Saturday, June 11, 2016

Less Hits and More Misses

Was a bit stressed at work so I decided at the last minute to treat myself to a nice sushi lunch. I heard good things about this small sushi-ya near Causeway Bay before so I gave them a call around noon to see they could accommodate me walking in to eat at such short notice, then took a quick tram ride over when the lady on the phone told me there's one spot available.

The restaurant - located at a quiet street not far away from the Central Library and Victoria Park - is quite comfortable, with the brightly-lit dining area that can sit 8 at the counter plus a small table at the back. Behind the counter was the chef and his apprentice plus another helping at the kitchen at the back. There were a good number of choices for the lunch set menu, from a simple chirashi bowl to the full-blown omakase set. I picked the "deluxe sushi set", described as 12 pieces of nigiri sushi and a maki (will get to that later).

The meal went off alright - starting with a simple salad of shredded lettuce, julienned pickled radishes and citrus dressing, then the sushi courses were served in sequence with a small bowl of chawanmushi served in between. A few pieces of sushi were actually quite decent - both the shimaji (striped jack) and aji (horse mackerel) had good oily texture, and aka botan ebi (spot prawns) came in pretty decent size and in beautiful presentation. The rice was on the loose side but I liked the serving temperature and the well-balanced taste with a nice tint of vinegar infused.

But then it just turned to the wrong side from there on. Well, chef was serving 2 other customers sitting a few seats apart from me, and in fact for most of the courses we were served the identical pieces. But I couldn’t help but notice for whatever reasons I always ended up the worst of the three pieces he made in quick succession (for me and the other 2 customers). I could take one as coincidence but there were more than a few. For Akamai-zuke (marinated tuna), I got the leanest one and one on the tip so it ended up not in the most perfect shape; or more notably the saba (mackerel) when my piece came from further tail-end of the fish thus much smaller than the other two pieces he made right after which came from the middle part (about half the size to be exact)

I wasn't making a big fuss out of the discrepancy in the tuna and saba actually as they tasted fine - just that I wasn't all that pleased at feeling like being given the short end of the stick time and time again - but the uni (sea urchin) served towards the end of my sushi course certainly put nail to the coffin. I don't even know how to start describe the piece I was served but I suppose a picture spoke a thousand words (and the taste was a bit off too, by the way) - and I am showing two pictures here taken at different angles. Not the worst sea urchin I have tried but I had nightmares about that since - involving something similar to that dropped over my head. Okay I intentionally picked the worst angle for the shot to make a point but I don’t believe I could find a better perspective to make it looked more presentable.

The other pieces followed the same traits of hits and misses. I thought the tachiuo (beltfish) served with yuzu kosho was pretty average despite its size (overwhelmed by the spicy yuzu kosho paste underneath), same with kinmedai (goldeneye snapper), a piece which would usually be my favorite. They weren't terrible but did fall short of my expectation for the price they were charging.

On the other side of the spectrum, the hotate (scallops) was good with salt and smoked shoyu and so as the otoro (fatty tuna). Chawanmushi (steamed eggs in a teacup) was decent – delicious with the silky-soft steamed eggs. Then half of the anago (sea eel) sushi almost fell off the plate soon after it landed on my plate (because the chef was too forceful in brushing the sauce and the piece flipped upside down at the prep counter) and worst of all, it seriously lacked flavor even with the sauce brushed on. And the miso soup served at the end was blend – I think I had one better at Yoshinoya the other day and I left it untouched after a sip, even as I was a bit thirsty and they haven't refilled my cup of hot tea for the last 10 minutes. But then the dessert of kantan jelly with syrup was lovely and well presented. Trust me I wasn't even nitpicking - it's just natural that I spent more time observing what the chef was doing behind the counter given I was dining alone and got nothing else to do.

Towards the end of the meal, I just had this gut feeling of something missing and then I started checking my notes. That's when I realized there were only 11 pieces of nigiri sushi served plus the salad, chawanmushi, 2 kinds of maki rolls (toro-maki and kanpyo) and the 2 pieces of tamago-yaki (egg). I did make a point discreetly to the waitress about this after I signed my check and was about to leave (couldn't be bothered with complaining about that but just wanna made my displeasure known somehow), but the chef then approached me and explained the egg at the end did count as one piece hence that made it twelve. Call me ignorant on this one but I couldn't recall a lot of places (especially the high end ones) doing the same. Technically he wasn't wrong I suppose but I don't think they were being very forthcoming (and by the way, the tamago-yaki was very average at best)

I think I am being generous to say my meal was more misses than hits. I did regret not walking out in protest at the first sight of that uni piece appearing in front of me, something I really should have done to make a point of my strong disapproval. I am more sad than angry as I had high (but reasonable) expectation and the chef should be capable of delivering to that level and he chose not to and fell way short. So when's the next fanfare promotion to Tokyo again? I may need some redemption.

When? May 27 2016
Where? Sushi Uehara, 31 Tung Lo Wan Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

1 comment :

YTSL said...

Hi there --

I may be one of the people you had heard good things about Uehara from. (We've met once through AG.) Should have qualified my rave with my telling you that I way prefer to have dinner there over lunch. But I'm guessing you may not want to pay HK$1,500 for omakase dinner there after your bad experience at lunch!