Almost exactly a year ago, I asserted that Singapore has better Japanese restaurants than Hong Kong. I think that statement is no longer true with the recent arrival of two heavyweight Tokyo-based restaurants: Ryugin and Sushi Yoshitake. Even HK can boast and makes strong case that the island currently provides the best high-end places for sushi and kaiseki meals outside Japan.
Like many other top sushi restaurants, the small Yoshitake sushi bar, housed in Mercer hotel, only serves fewer than 10 guests daily. This kind of setting enables Chef Masahiro Yoshitake to serve his customers intimately and precisely at the sushi counter. I heard that Masahiro-san often comes to Hong Kong; when he’s here, he will certainly serves his customers. However, most of the time he will be at Ginza, Tokyo – his experienced sous chef Yoshiharu Kakinuma is in charge of daily activities for the HK branch. There are 3 types of omakase menu and I selected the most popular one called Miyabi that’s supposedly serving diners “3-star meal as served in Tokyo”. The restaurant was very busy on Thursday night during the 2nd seating.
The memorable dishes:
-Braised Tako: This Japanese tako had fantastic texture - not chewy at all; it was burst with flavor enhanced by the 'sweet' sauce. I didn't know that octopus can be this good ..
-Steamed Awabi: The restaurant's signature dish. The thick cut of Chiba abalone, served cold, was succulent, naturally sweet and briny; it's perfectly complemented with the intense abalone's liver reduction. Then, the chef would give you sushi rice to mop up all the 'sauce' - an amazing dish!
-Seared Katsuo: a smart combination of Bonito's smoky & crispy skin and its oily raw flesh. The refreshing 'orange/citrus jelly', scallions and light soy sauce added a nice complexity to the dish
After 5 appetizers, then come the sushi parts. The style is Edomae which is almost always the case at any top sushi places. The most ‘unusual pieces’ I ate were:
-Sakura masu: beautiful, striking and yummy; the small sea trout has a similar texture and taste like arctic char. The first time I had this tasty nigiri
-Kohada roll: served with shiso leave and kampyo that nicely contrasted with the fish. An interesting presentation and it made the kohada firmer and more 'complex'
The fish slices are probably the most generous among other sushi restaurants. The shari is prepared with red vinegar (stronger, but still not as intense as Jiro’s) and often this enhanced the morsel’s flavor. I love with the fact that the usual “melting in your mouth sushi” such as Otoro, Uni and Anago; I could still bite them and felt the textures. The Kuruma ebi has been cooked and marinated when guests arrives; at first I was doubtful with its freshness but I was wrong. The imperial prawn was sweet and fresh with great texture; Kaki-san doesn’t even cut this big ebi into 2. Lastly, the tamago is cake-like and it’s better than the one I ate at Kanesaka Singapore and Urasawa Rodeo drive. So, yes I admitted that Yoshitake has more superior sushi than these places.
The only “problem” I have is probably the price - it’s exorbitant. Yoshitake HK, hidden at Sheng wan, cost double than the original Yoshitake Tokyo, located in the elite Ginza area. Wow! I understand that all the ingredients are daily brought from Japan (Yoshitake-san prefers seafood from Kyushu and Shizuoka) and that will cost more, but twice as expensive? Tenku Ryugin is able to charge 20% more than Nihonryori Ryugin’s price. At the end, is it worth it? A subjective issue indeed. I loved my meal here – quality wise, it’s slightly better than my Shinji’s omakase Shin. However, I doubt if I will return here in the near future – I will make an effort to re-visit Ryugin though. Seriously, the meal at Yoshitake Hong Kong makes Urasawa’s meal look like a “bargain”. Food-wise this place deserved 2 ¾* in my note, but considering the service and atmosphere I would give my meal here 93.5 pts (equivalent to a strong 2 ½* by the Red guide standard)