Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Sunday Brunch Blowout at the Intercontinental

I’m not usually one for a huge Sunday buffet these days, as my days of fast metabolism are behind me *sob*, and I can’t quite eat EVERYTHING I want without feeling as though my gut literally wants to explode. However, The Intercontinental was very generous and extended a kind invitation to myself and a friend to try their Sunday buffet lunch a few months back. (Bit behind schedule writing, whoops! But don’t worry nothing has changed with the buffet!) If a lazy Sunday sipping free-flow Perrier-Jouet Champagne, nibbling leisurely on seafood, imported cheese, pizza, noodles and carved meats to name a few, whilst enjoying the views of the Hong Kong harbour sounds like heaven, then look no further than the Harbourside’s elaborate Sunday Brunch.

Harbourside - Image courtesy of Intercontinental

Harbourside – Image courtesy of Intercontinental

The spread is highly impressive with tonnes of choices, so even the fussiest of eaters have something to tickle their fancy. On one fine Sunday a girlfriend and I basked in the sun and took in the hustle and bustle of hungry patrons and wait-staff enthusiastically passing around specialty items such as pizza and ‘Shooters’ of sweet or alcoholic delights. Unfortunately, we missed a few of these mini items as we were almost always otherwise occupied at the stations devouring the spread with our eyes.IMG_0268

Mini treat from the Pass Around schedule

Mini treat from the Pass Around schedule

The fresh seafood section is always a hit at buffets, but I was thoroughly excited by their “action stations” with Peking duck, curries, pasta, dim sum and the carving station with plenty of succulent meat. I loved the rack of long bone-in beef but we were sad that their Yorkshire Puddings were on the more doughy side and weren’t crispier. I was also happy to tuck into freshly pan-fried Foie Gras (very decadent) and as a self-proclaimed cheese and cold cuts fanatic, went wild over their selection of Italian and Spanish hams and salami as well as their delicious display of French cheeses. Cheese baked crab meat still in the crab shell was a hit with us, but with so much to choose from, we had to put our spoons down after one.IMG_0278IMG_0272 IMG_0271 IMG_0265 IMG_0281 IMG_0291

If savouries aren’t your thing, the dessert buffet will definitely be. Macarons, cookies, mille feuille, chocolate fountain, pastries and other cakes, is enough to make one diabetic just looking at it. Crepes made-to-order certainly made a few children excited. If you want something a little less sweet, there is also an array of Chinese desserts on offer as well as fruit smoothies for a lighter end.IMG_0259 IMG_0258 IMG_0263 IMG_0261

So what is the wallet damage after a buffet such as this? It doesn’t come cheap at $888 per person for the free-flow champagne or $838 for soft drinks only and for children it’s $588. However, if you are looking for a special occasion brunch, have hours to ease into the meal and slowly nibble your way through, it is a delightful afternoon spent by the harbour. And let’s face it, sometimes, you just need to treat yourself to a sumptuous feast on a Sunday.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5 

Harbourside, Intercontinental Hotel, 18 Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong Tel:  +852 2313 2323 Opening times on Sunday: 11am- 3pm

This review was by invitation. Many thanks to The Intercontinental.

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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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Kyoto Joe Revisited

When you’re not clawing your way up Lan Kwai Fong in your heels to grab drinks in the evenings or weekends or if you’re a man, getting lairy with the lads(!), I do recommend occasionally taking your appetite before drinks to a couple of other establishments around that tiny area that tend to get overshadowed by the likes of Brickhouse down the road.

One is Kyoto Joe. The last time I visited this place was back in 2011 and after two years of making my way round all the other restaurants in HK, I finally found myself back there again by the kind invitation of LKF Entertainments which also owns Tokio Joe, Whiskey Priest and Lux Bar and Tapas. Being back in Kyoto Joe reminded me of actually how lovely it is. Considering its location, it is surprisingly quiet and the food, more importantly is good. When I previously reviewed it, it was just after the tsunami in Japan and everyone was wary of sushi and I mentioned that Kyoto Joe sources most of its produce from other countries, which is still the case. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal then and I had another fantastic lunch again, but this time I sampled some new dishes.

Kyoto Joe
Kyoto Joe

The simplistic decor interwoven with Japanese art and the restaurant’s tranquil ambience are two elements that make dining at Kyoto Joe particularly pleasant. On weekdays, the seats are occupied by the work crowd and businessmen, but I imagine it being a great spot on the weekends to take a breather over a good meal. Their menu has something for everyone, with sushi, sashimi, tempura, hot dishes, robatayaki, rolls and cones, salads, rice and noodles and now a vegetarian menu, which I think is brilliant, as Japanese establishments so rarely have enough on their menus to cater to vegetarians.

Tea service was exemplary as before, you’ll never go thirsty here! My first dish was a special- the Tuna Egg White, a softly steamed egg white and tofu topped with shredded tuna with a touch of spicy sauce. The bite of the shredded tuna and the fluffy, light egg white was lovely and the spicy sauce really jazzed up the dish.

Tuna Egg White
Tuna Egg White

The Ebi Nori roll with grilled king prawn was excellent. Plump, fresh prawn and well dressed in their homemade seaweed sauce.

Ebi Nori roll
Ebi Nori roll

Their Sweet and Spicy Vegetables of slightly fried cauliflower, asparagus and  mushrooms were served with sesame and sweet and spicy sauce. The vegetables were fried perfectly but I would have preferred the sauce to be served on the side rather than already coated on them as some may find the sauce a bit too sweet and piquant for their liking.

Sweet and Spicy Vegetables
Sweet and Spicy Vegetables

Their next dish is a very new edition to their now quite expansive menu and my favourite of the meal. The Angel Salmon Tartar, chopped salmon with spicy mayonnaise served on seaweed rice crackers was lip-smackingly delicious. I love mayonnaise anyway, but the spicy mayo with salmon was just addictive. Seaweed crackers may make you think, ‘so what?’, but somehow Kyoto Joe’s made their crackers sexy especially in that combo. I will have to hog all 4 pieces to myself on my next lunch.

Angel Salmon Tartar
Angel Salmon Tartar

For mains I revisited their Karubi grilled beef ribs with teriyaki sauce, which was perfectly prepared, sizzling on their hot stones. After 2 years, I can definitely say that consistency is Kyoto Joe’s strongest point, a bit of rarity in HK!

Karubi
Karubi

Dessert was the Trio of crème brulee (green tea, sesame and coffee) which I also had before, and again, nom nom nom. Yummy. They just needed a minute more of caramelisation on top to give that satisfying crack with your spoon.

Trio of crème brulee
Trio of crème brulee

So there it is, my second visit in a nutshell. I think Kyoto Joe is often overlooked outside of work hours and I think it needs to come out of its shadow more and showcase its dishes, because the food is really very good. The service is excellent, prices reasonable, the manager very knowledgeable and personable and that Angel Salmon Tartar..mmm, I’ll fight you for them.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5 (It keeps its 4 chopsticks!)

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Kyoto Joe, 2/F-3/F, 1 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, HK. Tel: 2804 6800

This lunch was by invitation. Interior photo courtesy of Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments.


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A Sushi Win

I’ve never been to Kenjo in TST but I hear it’s THE go-to place for fresh sushi and sashimi. But, what’s great is that 3 of Kenjo’s apprentices flew the nest and set up their own place Sushi Shin in Tai Hang.. and it’s pretty ace.

Now, admittedly, I only went for lunch and had the lunch set, and I haven’t as yet tried their sushi/sashimi a la carte, but that should be reserved for a special occasion, especially as it can be up to a hefty $600 (or more) per person for a few pieces of exquisitely sliced fish.

First thing to say about Sushi Shin is: make a booking!! Seating is tight in there and you will be disappointed if you’ve been dreaming about that plate of o-toro and then get turned away at the last minute.

The decoration is simple: bright lights, beautiful blonde wood slats, cool granite flooring and a sushi counter centre stage, from behind which the sushi chefs weave their magic and greet you warmly as you enter the establishment.The restaurant can only sit around 20 people but there is a private room that can hold a further 10 people, so ideal for birthday bashes.Our entire group went for the sashimi lunch set, which comes with egg custard (amazing), pickles, jellyfish, miso soup and an assortment of sashimi- 7 types including toro, salmon, shrimp and tamago, all beautifully presented. The sashimi was excellent; incredibly fresh and juicy. To top it off, we all got a scoop of black sesame ice-cream for dessert to cleanse our palates.

Lunch was deeply satisfying, the service was good and everyone had a great time. What more could you ask for on a Sunday afternoon?

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

(this rating is obviously based on just a single lunch set and the ravings of friends, but I will go back again one day for dinner and add to this review!)

Sushi Shin, G/F, 110 –114 Tung Lo Wan Rd, Causeway Bay. Nearest MTR: Tin Hau. Tel: 2398 8000. Opening times: Daily noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm.

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Sushi Cool

Sushi Kuu is pretty cool. Modern, chic decoration, jazz music playing in the background, you could be forgiven for mistaking this place for a blues lounge. It serves beautifully presented classic and contemporary dishes and is a welcome departure from the maddening crowd of Lan Kwai Fong.

Seated in a corner booth overlooking the street below, we decided to feast on the more classic dishes, starting off with the assorted deluxe sushi platter. Given the early hour of our dinner, the restaurant was still relatively empty but soon people began to drift in and fill up the sushi counter. The atmosphere was chilled and relaxing but this “chillaxing” vibe seemed to have affected the staff as the service was very slow. I ldid like the presentation of their daily specials in a curious perspex block in the middle of the table.The sushi was good and fresh, standard of most high quality Japanese eateries in HK. The spider roll was tasty but had a little too much lettuce. The one oddity and disappointment was the dragon roll which usually has tempura in its centre, but Sushi Kuu decided to create their own version with fake crab stick in the middle and a topping of grilled eel. At first glance, the presentation is impressive but the taste falls flat.

However, the foie gras roll did get our stamp of approval, not too much foie gras to overwhelm the palate and the senses and a good amount of teryaki sauce. Mmmmm.

Other enjoyable dishes were the silver cod- lovely and fatty with a wonderfully smooth texture, and the generous bowl of edamame beans- extremely addictive for some reason!

Best dishes of the night? The bowls of beef and tempura udon. The soup was delicious with a great big heap of seaweed moss to add to the flavour. Another bowl of beef udon all to myself would have been very welcome!

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5 for ambience, soothing music, tasty food and a funky location.

Sushi Kuu, 1/F, Wellington Place, 2-8 Wellington St, Central. Tel: 2971 0180. Opening times: Daily noon-3pm, 6pm-11.30pm

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