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 omasake chef who is expected to know everything about the ingredients he is using – especially at this price.
UG/F, Hilltop Plaza, 49 Hollywood Rd, Central, 2815 0455. Noon-2.30pm & 6.30pm-11pm Tue-Sun. $1,380 for Chef Omakase Course.
|Venue name:||Sushi Sase|
UG/F, Hilltop Plaza, 49 Hollywood Rd, Central