Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Japanese in Me

The variation in Japanese cuisine is overwhelming. Hong Kong tends to pick up the trends in Japan almost first hand, and put a reasonable price tag on. So naturally part of my mission is to satisfy my constant craving for Japanese gourmet. Okay these are still a long way from the Jap standard, but until my flight to Japan, these will do.

Owing to its popularity, Japanese restaurants have swarmed the streets of Hong Kong, to the extent that most of them compete on price and compromise on quality. Bad news for foodies who look for fresh authentic goodies. I have done the hard work of researching and sampling…

Kosyu is one of the more authentic Japanese restaurants with a Japanese sushi chef who insist on serving sushi the proper way. We thought about going Omakasae for dinner here, but Sakaegawa won the fight, so we resorted to lunch at Kosyu.

Minced Fatty Tuna, Salmon Roe, Sea Urchin

I went to sea heaven. Uni was creamy and sweet; ikura was pearl-like, lively and oozy; minced toro was fatty and intense.

Crab Meat, Salmon Roe and Sea Urchin

A similar set with equally splendid goodies and shredded crab, which was moist and delectable.

The accompanying sides were meticulously executed; silky and bouncy steamed egg with chicken, prawn, crab stick and shitake mushroom, gentle pickles to lightly cleanse and boost the palate.

Yakiniku is a delight yet to hit London. Barbecuing slices of marinated meat on a sizzling hot grill on individual tables. Fun. Morihachi and Iroha have been my favourite joints, offering top notch meat. I picked Morihachi for lunch purely for the sake of location convenience.

Wagyu beef rib, Wagyu beef flank, Black Pork belly, Ox Tongue, chicken thigh in Grapefruit juice. Plus some non-wagyu beef ribs slices.

Quality of meat is crucial, like the wheels of a Ferrari; the combination of marinades is the steering wheel, together they take us on a limitless highway ride. These lucky Wagyu cows are massaged regularly, and are fed prime beer on a daily basis, as shown on the beautiful fat marbling. Upon grilling, the fat melts to give a glazed coating, give it another 10 seconds overleaf. Eat. Each chew releases more dissolving grease mixed with meat juices, so tender so soft. Awesome.

Sakaegawa is a Japanese wine house decorated like a fish market, as it prides itself on providing the freshest and rarest sea delicacies known. We came for the renowned Kinki fish.

Red Snapper sashimi with Truffle oil

We tried to avoid raw fish really, we went through 2 days of sushi and sashimi. This was still very intriguing. Red snapper is mild in flavour, so it offered a mushy texture that allowed the truffle oil to take over our taste buds. I thought it was a variation from the Italian seabream carpaccio. Nonetheless a refreshing one.

Glowing Squid & Wine Accompany

Both small plates were designed to go with alcohol. Sorry I couldn’t come up with a translation for the latter, it was diced ripen avocado with squid bits in spiced bean paste(?). Glowing squids were playful to say the least, and they tasted nothing like squid. They were like ductile wet salt fish. Though these two were leaning on the salty side, they were very interesting.

Skewers – Black Pork, Ox tongue, Beef rib and White Eel, 

Except for the plump eel, the others were parched and fairly sinewy,

Grilled Kinki Fish

This is one ugly fish. Like it has been gamma-radiated, twice. This little fish, slightly larger than palm-size, costs c. £60 because of its rarity. And damn it is one fat fish. We perforated the skin with chopsticks, and its oil poured out like a tap, washing out flakes of fish which could only be described as milky. Full credits to the chef who controlled the grilling to perfection. The first half scrumptious, then I started to feel sick. I never thought a fish could be too fatty, well, here it is. How some could sashimi a Kinki is still beyond my understanding. I think Kinki is even more buttery and unforgettable than black cod; it’s one of the best fish I have ever tasted. I just need to share it with more people.

Mitsukiya has earned raving reviews for its expertise in Japanese sweets and desserts, as well as its manga-like decorations. It needs a clock, though. A 5 o’clock opening was delayed for 20 minutes, leaving a very long queue outside. My parents were already skeptical about the place.

No plum tea, or even normal tea after we were seated at the tatami tables. My brother also began to dislike Mitsukiya. Half the menu wasn’t available because the dessert chef wasn’t in. So why is it open? Scratching my head, I ordered.

Milk Pudding with Pumpkin, Sesame and Red Bean Paste

Daifuku – Mochi with green bean paste and whole strawberry & chestnut paste with whole chestnut

Dango – sweet dumpling with sesame paste and toasted sesame

Grilled sweet potato

These made it into our good books. Milk was rich and creamy; dumplings were charmingly chewy; sweet potatoes were naturally sugary and aromatic and the mochi were perfect recipes.

Wagashi – cloth-wrapped sweet potato

Whole Apple pie

These weren’t so good. Wagashi was served cold with pumpkin seeds which clashed with the sweet potatoes; and the whole apple pie was simply out of place and ordinary in taste.

Yes it’s gimmicky, but it’s also backed by some high quality sweets. I wouldn’t know how authentic Mitsukiya is, I am not bothered either. It’s well worth a try, and the experience should undoubtedly be better on a non public holiday (or Chinese New Year’s eve).

We were spoilt for choices for a sushi dinner. Having planned a meal at a Japanese-run sushi specialists, we wanted a more wallet-friendly sushi bar for a good binge. Two years ago, Itacho used to be a safe choice. Mi-ne served better scallops and Nagoyaka Tei offered better salmon roe, but Itacho was an all-rounder. Even though Itacho is practically everywhere, we chose a branch with heavy traffic, as fish are likely to be fresher due to the quick turnover. The downside is, of course, some of our must-eats were out of stock.

Torched Salmon belly

The trusty one. This is the only salmon we order at sushi bars. If it doesn’t melt in mouth, we leave. This passed.

Geoduck; Yellow Tail belly; Sanma (mackerel pike)

This was named the tasty plate. Each was satisfying sweet, fresh and succulent. We had a second round.

Jumbo Scallop

Overall the nigiri benchmarked, but the gunkan didn’t. Soggy seaweed, tasteless salmon roe, bland wasabi octopus and crab & shrimp roe were on the stodgy side.

It’s still hit-and-miss with sushi chains like Itacho. Branches at New Territories have been reported to serve rubber fish, luckily this visit wasn’t too bad. Mister informed me that Mi-ne is now inedible and I couldn’t afford the time to check out Imamura and Hiro for quality check. This came to £20 per head for 18 pieces of sushi each. What more could you ask for?

Even Japanese bakery has taken a seat at the supreme districts. Bologne originated from Japan, serving toasts that have incorporated Danish pastry techniques to give a unique fluffiness. It boasts a broad view of the Victoria Harbour. Two waitresses were Japanese and only spoke simple English, but not Cantonese.

Maple syrup with Sea salt

It’s a piece of toast. Okay it’s thicker than usual, but It’s just Brioche to be honest. The maple syrup is not overly sweet; the salt combination is new to me and worked surprisingly well. But charging almost £4 for a piece of toast is still rather steep.

Vanilla and Matcha Ice cream with Honey drizzle

Scoop of ice cream on a slice of buttered toast is definitely a first for me, Still not something I can’t do at home. Mopping up melted ice cream with a piece of bread sounds as strange as it tasted.

Matcha Latte

The Hokkaido imported milk and cream made this the only winner. While the green tea powder was fragrant and wholesome, there was no hint of coffee in the latte. Hmmm….

I wouldn’t recommend Bologne. Despite the sea view (which was half blocked by a cruise), it was noisy, crowded, overpriced and overrated. There are better places at TST for a relaxing afternoon.


  1. I don't think they make green tea latte with any coffee in, I had green tea latte a few times in korea and well as sweet potato latte (delish!) & blueberry latte, and I think their interpretation is the main flavour and add milk without any coffee.