Xenri No Tsuki
My past two visits to Hong Kong have been rushed. I’m in and out of the city in about 36 hours and with only that amount of time, so much to do, a couple of people to catch up with and loads to eat, planning and multitasking is important. The best way to do it, is to share a great meal with the people you want to see, that way the warm comforts of familiar company and conversations helps to season the whole meal.
One of the first things that come to mind when I think about going to Hong Kong is Kau Kee’s beef brisket noodles and seriously the last thing on my mind is Japanese cuisine. But when an offer of two local foodies was made to bring us to their regular sushi place, I couldn’t say no, and it’s been a long time since I had sushi.
I hadn’t realised how long I hadn’t sat at the sushi counter until the night before my flight and I was lying in bed and muttering to myself, “oh man, I can’t wait to get to lunch, I can’t wait to eat sushi” and with those wonderful thoughts, I eventually drifted off to sleep, woke up in a daze, got myself to the airport in the wee hours of the morning and I made it to lunch.
Lunch got off to a late start. There was some mix up in our reservation, the chef thought we were coming for dinner and so was terribly surprised and embarrassed when the four of us turned up and the sushi counter was full. So instead the four of us sat tight in a corner with a bottle of sake and waited for the seats at the counter the open up. Sake, not a bad way to start a holiday and as S puts it, “having sake in the middle of the day is so decadent but I love it!” I love it too but it is a terrible combination with hunger and travel exhaustion.
C-jie, when she invited us told us that this is her regular joint - they have loads of fresh fish and the chef is not Japanese. Chef Andy Li, the man behind the counter, sure he isn’t Japanese, he is a local Hong Kong boy and he explained to us his cuisine, Japanese technique but tuned a little to the local Hong Kong palate. Well, I’ve no problem with that. We are finally seated sushi counter and I’m really ready to eat. So to quote Kaga Takashi, “a la cuisine” (I’m neither French nor Japanese).
We started off with what I shall term as the cold and creamy courses. Shirako, Cod milt or bluntly put cod sperm followed by akimono, monkfish liver and lastly oysters. The Shirako that we had was just coming into season but this was the best I’ve ever had. It looks twisty and brainy but when cooked perfectly brings out the creamy custard like texture, we had it cold and lightly seasoned, this forgave the wait for the seats at the counter in an instant. Following that we had akimono, another cold creamy dish but rich and fattier and more luxuriant topped off with ikura. Splendid start!
Following that we had focused plates of sashimi that showcased beautiful presentation, technique and freshness.
Chef Andy’s personal and latest creation that he was testing on us, a oshizushi, box sushi of Aji, sesame seasoned sushi rice, konbu and topped with truffle, was well-balanced, creative and delicious.
Amaebi served in its sauce made from its own head juices. Head to tail eating, prepared simply with the focus of highlighting the merits of the amaebi.
Triple decked uni gunkan sushi, this was just crazy. It was so tall I could barely fit it into my mouth without losing any of that glorious uni that had just arrived. This was just pure indulgent and generosity from the chef in wanting to pleasure and feed.
Negi toro, labouriously hand chopped that gave the toro a good texture but also maintained the fatty flavours of toro and and garnished with spring onions. Again, this piece of sushi was presented with a generous top flavour, awesome.
Throughout the meal what I felt most of the passion and gentleness of Chef Andy’s love for food and for feeding us. The food was prepared with integrity and had a big focus on flavour. So…so what if he is not Japanese and he is presenting sushi, it still is technically beautiful and a feast for the eyes and the stomach, and he has the magic that what anyone in the hospitality industry should have, a desire to serve and entertain, to bind and to comfort people through his expression of food.
Xenri No Tsuki
6/F, Jardine Centre
50 Jardine's Bazaar
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong