(Posted in Timeout Hong Kong on)
The arrival of Satoshi Sase, the former head chef at Sapporo’s Sushi Zen, is exciting news for all sushi fans. The new venue, named after the chef in question, has already become a hot dining spot in Soho, and reservations for a table must be made at least two weeks in advance.
The decor is almost the same as that at Sushi Zen, including a large open kitchen. The juniper and bamboo have the feel of Japanese authenticity.
Three kinds of dinner menu were on offer: the Chef Omakase Course ($1,380) included a kaiseki set with dishes recommended by the chef according to the freshest seasonal ingredients of the day, the Sushi Omakase Course ($1,380) which mainly offered sushi made by the chef with some dishes selected in the kaiseki set, and the Omakase Sushi set ($950), which included 15 pieces of sushi. Having requested to be served by Sase, I went with the Chef Omakase Course.
To start, Sase passed us crab leg and bonito jelly with herring fish roe. The crab leg was sweet and the texture of the roe was crunchy and full of oceanic flavour. However, it could have been smoother and finer if only the crab meat had been shredded instead.
Sase then started to work on different sashimi and seafood dishes – including natural snapper, kinki, sanma (Pacific suary), and Hokkaido hairy crab (with its roe). The ingredients were fresh and of good quality, especially by Hong Kong standards. The snapper was soft and juicy, with a relatively mild flavour, which Sase cleverly enhanced with lime juice.
The kinki sashimi was the star of the night. It was moist and fatty, with a tender and chewy texture. It was lightly grilled for a smoky flavour. The sanma was crunchy and rich. The meat, however, was not fatty enough since it wasn’t in season. And although Hokkaido hairy crab is not usually my favourite type of crab (I prefer Zuwai-kani), the in-season crabs were fresh and very tasty.
Sase also served grilled matsutake mushrooms. This was an ideal way to kick start the sushi part of the night. Ten pieces were served, including samegarei (shark skin flounder), botan ebi (spot prawn), otoro (tuna belly) and bafun uni (sea urchin). Sase skilfully made the sushi; the rice was seasoned nicely with rice vinegar and the standard here was high. The otoro sushi is highly recommended. It was, in fact, “Kamatoro” – one of the most premium parts in the whole tuna belly. The otoro was lightly torched, melting the fat to give it an extremely delicious, explosive flavour. To finish we were served the signature green tea pudding, which was silky smooth with an intense taste and a well-balanced sweetness.
It’s safe to say that the experience was one of the best at any Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong. And yet it’s still not up to the standards of any Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo or Kyoto. When Chef Sase was asked where the matsutake mushrooms came from, he had to ask his colleague. We were subsequently told that they were from Yunnan, not Japan. This is quite unacceptable for an omakase chef who is expected to know everything about the ingredients he is using – especially at this price.
Godiva在上海新天地的旗艦店（上海市盧灣區興業路123弄5號106號店）於上前周開幕，筆者有幸被邀請參與其中。貴為這個比利時朱古力名牌在中國的第一個進駐地，加上全球的第一間Godiva Café，開幕典禮當然是隆重其事，此乃後話。於典禮上，跟專誠調派去當地主理業務的朱古力大師（Chocolatier）David Funaro談了幾句，說到「本地化」這個話題，這當然也是他時刻想著的任務。
就在第二天，David跟所有與會者來了一堂朱古力課，也跟大家分享了他的創作，就是利用了幾款當地的食材，去研發出新口味的朱古力。先是用上山桃仁，是當地人最愛吃的「炒貨」之一。炒過的核桃仁香口帶點苦味，配上甜美的香朱古力，對味。再來就是桃酥，也是很便宜地道的小吃。配上牛奶朱古力，塗上多彩的可可牛油，是跟這個老派餅食的一個有趣的cross-over。最後就是經典的滬式調味料 ~ 辣椒醬，混上了花生醬，加入黑朱古力，甜中隱透辣香，創意及玩味十足，效果也十分好。
還好，我總是「食神常伴」，最近就吃得一頓頗為滿意的意大利菜。得葡京酒店公關大員的邀請，去了其酒店內的意大利餐廳Don Alfonso吃了一回。雖然吃的都是餐牌內的時令菜色，但食物無論在賣相及效果都相當不錯，一味「小青瓜汁海蜆配粗螺絲粉」尤其令我留下深刻印象。粗螺絲粉是我最喜歡吃的意大利麵種類之一，仗著其粗略的表面，是「沾醬」高手。這裡的，是自家製，也煮得相當的「al dente」。而醬汁尤其精彩，由意大利小青瓜打成汁，清鮮無比。配上充滿海洋味道的海蜆，味道是意想不到的搭檔。據大廚Chef Vincenzo的親自解說，這個鮮美的醬汁，是一顆鹽也沒下的，靠的全是食材本身的原味。