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

$$$$$$$$$$

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


$$$$-$$$$$$$$$$

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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Tiny Tim, a lesson on wine and a hint of garlic

On the back of our Ghetto Dim Sum meal in Mong Kok last week, my friend G suggested that we go back to HK Island and have dinner with him at another Michelin starred establishment. I’d vaguely heard about Tim’s Kitchen before but I didn’t realise that it holds 2 Michelin stars, and it’s Macau counterpart holds 1 Michelin star.

Tim’s Kitchen is hidden away on a quiet street in Sheung Wan, but those in the know, like G, always make a reservation a few days in advance to avoid disappointment. This small and compact private kitchen serves up Traditional Cantonese food and was started by the former head chef of  Hang Seng Bank. It was made famous and rewarded with its Michelin star because the chef whips up these dishes through pain of long hours, even days of preparation ( like our forefathers used to) and dragging himself to the market every morning to collect fresh ingredients. Not many restaurants serve classical Cantonese food anymore purely because of the time it takes to prepare half of these dishes!

There is a pre-order menu which allows customers to order the more complicated dishes a few days in advance of their meal. Such dishes include preparations with shark’s fin and bird’s nest, fresh conch, braised pomelo skin (apparently takes a few days to prepare) and baby pigeon. These dishes obviously hoik up the prices a bit compared to the regular menu from which you can order when you get there. We decided to forego the pre-order menu on this occasion and go with the good ol’ regular one on the night.

G warned us that we might not be able to find it as it doesn’t have “TIM’S KITCHEN” emblazoned on the front of the restaurant, so he helpfully emailed and said that it looks like this:

This however, did not prevent J from completely missing the restaurant and walking straight past and it wasn’t until G started waving wildly at him from the back of the restaurant (a futile task) that the waiter noticed and had to run outside to fetch him! Someone obviously wasn’t paying attention to the warning email 😛

Tim’s Kitchen has no corkage which may please some of you out there as that means you can bring in whatever tipple you like, and if that’s Strongbow cider or an Smirnoff Ice, then so be it. There is a conveniently positioned wine shop opposite the restaurant which must make a killing from customers dashing out to buy an emergency bottle of wine or bubbly.

Having failed to bring our own bottle, the 2 boys popped out to peruse the wine selection in the shop. After what seemed like ages, G returned (he got bored of looking and hunger took over), minus J. Then the 1st dish arrived- sauteed dried scallops with fresh crabmeat and scrambled egg. I debated for approximately 1.5 seconds whether we should wait for J but it looked like the wine lady had taken a shine to him and was in the middle of a lecture possibly titled “Wine through the ages”, so I made the executive decision to start eating without him hehe.

J eventually escaped the clutches of the wine lady and returned with a bottle of red recommended by his new friend, which I must say was quite pleasant and went well with the food. But enough on the beverage, I’m here to talk about Tim’s food!

The scallop dish was lovely. As all the ingredients were sauteed very delicately, the flavours were well preserved. Although Tim’s focuses mainly on seafood, their chicken dishes are also excellent and this was highlighted by the next serving of crispy chicken. The meat was so succulent and yet the skin was gorgeous and crispy and not too greasy.

I’m always on the look out for steamed pork with salty egg as it’s one of my favourite dishes my Dad cooks (a recipe passed down from my Grandma) so I was delighted and slightly too excited when I spotted it on the menu. I think I’m probably a little biased when I say that that was my favourite dish of the night, but it did taste fantastic and was almost as good as my Dad’s (but nothing ever tastes as good as when a parent cooks your childhood favourite dish). There was enough soup/gravy to smother my rice with and the pork was tender. Sometimes the salty egg can be too salty and overwhelm a dish. If you’re not careful and you add even more salt to your meat when you’re cooking then the whole dish tastes like you’ve emptied half a salt pot into your mouth. This of course would never occur in such an establishment as Tim’s and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, eating probably more than my fair share.

I thought I was still eggplant phobic after Toba Nagoya, but the stewed eggplant with minced pork and salty fish sauce was excellent and moreish. I marvelled at the vivid purple of the eggplant which  really made the dish standout.

Our last dish was fried noodles with BBQ pork and spring onions. I am going to sit on the fence with this one as I’m not terribly keen on lots of spring onions in my food anyway and in this case, I felt that there were definitely more spring onions than pork. The noodles probably only needed a garnishing of onions but some people love liberal amounts of spring onion so I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

The dessert of the evening was ginkgo nut and beancurd sheet soup. Now the funny thing is that the beancurd and soup was yummy and sweet but the gingko nuts had an unusual essence of garlic infused in them. This garlic taste got progressively stronger as I chewed through all of the gingko nuts. I’m fairly sure that this was not the intention of Tim’s, so I can only surmise that the knife used to slice the nuts in half, was also used to cut garlic. Oh well, I enjoyed the soup though!

Chopstick rating: 3.5/5 (for now, when we return to eat some of the seafood and the pre-order dishes, I’ll review again!)

Tim’s Kitchen, G/F, 93 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan. Tel: 2543 5919. Open daily for lunch and dinner (closed Sundays and public holidays)

$$$$$$$$$$ (for dishes taken from regular menu- expect $300+ per head for dishes from the pre-order menu)