braised in sea salt could be this incredible?

Tender octopus

Tender octopus

As each sushi piece arrived, we each of us became more excited. The Marinated Medium Tuna was wonderful, but trumped by the outstanding Fatty Tuna, which by just one glance, I knew was going to be sublimely melty. The Seasonal Sushi Roll of mackerel, ginger, shiso and  braised Japanese squash skin was delightful and I loved the burst of shiso and contrasting texture of the pickled ginger. Sea Urchin is one item I am not overly keen on usually, but this was so ridiculously fresh and chilled that it was almost like cool, fresh water with a delicate nutty flavour and no overpowering smell. By far the best I have ever had.Chef Kakinuma

Medium Tuna

Medium Tuna

Fatty Tuna

Fatty Tuna

Seasonal Sushi Roll

Seasonal Sushi Roll

Sea urchin

Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin

The salmon roe with Chef Kakinuma’s secret special sauce marinade and yuzu zest was a balance of subtle flavours and I thoroughly enjoyed the sensory experience of eating the Tiger Prawn with my fingers and being attuned to its bouncy texture. The Golden Eye snapper was beautiful and the Conger eel exuded its wonderful charcoal, smoky flavour, a testament to its stint on the bamboo leaf grill.

Conger Eel

Conger Eel

Tiger Prawn

Tiger Prawn

Salmon Roe

Salmon Roe

Golden Eye Snapper

Golden Eye Snapper

The meal ended sweetly with a sponge-cake textured Tokyo traditional Castella egg, soup and a light, fruity dessert.

Castella Egg

Castella Egg

Miso soup

Miso soup

Fruity Dessert

Fruity Dessert

This was absolutely the finest Japanese meal I have had in Hong Kong, but I’m not sure if I can bring myself to repeat the experience at such a price, even though it can be explained by daily deliveries of the freshest fish from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. I’m sure you can think of better uses for $2,000, but maybe the lure of world-class sushi without getting on a plane to Japan is too attractive to pass up. In any case, if you decide to bite the bullet, you won’t leave Sushi Shikon feeling cheated.

Chopstixfix rating: 4.5/5

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Sushi Shikon, Ground Floor, The Mercer Hotel, 29 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. http://www.sushi-shikon.com Tel: 2643 6800

This was by kind invite. The review can also be seen on Sassy Hong Kong.

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A Spot of Lunch at Lung King Heen

Four Seasons- Lung King Heen

Four Seasons- Lung King Heen

There are some restaurants in our beloved, hectic city that I have been saving for a special occasion or just waiting for a good time to go with my other half and visitors, and Lung King Heen at The Four Seasons is way up there on that *special occasion* list. But there it languished for a couple of years, until I despaired that such an occasion would ever materialise until, to my surprise, The Four Seasons extended a very kind invitation to me to try their set lunch one weekday. They were equally surprised that I hadn’t as yet been to their Three-Michelin starred restaurant, (I wasn’t deliberately avoiding, honest!), so it was with great delight that I found myself gazing round their spacious dining-area with polished floors, plush seats and magnificent views of Victoria Harbour.

Now, to be crowned the world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded the Three-Michelin stars is no mean feat, so naturally, one wonders if it deserves such an accolade. Although I was invited, I do believe that day to day, invites make little difference, as this is a tightly run ship with stellar service and truly standout dishes at what are frankly, quite reasonable prices for the quality that one gets.

Lung King Heen

Lung King Heen

After nestling into one of their side booths I had a look at their Executive Set Lunch menu which, at $485 +10% per person for seven, albeit small courses, is GREAT value, especially once I started tucking in. The a la carte menu has an array of fabulous dishes and of course they have a fine selection of dim sum, being Cantonese and all, so if a tummy full of dim sum tickles your fancy then you should definitely do that at leisure. I was trying their set lunch which starts with the Chef’s dim sum selection followed by the Soup of the Day, Barbecue combination (highlight for any pork belly obsessive), two mains (more on those later), then dessert and petit fours.

Our attentive wait staff soon arrived and two neat, steamed dim sum parcels appeared before me- the mushroom dumpling with celery and the shrimp dumpling with bamboo shoots. They were both morsels of joy and deliciousness and not nearly enough to satiate my dim sum lust that they ignited. Their dim sum skins were delicate yet firm enough to hold their contents, and as they yielded to bite, I savoured the plump shrimp and tender bamboo shoots and the silky and flavoursome mushrooms, with the celery adding a fresh taste. I was also treated to their wonderful Crispy Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Hairy Gourd, which made that happy crispy sound as I bit into it.

Steamed Dim Sum- mushroom and celery dumpling and shrimp and bamboo dumpling

Steamed Dim Sum- mushroom and celery dumpling and shrimp and bamboo dumpling

Crispy Spring Roll with Shrimp and Hairy Gourd

Crispy Spring Roll with Shrimp and Hairy Gourd

The Soup of the Day of dried vegetable, snake- head fish and pork, may not sound or look that impressive, but it was a wonderful, soothing broth to warm the cockles of the heart. As a Chinese soup fan, I fully appreciate the fine art that can go into a simple, humble soup, and I really wanted to produce a thermos and take some home!

Soup of the Day

Soup of the Day

Lung King Heen’s Barbecue combination may be small but they made an impact. And also made me want to weep that there was not more. (Am definitely having a plateful of crispy pork belly next time). My salivary glands were going into overtime and I had to tell myself not to wolf down my two precious pieces of pork belly and the equally magnificent two pieces of roast goose. The roast goose skin glistened delicately with the delicious goose fat; it was pretty much barbecued meat porn. But let’s not forget the marinated jellyfish with its yummy, crunchy texture, which was good but paled in comparison to its meaty neighbours.

Barbecue combination- crispy pork belly, roast goose and marinated jellyfish

Barbecue combination- crispy pork belly, roast goose and marinated jellyfish

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The next dish is a little controversial, as I soon found out after tweeting a picture of this dish enthusiastically, in that the so-called “Chilean Seabass”, is actually the Patagonian Toothfish, cleverly marketed to make it appear more appealing, in name, to us mere mortals and not only that, it seems to be a fish that is teetering on the edge of sustainable, depending on whether you want to wade in on the ‘legal fishing’ debate. I was educated very swiftly by Wafflerica – thanks! Anyway, this awkwardness aside, this dish (Steamed Chilean Seabass with with Fermented Black Bean Sauce) was outstanding, the fish was amazingly fresh, meaty and succulent and I loved the fermented black bean sauce, which is always such a dynamic contrast in flavours to that ‘clean’ fish taste.

Steamed Chilean Seabass with with Fermented Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Chilean Seabass with with Fermented Black Bean Sauce

Next up was the welcome sight of the Braised E-Fu noodles with crab-meat in lobster sauce. Crab meat AND lobster sauce? Winning combination. I ate it so fast, such was my pure enjoyment of this dish, that I was not really registering any deeper analytics of the dish except YUM!

Braised E-Fu noodles with crab-meat in lobster sauce

Braised E-Fu noodles with crab-meat in lobster sauce

And so we were coming to end of this excellent lunch, and I had to make room for one of my favourite Chinese desserts of all time- the Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo. Deconstructing this, there is basically a glorious mango pudding, firm and inviting, drowned in a fresh mango-sago-pomelo cream. Fruity fun.

Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo

Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo

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To end, there was a lovely Chrysanthemum jelly with barley and a sesame biscuit to cap off an impressive lunch. Three-stars absolutely well deserved.

Chrysanthemum jelly with barley and a sesame biscuit

Chrysanthemum jelly with barley and a sesame biscuit

As the Terminator said- I’ll be back.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5


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Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central. Tel: +852 3196 8880, 3196 8886 http://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong

This meal was by invitation- many thanks to Four Seasons Hong Kong. (Interior photos also from Four Seasons. )


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Posh noodles anyone?

One of the more interesting and new recipients of a Michelin star this year is MIST, a swanky and elegant ramen restaurant in Causeway Bay. MIST first came onto the scene early last year, but I’ve only been hearing the buzz about it in the last couple of months when friends began talking of a ‘posh noodle place’.“What does that mean?!” I thought to myself, but now I understand that the concept is Japanese rahmen (as they spell it) Fine Dining. Many people, including myself, might be dubious about this- how fine can a bowl of noodles get?

The interior is simple, yet plush. A wall of glass facing the outside world gives the small establishment the much needed illusion of space and gives it a very modern feel. The bar area is contemporary and offsets the rather luxurious red leather bound chairs in the main dining section. Originally, my girlfriends and I were sitting by the window, but for some reason it was really breezy and cold, and when we mentioned this, the staff were attentive and extremely accommodating, allowing us to move to an inside table for warmth!One thing that us girls loved were the secret drawers hiding beneath the table containing eating utensils for each diner and a information sheet on the background and preparation of the MIST rahmen. It was very much like a cha chaan teng (but a more upscale version of course). A ridiculous but cool thing to point out is the smoothness of the chopsticks! The first comment we made when we took out our chopsticks was, “Oooh so smooth!” Not that this has anything to do with how one rates a restaurant, but it was rather impressive.Back to food, and the sheet of paper in the drawer told us that the noodles are made from a mixture of flours from Shinshu, Tohoku and Hokkaido and that the soup results from a ten hour cooking process, contains over 25 ingredients and is kept at a temperature between 78 and 82 degrees Celsius. Very informative, but also raises one’s expectations.

The menu offers only 5 different types of soup base to accompany the 1 type of rahmen. Each bowl comes with a slice of pork ($120) and you have to pay extra for any additional pieces of BBQ pork, an egg or seaweed. When we went, they had a seasonal soup base- Tonkatsu, which is what I went for. They had unfortunately run out of egg at the time (I was disappointed). 2 of my friends opted for the Karomiso (a spicy miso soup) and my other friend asked for the Ume shio plum soup with BBQ pork. We also ordered the Hokkaido scallop salad to start.

If you wish to, you can have the dinner set for $380 which includes a salad and another dish of their choice to start, a bowl of rahmen of your choice and a dessert. If you’re a beer drinker, they recommended the Nipponia Hitachino nest beer to us, which was yummy and smooth (though I’m no expert!).

The salad was good, nothing spectacular but the scallops were excellently prepared. There wasn’t nearly enough of it though, but it just about fed the 4 of us so that we all had a taste and 2 scallops each.The pièce de résistance was a lot less arresting to look at that I had imagined- just a regular bowl of noodles. But, the soup base was truly scrumptious, fantastic explosion of flavours and not too salty (something that most noodle soups fall victim to in other places). I slurped a bit of the Karomiso soup- delicious! Going for that one next time. The noodles themselves were decent, I’m not used to eating such finely prepared rahmen and my friends were not overly enthusiastic, preferring the normal thicker and chewy types elsewhere, but overall, the soup base more than made up for it.For dessert, we ended with two slices of banana chocolate cake, which is provided by Awfully Chocolate- sinfully indulgent.So, does it deserve its Michelin star? I’m not so sure; the soup base is wonderful, but at $120, is it enough or worthy of this accolade? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

MIST Rahmen Fine Dining G/F, 4 Sun Wui Road, Causeway Bay. Tel: 2881 5006

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You can also see my review on Sassy Hong Kong.