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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Krug grief, you’re German?! A delightful lesson in bubbly at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo

What do you get when you put ten foodie fanatics, three WOM guiders and one Krug expert in a private room together with bottles of champagne? Answer: an epic four hour, progressively rambunctious dinner peppered with talks of spam and bricks of butter. This was my evening two Fridays ago, when I was most, most fortunate to be invited by Krug and WOM guide for a night of champagne education and good banter at the 3 star Michelin restaurant 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana. I had been dying to go to 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo for yonks, but was saving a trip for a special occasion so I could go all out and spoil myself, so I couldn’t believe that such a dinner was being hosted. This was definitely too unique of an experience to turn down (what’s a girl to do eh?).You know the night will end well when one walks in to be greeted immediately by a glass of champagne. After a few rather large gulps, (I’d been waiting all day at work for 7pm to arrive), Regional Brand Ambassador for Krug at LVMH, Arnaud Mirey, kick-started things by giving us a wonderful history lesson on the house of Krug. I loved hearing how Krug has in fact a German background, founded by Joseph Krug, a German immigrant, in 1843, who learnt his trade at Champagne before setting up the famous house in Reims and making it his own, thus solidifying the presence of Krug in the world of bubbly. More fascinating still, is how, even today, members of the Krug family aren’t permitted to travel on the same flight together, lest something should happen and the secrets of Krug are lost!We had the privilege of trying four champagnes: the flagship Grande Cuvée, Krug Vintage 1998, Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998 and the Krug Rosé. After giving us a bit of guidance on the tasting notes, we were pretty much left to our own devices to decide which would pair better with each course. I was half drunk by the time the first course arrived, and was merrily interspersing bits of my warm lobster salad with Roast Ligurian artichoke and Cinta Senese ham with sips of the Grand Cuvée (spelt Cruvée in my tipsiness on my phone) and Clos du Mesnil and didn’t notice that my glasses were being magically refilled.Just a little ditty about the food- the Roast Duck Foie Gras with Piedmont Hazelnut Sauce was sensational. I didn’t know what to do first, drink the Vintage 98 (which paired exquisitely with it) or eat my foie gras. I tried to savour every morsel, but great conversation and alcohol meant that it was over too soon. However, by then, all eyes were on the ridiculously generous amount of black winter truffle that was being shaved agonizingly slowly over our third course- the Homemade fettucine, which again, I thought, went superbly with the Vintage 98. Or maybe I was just letting the champagne control my taste-buds and I was too happy to with my glass of Vintage!I can’t remember what went with the excellent Spiced Roast Challans Duck Supreme with apple and eggplant compote, I’m pretty sure I was still drinking the Vintage, but the Crispy Pear Tart, was a scrumptious sweet ending with the Clos du Mesnil.

The Clos du Mesnil 98 and the Krug Vintage 98 were by far my favourites of the four. Somehow I managed to cobble together some educational notes for myself. First up, I learnt about the elegant, highly sought after and eye-wateringly expensive Clos du Mesnil 98, which is unique in being a single vineyard (Chardonnay grape), single vintage, blanc de blancs, bottled in the village of Mesnil-sur-Oger. The vineyard is surrounded by a wall and used to belong to monks. (I have no idea why I chose to take this bit of information down, but it seems nice to share!). It has a beautiful pale golden colour , a blossom smell and a sweet honey, fruity flavour with bready notes.  The wonderfully long after-taste makes this very memorable.I loved the Krug Vintage 98. This champagne, the last Krug vintage of the 90s, has a lovely soft spice, nutty, gingerbread aroma and flavour to it. Very easy on the palate and honestly, goes down a little too smoothly. Dangerous. Lucky this stuff can’t be found in your local supermarket, or else I’d be broke.

As the dinner went past the halfway point, conversation turned to spam. One foodie couldn’t believe we were talking about this tinned meat favourite of WWII, but too much fun was being had discussing spam potluck gatherings, how to prepare spam, how to optimise the caramelisation of pan-fried spam. You get the idea. We also ended up talking about butter as if it was bricks of gold, much to Arnaud’s amusement. If you passed our room and heard a lot of ‘oohs’, followed by, ‘oh noooooooo, ughhhhh’ it was most probably because we’d just discussed how rubbish it is when croissants are made with margarine. Travesty!

Anyway, back to the champagne, and the Grande Cuvée, being the flagship, is of course, lovely to drink as well. It is multi-vintage, as 50% of the blend is made of reserve wines from three grape varieties. Some of the wines have been aged up to 20 years before they are used for the Grande Cuvée, and up to 200 base wines may be used for this blend. It’s special as it shows signs of maturity: an extra stay of 6 years in the cellars after the blending process cements its finesse. I enjoyed the Krug Rosé, (which I think I’d prefer drinking on its own). It’s nice and girly with its pretty pink flush and delicate flavour and is made from a blend of 10%, skins included Pinot Noir, with the remainder being a white base.  I showed all 4 champagnes a lot of love that night, so much so that I face-planted onto my bed when I eventually got home and could barely support my head weight. I’m not sure if I was lucky but I didn’t have a hangover the next day. So I reckon drinking Vintage is the way to go!

Thank you WOM guide and Krug for such an enjoyable evening. Great company is always integral at meals, but coupled with an impeccable menu and fine champagne I’d say that that night had the very best of combinations.

You will probably have read a few recounts of the same evening from my fellow foodies and the reason for all our quick write-ups is because we have a special prize of a private Krug room dinner for 12 people being dangled in front of us! All our write-ups will be uploaded to the WOM guide and links placed on their Facebook page. The blog with the most LIKES wins this dinner, so take a look and ‘like’!

8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, 202, 2nd Floor, Landmark Alexandra, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2537 8859

LMVH Krug http://www.krug.com/en