April 14, 2018

Dinner with know-nothing diva

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It's Babu's birthday today, so when pre-booking opened up for Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) Hong Kong, I made sure to secure a booking for tonight.  As long as she was gonna be in town, I would make sure that we spend some time together and treat her to some good Japanese food.

There are two seatings of 2 hours each for dinner, and the restaurant makes it a point to remind diners to arrive a little earlier so that service could start at the appointed time.  In spite of this, there always seems to be one group of people who takes a liberal interpretation when it comes to time - and arrive late.  Unfortunately for us, tonight would be no exception.

The 8 seats at the counter were taken up by two separate parties - Babu, Hello Kitty, and myself; and a group of 5.  Four people from the other group apparently trekked over from Macau, and ended up waiting a good 20 minutes for their diva friend living in Hong Kong.  Since Koba-san would not begin service until the entire party has been seated, that meant the diva's friends could only watch while the three of us started enjoying the delicious morsels being sent our way.

Mackerel bozushi (鯖の棒鮨) - I finally got a chance to try this, having seen pictures of it for quite some time.

The mackerel wrapped around the rice came with a thin layer of kelp (昆布), which made me wonder whether the mackerel itself had been marinated next to the kelp as kobujime (昆布締め).  In any case, this was an incredible first bite, as it just melted in my mouth.

Steamed abalone (蒸し鮑) - very tender.  Very flavorful.  Babu was happy.

Octopus (蛸) - as expected, this was very tender.  What I did not expect was how sweet the marinade was.

Pen shell (平貝) - this came straight from the grill and was very, very hot, and it was tough trying to hold it in my hands while taking a picture...  Slightly more chewy than I had expected.

Uni trio (雲丹三種盛り) - it's tough not to be giddy when you see the chef plating something like this... especially for anyone who loves sea urchin.

Purple sea urchin (紫雲丹), Hokkaido - from Hadate Suisan (羽立水産) in Hokkaido. One of my absolute favorites when it comes to sea urchin.  Love how sweet and creamy this is.

Purple sea urchin (紫雲丹), Kagoshima - a little more salty, more depth of flavors.

Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) - from Hokkaido.  Flavors definitely more briny and medicinal.

Monkfish liver (鮟肝) - the slices tonight seemed a little bit thicker than what I had on my first visit, and of course putting this in my mouth was nothing short of pure bliss.  The sweet marinade was so delicious that I wanted to lift up my shallow bowl and drink it... and of course the sprinkle of shaved yuzu (柚子) zest added some beautiful fragrance to it all.

Rosy seabass (喉黒) - as delicious as it was on my two previous visits.  Very, very tender... and succulent.

The sushi portion of our dinner starts...

Splendid alfonsino (金目鯛) - the first piece of nigiri always makes one notice how warm the shari (しゃり) is...

Baby sea bream (春子鯛) - I noticed tonight that the rice grains were rather firm and more chewy than I had remembered from my last two visits.

The staff was kind enough to arrange to switch out the two pieces of tuna for me - the benefit of having a long-standing relationship with a restaurant group who keeps track of your preferences.

Japanese glass shrimp (白海老) - the usual texture for this neta (ねた), where it started to liquefy a little.  Started to notice the wasabi in this piece.  My substitute for lean tuna (あかみ).

Cockle (鳥貝) - clearly aged so that the texture was very, very tender... still with some crunch.  Somehow got a little dab of wasabi on my tongue.

Clam shell (蛤) - with my experiences from the last two visits, tonight I decided to pick this up with my chopsticks instead of my fingers.  Still very, very good.

Squid (墨烏賊) - a piece that was a highlight for Hello Kitty... and I totally understand.  The combination of textures between the top and bottom is superb, and a few drops of sudachi (酢橘) juice on top with salt was just right.  But here I definitely felt that the rice was more firm and dry than before.

Japanese tiger prawn (車海老) - tonight I finally noticed how much Koba-san was cutting from the tail of the prawn, and it was a shame.  Very, very sweet and delicious - and the tomalley was especially flavorful.

Horse mackerel (鯵) - this has come to be one of my favorites here... The horse mackerel has been aged to the point where it was so soft, and so, soooo good... Practically melted in my mouth.

Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) - we get another serving of Japanese green sea urchin, only this time from Nemuro (根室) in Hokkaido.  Very sweet and creamy.  Served as a gunkanmaki (軍艦巻き).

Conger eel (穴子)

Futomaki (太巻) - this is really growing on me.  With egg, cucumber, tiger prawn, conger eel, and rehydrated dried calabash (干瓢)... what's not to like?

Egg (玉子焼き) - very soft and pudding-like.

Rihaku Daijinjo Tobingakoi (李白大吟釀斗瓶囲い), BY28 - nice with good fermented rice flavors, with good depth. Very round on the attack, then gradually builds up to a dry finish. After warming up this became a lot more dry, and showing some acetone notes.

Other than thinking the rice was a little on the dry side, the food was very good tonight. Babu was very happy, and Hello Kitty was glad that she was able to get back to Hong Kong just in time for this.

But unfortunately, we were a little bothered by our neighbors.  Normally, another guest's tardiness would be none of my business, but these people clearly hadn't been to enough of the top sushiyas in Japan - some of whom would turn you away for being late.  And their tardiness meant Koba-san had to work ingredients for the two groups separately, which has the effect of disrupting the flow of service.  And that, in turns, affects our experience.

The food snob in me also took issue with the fact that more than one of their group couldn't spell the name of the restaurant.  Basically, they came to eat at a restaurant with arguably the most difficult reservation to score, and couldn't even have enough respect for the chef and proprietor to learn the name of the place.

Halfway through the sushi portion of the dinner, the aforementioned diva - who may or may not be a has-been third-rate celebrity -  announced that she was full and wanted Koba-san to stop giving her rice.  WHAT.THE.FUCK?  You fucking came to a sushi restaurant - undoubtedly one of the best in town - and you bitch about having too much rice?  Why the fuck did you even come here?!

Next thing you know, her friend started wondering whether they were gonna get some vegetables for dinner.  HELLO?!  Has no one been to a proper sushiya?!  Or did you get lost on your way to Tokio Joe?

A couple of more pieces in, our diva mentioned that while she has difficulty eating too much rice, she has an easier time with sweet potatoes and bananas.  All I wanted to do at that point was to suggest to her that she go and 食蕉.  But that wouldn't have been very polite, would it...?

5 comments:

Derek Chung said...

It's okay to take photos at this joint? I know some of them have rules against it! Thanks.

Peech said...

Yes. Koba-san seems to be OK with photos and even videos of him. Same with Saito-san in Tokyo.

Markus Schmidt said...

thanks so much for your detailed review of your Sushi Saito dinner. I have been in touch with the Four Seasons reservations team for a lunch or dinner with my family in December 18 or early Jan 19 and hope they will be able to accommodate a booking in early August. I read that like with Saito in Ginza, one would need an introduction by a 'regular' but the 4 Seasons reservations team did not mention this. Is this a must merely for the 'warm up' period of the new HK restaurant when only 8 out of ultimately 16 seats are available and bookings are reserved for 4 Seasons regulars and those of the restaurant group which managed to bring Saito to HK?
Great blog by the way. My wife is a Hong Konger and I am getting some inspirations from your reviews for our next visit....
Markus Schmidt
Nyon, Switzerland

Peech said...

I believe that as of now, booking is only open to VIPs/regulars or someone who has been referred to by a regular. It appears that "general booking" may be open starting April 30th. And yes, currently only 8 seats are available.

As of now there are sporadic openings late June to early July...

Markus Schmidt said...

Many thanks. That sounds somewhat reassuring.... thanks also for your reviews of places such as Neighbourhood, Frantzén's Kitchen and Ronin...

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