July 12, 2023

Life is better without bluefin, but not today

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The Tiggers are back in town for a few weeks and I'm only too happy to get the chance to see them. There seems to be a dearth a decent Japanese restaurants over in Hongcouver, so I've been tasked with arranging some delicious meals for them. First up is Sushi Shikon by Yoshitake (すし 志魂), since sushi of this caliber isn't likely to exist over there. We took the early seating as some of us are used to eating early. Five of us took up the middle section of the counter.

It was obvious from the get go that Kaki-san was in a pissy mood. The people he's got next to him are clearly not doing their jobs up to his standards, and there were many instances throughout the night where his frustrations boiled over despite his efforts to stay calm. Very surprising to see that, and I hope he gets to have competent people around him soon...

Sea urchin noodle with water tomato jelly and black caviar (雲丹 葛素麺) - so we kick off with Kaviari Kristal caviar... and purple sea urchin (紫雲丹) from Hokkaido together with tomato water gelée.

The noodles made with kudzu had a nice, firm texture with lots of bite. The acidity from the tomato water worked very nicely with the creamy sea urchin. Adding the savory caviar into the mix gave us a well-rounded and complete flavor profile.

Grouper (羽太), seared - the grouper from Shizuoka Prefecture came served two ways, with this sliced from a piece that has been seared with hot binchotan (備長炭), which explains the nice, smoky flavors. This also resulted in a good balance between tenderness and a good crunch.

Grouper (羽太), raw - as usual, the raw piece of the seasonal white fish was brushed with some salt water, seasoned with drops of sudachi (酢橘) juice, then marinated sea cucumber innards (海鼠腸).

Japanese style tender octopus (蛸) - the octopus from Hokkaido had gone through an hour-long massage treatment before cooking, so it was as tender as I had come to expect. Always love that little fragrance from yuzu.

Sardine roll with shiso leaf, Japanese ginger and green onion (鰯巻き) - it's been a while since I last had Kaki-san's sardine roll, but today it wasn't as pretty and perfectly round as it should be. In addition to the tantalizing fatty sardine, we've got some myoga (茗荷), perilla, and chives inside. How I wish we could get more than one little piece! In fact, I was really tempted to ask for the ends which had been cut off.

Water shield with deep fried scallop and fruit tomato in sweet vinegar sauce (蓴菜  帆立貝  フルーツトマト) - I always love the slippery (some would say slimey) texture of water shield (蓴菜), and these came from Hiroshima. They are usually served with ponzu (ポン酢) so the acidity is pretty refreshing. Today there were also chunks of Japanese fruit tomato as well as cuts of deep-fried scallops from Hokkaido. The scallops were pretty gigantic and I wish I had taken a picture of it whole. This reminded me of the ones I had at Robuchon au Dôme a few years ago.

Chinese yellow wine marinated sweet shrimp with shrimp miso, seaweed and sushi rice (甘海老) - Kaki-san marinated the Alaskan pink shrimp (甘海老) from Hokkaido in Huadiao wine and soy sauce, then diced up some of them to mix into vinegared sushi rice. This was served with some shavings of yuzu zest, chiffonade of nori, and topped with marinated shrimp as well as shrimp miso. The shrimp miso really carried good depth of flavors and made the dish.

Steamed abalone with abalone liver sauce (鮑酒蒸し) - these abalones from Shimane Prefecture (島根県) had been steamed in sake for 6 hours, but they weren't as tender as I had expected. This is not to say that they were tough, but today they came with a lot more bite than the ones I'd tasted here on earlier visits. The broth was really nice and flavorful, so I decided to lift the "abalone shell" to my mouth and drank it all.

As usual, the rich and creamy abalone liver sauce left over from dipping the abalone was used to coat a small ball of shari (シャリ). I'm sure we all used the spoon to scrape up as much of the sauce as possible.

Charcoal grilled freshwater eel with egg omelette mixed with cucumber, lettuce, and sesame (鰻  玉子焼き) - eel always pairs well with tamagoyaki (玉子焼き) and some grated radish, and on the side we had shredded lettuce and cucumber with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

The eel came from Isshiki (一色) in Aichi Prefecture (愛知県) and was grilled over binchotan. This was so crispy that one could hear the saku saku (サクサク) sound of Kaki-san cutting the fish into pieces. And experiencing the crunch inside the mouth was almost heavenly. How beautiful was this!

The sushi portion starts, with 10 pieces coming our way.

I realized very early on that two women seated next to us had obviously asked for just the neta without the rice, so Kaki-san was cutting the neta for them in a different fashion. In my opinion, this is something so disrespectful that I would never consider asking the chef to do this. In Japan, if one went to a top sushiya - many of which don't offer a sashimi-only option - and asked not to have any rice, I would imagine that the restaurant would politely asked whether they would prefer to dine elsewhere.

Seriously, if you don't want to eat any rice, WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU SITTING IN FRONT OF THE COUNTER AT A SUSHIYA?!

Cuttlefish (墨烏賊) - the neta (ネタ) was reasonably thick cut (I'm guessing maybe 1/3 cm), and Kaki-san scored each side an average of 13 times. With the first piece of nigiri one gets the first dose of the vinegar in the warm shari, as well as a hit of wasabi.

Golden eye snapper (金目鯛) - this was so, sooo tender, and so tasty.

Kaki-san is well aware of my preference not to have any (bluefin) tuna, so he is always prepared and has chosen his substitute ingredients. However, today the others are having soy-marinated fatty tuna, and those thin, square slices of o-toro (大トロ) really looked like marbled Japanese wagyu which had been lightly torched or seared on the outside while remaining raw on the inside. I can't say I wasn't tempted to relent and ask for a piece... but I held firm.

Red snapper (真鯛) - our substitute for tuna. Nice and chewy, but still very tender.

Bonito (鰹) - oh, this was soooooooo soooooooo beautiful. Just look at how it glistened under the light with all that marinade. So tender that I thought it would melt in my mouth.. So tasty with nice acidity balance.

Gizzard shad (小肌) - interesting that it came with a little oboro (朧) between the neta and the shari, but the sweetness from the oboro worked really well with the acidity from the vinegar in the neta.

Horse mackerel (鯵) - probably the most beautiful presentation of aji I have ever had, this was as tender as one could expect.

Sea urchin (雲丹) - Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) from Hokkaido has been mixed into the rice, while Kaki-san laid out a few tongues of purple sea urchin on top. I thought the rice got a little bitter on the finish...

Tiger prawn (車海老) - served by adding a little yellow tomalley (海老味噌) between the neta and shari. The prawn was so sweet, with that nice and springy texture that only very fresh ones could deliver.

Sea eel (穴子) - as usual the roll came with narazuke (奈良漬け) and tamagoyaki.

Egg (玉子焼き) - this was very sweet. I wondered if it was made with kokuto (黒糖).

Miso soup (味噌椀)

Mango pudding (マンゴプリン)

This isn't a drinking crowd, so I was pretty civilized and only brought one bottle...

2020 Ygrec - more ripe on the nose and the palate than I had expected, but still had flinty notes on the nose.

I think our Canadian contingent was pretty happy with dinner tonight. It's difficult to get better than this in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong is certainly miles better than Hongcouver for this. Grateful for the chance to spend time together, and looking forward to the next meal.

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