Wednesday, August 21, 2013

[香港 HONG KONG] - Sushi Mori 鮨森日本料理 Causeway Bay - Birthday Extravaganza!

Causeway Bay seems to be the place on Hong Kong Island these days if you want choices with regards to Japanese cuisine. It's a busy shopping area first and foremost, packed with people most times of the day, and quite frankly real estate is king, along with those carrying unmarked bags of money across the border...

But anyways I was in town, and I needed a treat. After some very basic research, Sushi Mori 鮨森日本料理 showed great promise. And it was time to celebrate! That was 7 months ago, and a memorable meal.

Sushi Mori is located on the 16th floor of a building that has quite a few Japanese restaurants (including an all you can eat buffet style on the way up) and Izakaya Mori is in the same building, owned by the same people.

As you come out the elevator the signage greets you. Walk through the curtain (noren) and you are inside the dining area with a bar and a few table seats.

Make a reservation for optimal results. For me I asked to be seated in front of the head chef.

Waited patiently as I asked for hot tea, and a few minutes later, Mori-san came over to take my order.

It was pretty simple...."nigiri omakase, shimasu".

The chef with the glasses is Mori-san

Mori-san is quite an interesting fellow. He speaks fluent Japanese, looks Japanese....but his Cantonese is flawless. I was puzzled. He then later told me his father is Japanese (also trained in Kyoto ryori / kaiseki), his mother is Chinese, and he grew up in Hong Kong.

Appetizer trio of black beans (kuromame), a square block of layered konbu (kelp) and a fluffy egg cake, like an osechi お節料理 sampler, to celebrate the New Year. 

It was 5 days after the new year, but nothing quite beats having some osechi early in the meal. The black beans were deliciously sweet and very plump, probably my favorite of the trio. The konbu was simmered in dashi and served at room temperature, and was delightful. The egg sponge cake was elegantly carved, as if I was having a work of art and an afternoon tea snack at the same time. A very impressive intro.

Tokyo Ginza Edo style ginger and fresh grated wasabi, not the kind you see from jars.

Next, the chef placed some ginger and wasabi on the plate. The ginger was nothing like I had before...and I'm used to seeing thin flimsy slices of what is more common as the jarred stuff. These were delicately pickled, crispy (like daikon). I've only seen this in a youtube video (Sushi Nakamura in Tokyo). It's pretty nice to see this level of detail in Hong Kong.

Couldn't wait to get the nigiri started.

Kodai 小鯛 with ume (sour plum paste) 

This was a winning combination. A little sour plum paste with a small shiso leaf, on top of kodai.

There are a few things of note with this meal. Sushi Sase was closed during my visit to Sushi Mori (to coincide with the Tsukiji Fish Market holidays and closure) but many other sushi restaurants in town continued to source material from Kyushu and Hokkaido, and Sushi Mori was no exception. The next thing is that Mori-san uses a special aged red vinegar and generously mixes it with his sushi rice, thus some photos may look like brown rice is being used, but is actually darkened "aka-shari". The rice still ends up being delicately seasoned with a slightly sweet and clean finish, without a vinegary sour presence as one might expect.

Kinmedai 金目鯛 with the fin muscle (engawa) on top
If I remember correctly, the Kinmedai was lightly seared. The fin muscle (engawa) which I've never seen before from Kinmedai (more common from hirame or karei) was served on top.

Ma-Kajiki 真梶木 (Blue Marlin)
Otherwise known as "swordfish". This is very common to be eaten raw in various parts of Taiwan (particularly the North where swordfish is harvested and sold off fish markets). 

Shiro ebi 白蝦

First time I ever had shiro ebi. Couldn't tell how many pieces were used for one nigiri, but these were very tasty.

Hokkaido scallop 北海道扇貝
Some shaved yuzu zest was added.
Kinki 喜知次

A little shaved yuzu zest on this one as well.

Seiko Gani (Hokkaido) 香箱蟹

Suddenly Mori-san had to help fulfill some customer orders and did a change of pace. Then a plate of Seiko Gani 香箱蟹 showed up. The crab's carapace had roe and leg meat, and the side of dipping sauce would be what is called "crab vinegar". Another first for me! This is such a luxury.

Kanburi 寒鰤
Pretty good, although a little off putting that near the tip was some red...blood?

Seared A4 Wagyu from Kagoshima 鹿児島和牛
Made the mistake of going to Ta-Ke (also in Causeway Bay) a few days before, and one of the multi course items was a plate of seared A5 Kagoshima Wagyu with gold flakes on top. This one was less interesting and much less flavorful in comparison. Would pass on it next time. 

Japanese karasumi からすみ / 烏魚子

I recognized this the moment the chef took it out, and confirmed that it was the Japanese one which I have never seen or had before. But having been to Taipei a few times, it is hard to resist a good salted cured mullet roe 烏魚子. This piece of karasumi though, blew everything I've had before. A thin crunchy slice on top of a thin rectangular piece of raw daikon, was one of the best things all evening.

Shirako 白子
Not a good example of the product. The chef seared it with a blowtorch but when eating it, it was very dry, and not the kind I was used to eating (moist, disturbingly creamy...after all it's "fish spooge"/"fish sperm sacs"). The shirako I had at Ta-ke was leagues above this one. 

Uni 雲丹

Decent, but not mind blowing. I think this was the kind from a box that looked like unprocessed urchin stored in seawater.  
Next came Bluefin tuna (marinated dorsal meat) and a seared toro, both were quite decent.

Hon maguro akami zuke - 本鮪赤身漬け

Seared otoro

At this point Chef Mori said he's do a live eel for me. Before he sends the eel off to his doom, he brought it over to show that it was alive.

Chef Mori-san holding up a live unagi. It was moving!

If only more Japanese sushi chefs did that. Kind of like Cantonese seafood restaurants that scoop up live fish from the tank, show it to you (also to feed your ego haha) before cooking it. Hopefully no swapping goes behind the scenes! Would have been funny if the eel did some twerking...

Gobo (burdock) with sesame seeds

So while I am waiting, I get a mini appetizer dish to nibble on, burdock with sesame seeds. Again I wish I didn't go to Ta-Ke a few days before, because they had something similar, except they added some katsubushi (bonito flakes) on top that made for a winning combination of flavors.

Fresh unagi
I spoke with Chef Mori about having eaten unagi in Taipei, where they adopt a similar approach of steaming the unagi first, then grilling. He apologized that the kitchen doesn't have the right grills for it (binchotan grilling apparently is a no no in many places), and in the interest of time, decided to do straight grilling and ended up with a crispy skin unagi. Super delicious by the way.
Before the unagi came over, the thought immediately came to mind for me to ask Chef Mori to harvest the liver and grill those things on a stick. I guess he doesn't get requests like this often, and was happy to oblige. Although looking back, I think he would have saved the liver for himself as his after work snack! 

Unagi liver skewer

Really tasty fresh eel liver. A pity these couldn't be charcoal grilled, and not having a tsume/sauce reduced down from boiling unagi bones on it. But still a very commendable effort they made to being accommodating!

Tamagoyaki 卵焼き / 玉子焼

And finally the reason why I came....because I saw they offered Edo style tamagoyaki (or should I say Jiro Ono style). This came out piping hot. A remarkable specimen that is really hard to describe properly... you just have to try this out for yourself!

Yuzu sorbet

And yuzu sorbet closed the deal. I wish I could take buckets of this home with me.

Chef Mori and his team were very accommodating to this rather picky eater, and a blast to chat with. He directly solicited for feedback from me, and looking back I should have remarked on the wagyu, the shirako for example, but felt all the others were very pleasing.

The fun thing was that I was celebrating my birthday, and learned that a guy next to me was also celebrating his!

What a truly fun evening. The meal seemed like it lasted 2.5 to 3 hours, and I was probably one of the last customers to leave....but not before snapping more pictures of what he had left in his case.

Would love to return someday.

Sushi Mori 鮨森日本料理
Tung Lung Street #28 Wing Kwong Building 16th floor
銅鑼灣 登龍街28號永光中心16樓全層
2898 3399

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