Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Part 2: Relishing the Robatayaki

The best part of my interview with Chef Patrick was, of course, the eating! Here’s what we had:

To start, we had the sashimi served on ice.

“The freshness comes out and is much cleaner when served on ice. You get the wow factor and it’s visually more attractive.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve been eating sashimi and sushi incorrectly…. I just dump all my wasabi into the soya-sauce and dunk the sashimi in!

You should put the amount of wasabi you want, on top of the sashimi or sushi and then put it in the soya-sauce. You mix the flavours in your mouth rather than in the soya-sauce”.

Hmmmm…whoops. What’s this?

“This is the butterfish. It is very difficult for us to attain, but it’s beautiful. Here, the butterfish has a citrus dressing- yuzu (Japanese lemon) with ginger and garlic, served with white asparagus on top of a pesto type dressing (shiso leaf paste mixed with rapeseed oil). The acidic taste brings out the delicate texture of the fish.”

Do you have a favourite fish?

“ I don’t have a favourite fish. And even if I do, I will convince mnyself that I don’t have one. I like to be fair and open-minded and to keep things neutral. If you believe one fish is better than the other, then you will never want to try the other fish, even if it is prepared in a different way!”

After that divine first ‘course’, next up were the Foie gras in plum wine and King Crab Tempura. Both were exquisite!

“The foie gras is marinated in plum wine and poached in its own liquor. Then it is served with seaweed and a squid ink bread. The Red king crab is harder to find than normal crab but has a sweeter texture. Here we serve the tempura with tensu sauce and green tea salt which is the traditional way of serving tempura.”At this point, Chef Patrick orders the house sake and explained how they are working on developing the Shoju they make in-house and how they want to create a bigger and more fun variety of shoju for the customers. At the moment, he says, shoju is not as popular as sake, but he is working on that!

Third course; and he’s ordered the Roka signature Black cod and prawn dumplings and the grilled Hokkaido scallops. There are 3 types of dumplings on the menu, pork and scallop, beef and kimchi and black cod and prawn. The black cod and prawn is more popular in Hong Kong and is therefore not available at their London branches.Last up, before dessert, we had the spicy lamb chops marinated in coriander pepper and served with a cucumber and red onion cleanser. The lamb is from Australia and therefore “milder” to cater for those who aren’t big fans of lamb. Amazingly tender meat, and just the right amount of ‘zing’ for the palate.The classic miso eggplant was delicious but what was utterly incredible was the Black cod in sweet miso sauce. Chef Patrick told me it takes 3 days to prepare this dish, which involves soaking the cod in salt water for 12 hours, drying it out then marinating it for 24 hours. All that work clearly pays off!To end, a sumptuous dessert platter on shaved ice was produced in which was nestled sesame and green tea sorbets and two desserts- the valrhona chocolate cake and the jasmine sundae with yuzu-granite. The jasmine sundae was my favourite, gorgeously refreshing. The whipped jelly cream with layers of orange jelly, strawberry and orange coulis topped with yuzu shaved ice and jasmine icecream (made from jasmine flowers) was a perfect balance of fruitiness, acidic bite and crunchiness.

As you can imagine, I was completely and utterly stuffed after that sumptuous feast, and so very grateful for the opportunity to dine and learn, not just about Roka itself but also about Japanese cuisine, from such a passionate and innovative chef.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

Roka, Pacific Place, Level LG1, Shop 002, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong. Tel: 3960 5988, info@rokarestaurant.com.hk

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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.


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You say Miso, I say Hatcho

I am a miso ignoramus. I am that person you see in the supermarket aisle reaching for the cheats’ instant miso soup packets and not caring about the ridiculous amounts of sodium and MSG in them. I can just about tell you that there exists white miso and red miso but other than that… zilch knowledge.

This lack of information (appalling for someone who eats as much Japanese food as I do and drinks miso soup like it’s going out of fashion), was made apparent to me when my food monster friends and I went to this relatively new Japanese place in Causeway Bay.

Toba Nagoya is a compact, chic and modern looking izakaya that prides itself on its impressive sake list and a obsession with slapping on liberal amounts of Hatcho Miso on all their food except their chicken wings (more on that later). The colourful sake jars lining the shelves make for interesting decoration especially as I have never seen sake jars before- at first we thought they were “special”  specimen jars, *ahem* whoops.

But before I go on, what is Hatcho Miso? Hatcho miso is one of the 4 most common miso flavours including Shiromiso (white miso), Akamiso (red miso) and Awasemiso (mixed miso). Hatcho miso is darker and browner, is high in vitamins and minerals and has a lower salt and water content.

Right, so now we know what the stuff is, how does it taste and how was Toba Nagoya? The staff were cheerful and friendly and didn’t bat an eyelid when we went wild with the ordering. As an appetizer we were given a tasty melon dish topped with hatcho miso which was devoured by my ravenous girlfriend “Krispy K”. Clearly the miso was tasty. As we are greedy people we ordered 2 of everything: the hatcho grilled eggplant, hatcho miso assorted oden-chicken ball, skewered cutlet pork fillets and homemade beancurd. We also ordered their special chicken wings coated with their secret Toba sauce (mild, medium hot or super spicy)- we opted for 1 mild and 1 medium. To whet our appetites we asked for some sake and eagerly awaited our feast.

We loved the chicken wings- crispy skin, tender meat, tasty sauce. If my memory serves me correctly, you can get either 6, 10 or 12 chicken wings. As we were filled with glee over the taste, my friend “Chiaphuati” asked for another 10, which we later realised was ambitious given how cluttered our table was.

Glazing food with hatcho miso is a clever move. The eggplant went down a treat, so much so that MZ accidentally ordered 2 more and we ended up with an eggplant phobia after dinner.  The chicken balls and the assorted veg accompaniment were tasty but if you’re not a fan of soft cartilage then go for the deep friend pork cutlets which were exquisite. The pork was just the right side of fatty, tender and delicious. Their assorted tempura and softshell crab sushi roll were very good too and a tasty break from the hatcho miso dishes. Out of all the dishes, the homemade beancurd was the one disappointment. Perhaps I was missing the point of it but to me it tasted like cheese and was overly fermented.

Considering the amount we ordered, the price per head was very reasonable. I’ll be back again to try some of their other dishes and to educate myself on sake hehe. I’ll probably won’t be eating eggplant anytime soon though….

Chopstick rating: 4/5

Toba Nagoya, 21/F, L’Hart, 489 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bar. MTR: Exit C. Tel: 2891 7188

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