Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sushi in Hong Kong...

Many sushi aficionados are probably already well aware of this, but the sushi in Hong Kong is more innovative than the sushi in Japan. I uttered that same sentence just earlier tonight at Iroha of Tokyo, one of Studio City’s many fine sushi restaurants, and the chef vehemently disagreed. He was Japanese.

“I don’t think so,” he said as he shook his head. “I like traditional sushi.”

I pointed to the board behind him on the wall, a dry-erase board with colorful scrawls (and drawings) of their offerings—rolls that featured cream cheese, baked salmon, sauteed king crab—and I replied “I like the crazy Americanized stuff.”

This is not to say I dislike traditional-style sushi. In my previous blog I extolled all the freshness and rare fish that seem to comprise most of the menus in Japan. But sushi in Hong Kong is simply more hip and much more with-it, and based on my experience, sushi bars there abound like fish in the sea, and perhaps more importantly, are easier to locate based on English signage.

I hadn’t expected to like the sushi in Hong Kong all that much. I’d heard rave reviews from people about the Chinese food there (which was also fabulous, for the most part anyway), but never the sushi.

I stumbled upon Sushi Kuu, which shares a building with a nightclub, a billiards hangout, and a couple of boutiques (stacking businesses on top of one another is not an uncommon sight in Hong Kong), when I set off alone to wander about. I had just eaten excellent grub at a fancy Cantonese dim-sum house with my travel buddies, so I wasn’t exactly hungry—BUT!—I could always make more room for more sushi, couldn’t I?

The atmosphere was decidedly high-class, not casual—I could tell by the d├ęcor and the attire of the staff. I browsed their menu and quickly asked to speak to the manager. There’s a method to my madness. I explained to the man in the suit: I am a tourist who is here to try as many different types of sushi that is not available in the States as possible (according to their menu, there were quite a few), so I would like permission to order the nigiri one at a time, as opposed to the customary two-piece package deal. He had been acknowledged as one of the powers that be, so just as expected, he agreed. Yes!

First, I was given oversize soybeans I could hardly believe I was seeing. (For the less savvy, the quarter I placed next to the dish is there to show the scale.) Never in my life had I seen anything like this. It was a far cry from those tiny little things called edamame, usually ordered as a side dish but sometimes freely doled out as soon as you plonk down to eat.

Then, through the glass case on the sushi bar, giant prawns called “Botan Shrimp” stared at me with their insidious but dead black eyes, their spiky antennae seeming to jostle for space as they huddled together. They are gargantuan versions of the ama ebi, or sweet shrimp, which can found in most sushi bars in the States; because of their larger size, only one shrimp was needed to construct my single piece of nigiri—unlike with ama ebi, which are so tiny and narrow that two shrimps are required to cover that block of rice. The crustacean’s huge head, which got lopped off and battered and then deep-fried (this is also the normal way in which sweet shrimp are served), appeared later with a slice of lemon and ponzu sauce.

The botan shrimp definitely tastes superior to sweet shrimp (size matters?) and its texture is gooey and glutinous, just like that of ama ebi—unlike the tougher, chewier consistency of regular tiger shrimp.

I ordered more exotic fish—the Alfonsino (an orangey-red fish that seemed a cross between a snapper and a salmon), the Akamutsu (a silky, pink-and-silver number reminiscent of yellowtail), and the Japanese Salmon Trout—all in single-piece formation. Then the grand finale, which could not have been more perfect: a prawn tempura avocado hand roll, laced with Japanese mayonnaise and mixed with smelt fish eggs. Somehow, it was one of the most buttery and satisfying prawn tempura hand rolls I have ever had. It had the properly seasoned rice, the freshness, and certainly, they didn’t ruin it with the filler ingredient of imitation crab and the hyper-sweetening eel sauce, as many sushi joints in the States will do.

After some calculation, I assessed my single-piece botan shrimp cost close to $8, the salmon trout about $6, and the prawn tempura avocado hand roll about $14.

1 comment :

Venantius said...

Thanks for the post. Well written and informative.