Friday, December 8, 2017

Bar Crossover

A few days ago I dropped by Okra in the afternoon for a sneak preview of the upcoming collaboration dinner menu featuring dishes by Chef Max Levy and drinks by Yuta Inagaki of Bar Butler in TST. The full menu was a 10-course long meal completed with 9 different cocktails but this time we had the abbreviated menu with 6 of those dishes.

It's my first time climbing up the steep and narrow staircase next to the main dining area of the restaurant into the "annex" (called Okra Bar) with the 8-seater sushi counter set up in this cozy space serving an omakase-style menu slightly different than the izakaya-style dishes normally served downstairs.

Dishes served were in typical Chef Max's style, an interesting combination of Japanese ingredients and cooking with a twist, often with a touch of chef's New Orlean's background. This afternoon we began with Namadako, or giant octopus served sashimi-style. The body was sliced for the creamy, tender texture and underneath was Gyokuro "spinach puree" with an interesting mild smokey taste. On the side was the octopus suction cup filled with the slightly sweet ume mustard.

Then it's the shirako gently steamed with dashi and sherry for a firmer texture, with a light splash of traditional irizake seasoning, garlic oil, ponzu and julienned purple sweet potato and yamaimo. I loved the drink paired with this one - with the fresh parsley freeze-dried with liquid nitrogen then crushed and grinded and infused with gin and vermouth and lime.

The dish listed as "Pacific Cod Fish Maw" was nothing like I expected - it's served chilled like an aspic/nikogori prepared using the fish broth, nespresso coffee and soy sauce, and inside was the fish maw cooked yuan-yaki style with a sweet soy glaze, then topped with menegi, candied ginger and hot sauce. My first impression was it looked a bit funky but I did enjoy the taste of the dish. In between there's also another sashimi dish using Ishigaki-dai and a chawanmushi with crab, caviar and Chinese lotus seed in the bottom.

Still not 100% convinced of Mezcal, but I like the one Yuta-san made to pair with the chawanmushi dish, with Mezcal, Amontillado Sherry, Pineapple juice, ginger wine mixed in for an interesting flavor that I was reminded of Chinese herbal tea. Got to dash off to office as soon as I finished the main course, but not before I got a bite of the salted purple shiso sorbet, which was a perfect palate cleanser.

What an unique experience - now I am curious to check out more of what Chef Max is serving at the Okra Bar on the other nights.

(Meal was courtesy of Okra and based on a partial menu to be available for one night only - on the night of December 16)

When? December 4 2017
Where? Okra Bar, 110 Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Pacific cod fish maw, smoked chili crystal sauce, yu-an yaki, menegi, candied ginger

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