Saturday, September 5, 2015

Shoku at The Pulse

Lately there seemed to be quite some buzzes from this new shopping/dining premise called The Pulse at Repulse Bay, featuring a few new and interesting restaurants, many of which received excellent reviews. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to try one of them, a Japanese restaurant called Shoku, at a dinner organized by their PR team.

It was highly unusual that I would trek over to the south side of the Island especially in the evening, and I was surprised the beach was still quite crowded just as the sun was about to set into darkness. Shoku is one of the newest restaurant at the beach-side complex of The Pulse, located on the ground floor with the entrance directly facing the beach.

The restaurant is spacious and comfortable, with simplistic decor and nature-based tone with a few color accents on the wall. Occupying the most space of this 4000 square feet restaurant is the open bar/kitchen area in the center, with a charcoal grill prominently placed in the middle along with a well-stocked bar in front. I was told the charcoal grill which uses binchotan, a special Japanese white charcoal known for its clean smoke and high burning temperature perfect for cooking, is one of the largest used in any restaurants in Hong Kong.

We were seated at one of the counter seats surrounding the open kitchen, with an unobstructed view of all the cooking actions happening inside by Chef Gavin's team. We began with a few appetizers and salad, of which I loved the fried chicken most. The batter was light and crispy and meat tender and juicy. And the ponzu dipping sauce was refreshing and perfect under the summer heat. People have been making a fuss about KFC - or Korean Fried Chicken - around town but I reckon this topped the very best KFC I have had. Another dish I loved was the Grilled Sanma - or Pacific Saury - stuffed with seasoned rice. Towards the end of summer marked the coming of prime sanma season, and here, the fish was filleted, char-grilled, then stuffed with cooked rice seasoned with sweet soy sauce. It was well-cooked and very tasty with the rich fish flavor infused into the rice with the hint of the burnt skin taste.

Of course, the grilled sanma was only the beginning of a fine array of grilled seafood served that evening, as those are the restaurant's signature items. The seafood items were jetted in fresh from Japan daily and most of which were displayed in the refrigerated glass cabinet in front of the kitchen so customers can pick and choose. Kinki, or orange roughy, was considered a rare delicacy and known for its soft and delicate texture and oily flavor. The one we had - line-caught in Hokkaido's Abashiri we were told - was in great size (around 500g) and perfectly grilled - it's scaled, skewered and cooked vertically next to the charcoal grill for a good 30-45 minutes. The skin was crispy and the meat was firm and delicious with just the right balance of fat. The fish could easily set you back $1000 plus but the size was good for sharing and it's truly delicious. Kurodai, or black snapper, was the other whole fish we tried that evening. That one was baked in a crust of salt and was nicely prepared as well, though I thought something was missing. Perhaps a dipping sauce for added flavor, or just a light sprinkle of lemon juice to spike it up?

Next were a couple types of shellfish, cooked in their shells on the grill. The tiger prawn was butterflied, smeared with black truffle sauce on top and grilled en papillote in foil; the rock oyster was grilled and finished with a charred sea urchin sauce while hokigai (surf clams) were cooked with a sweet sake-mirin marinate and garnished with threads of shiso leaves. All of them were excellent, and I especially enjoyed the strong umami taste of the clams. In comparison, I thought the couple meat dishes were only okay - the grilled whole bone marrow served with a wafer and the thick slab of dry-aged wagyu ribeye. They weren't bad, but just ordinary compared with the seafood tonight.

We finished with a noodle and a rice dish, then the dessert platter. The kimchi cold noodles was similar to Morioka Reimen - a Korean-inspired Japanese dish and commonly served in many yakiniku restaurants - except in this version, udon was used instead of the usual glass noodles. I thought this worked well too, even without the chewy texture in the original version. And the fried rice with grilled sea eel was tasty with firm and delicious eel meat in every bite. As for desserts, the deep-fried Hokkaido green tea milk pudding was interesting - like a sweet version of croquette with a soft, creamy filling and strong matcha flavor, but I just wish it's a bit sweeter.

Overall I thought the food was wonderful and you can't go wrong with the combination of beach and barbecue - and this is certainly no ordinary type of beach-side barbecue. While I wasn't a huge fan of spending summer in the beach with scores of tourists taking over the whole place, in the evening when the big coaches began to depart it was quite nice and quiet with a much more civilized crowd. This would be a good choice if I want to get away from the city without going too far for something a little fancier. 

(The meal was organized and paid for by the restaurant)

When? August 20 2015
Where? Shoku Bar & Restaurant, Shop 109, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay
Menu Highlights? Charcoal-grilled Japanese Orange Roughy "Kinki" Fish

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