Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 1 Lunch - Sushi Mori Tomoaki

We are always on the lookout for good sushi joint in town, one we could go regularly without breaking our wallet... and judging from what I heard from others so far, Sushi Mori Tomoaki in North Point/Fortress Hill area sounds promising, so I made a booking for lunch to check the place out on July 1 holiday.

The restaurant - opened a few months ago without much fanfare - is located in a small alley in the fringe of North Point, somewhere between Fortress Hill and Tin Hau MTR stations. Chef Mori-san left his namesake restaurant chain in Causeway Bay late last year and opened this new restaurant on its own. There's no sign at the door, but I guess since it's the only Japanese restaurant on the block, that must be it.

The interior was spacious but simple - with a 12-seater sushi counter plus a private room on the side and there were 4 chefs working behind the counter. At the time of my visit, they were just finishing up the renovation to the connecting shop next door featuring another sushi counter, so hopefully next time it will not be as difficult to get a seat as this time.

No menu was offered - food was served omakase style only, except we were given a choice of 9-piece, 12-piece or 15 piece options, with price ranging from HK$300-500 (approximately US$40-65). We went for the middle ground and opted for the 12-pieces.

Steamed Egg Custard with Crab Meat
Snapper with Ponzu Jelly and Seaweed
After the first dish of chawanmushi (steamed egg custard in a tea cup) with fish and crab meat (which was super delicious, by the way), sushi dishes were served in the order of progressing intensity of flavors - generally from the milder to richer, and from leaner to fattier. We started with Ishidai (snapper) served with ponzu jelly and seaweed. I like the jelly which was milder than applying the ponzu sauce directly itself and did not overwhelmed the fish. Next were Shimaji (Striped Jack) served with a brush of soy sauce and a tiny sansho pepper leaf, and then Matai (Sea Bream) with shisho leaves and plum sauce.

After the 3 types of white fish, chef passed us a piece of Hotate (scallop) sushi. I felt the scallop was served a bit too cold which numbed the flavor, and while plenty of sudachi zest and rock salt was grated on the piece, I could hardly taste or smell any of those. It's not bad - texture was good and it tasted fresh - but just very average overall.

Horse Mackerel with Small Chives and Spicy Grated Daikon
Another piece was served - this time I think it's a grouper with the skin seared but I am not 100% sure, then came my favorite of the afternoon, which was the Aji (horse mackerel), served with a small bunch of menegi (small chives) and a dollop of momiji oroshi (Spicy grated daikon radish) on top. The fish was fresh and firm and with a slight hint of sweetness. I felt this was the perfect combination with the rice used.

Sea Urchin
Medium Fatty Tuna
The uni was good in Hong Kong standard for lunch. Good dose of umami flavor and a clean taste from that of the Hokkaido bafun uni. I reckoned the marinate for the chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) which came next was a tad too strong, but otherwise it's a lovely piece with good oily taste and soft texture.

Blackthroat Seaperch
Tuna "Noten"
Tokishirazu Salmon is a general term for wild salmon caught off the Hokkaido coast in late spring/early summer (not shown in the pictures). These young salmons were known for its delicate and oily texture. Towards the end there were 3 pieces of oily fish which were torched aburi-style. Akamutsu (blackthroat seaperch) was served with the skin seared, giving it a bit of smokey flavor, plus a spicy kick with the yuzu kosho (yuzu chili paste) on top. Then there's another piece of tuna, coming from the top/dorsal side of its head (known as Noten). I loved its balanced flavor with the explosion of oiliness in the meat released by the heat.

Flounder Fin
Our final piece was Engawa - flounder fin. It seems like this is an "in" item to serve in sushi restaurants in Hong Kong recently - I already had a few in other "local" places, but this is still one of the better one I tried with just the right crunchiness and smokiness from the torching. It has probably more to do with the overall fish quality and chef skills than the season of the time of visit.

Sea Bream with Shiso Leaves and Plum Sauce
The sushi rice was infused with red vinegar, as in the traditional edomae style. I like the mild flavor with the hint of tartness from that of the vinegar, but the rice was served a bit colder than I normally like. And I couldn't remember whether the chef changed its rice according to the fish being served. Still, I would say it's above average in Hong Kong. Seems like it's the chef's personal style to combine fish with different kind of condiment for added dimension of flavors - whether that be chopped shiso leaves, or sansho pepper leaves, or radish, yuzu kosho, etc, I think it works quite well on most occasions.

I was a bit disappointed at the lack of shellfish choices in our menu though - which made the overall selection a bit off balanced, especially summer is the prime season for so many kind of shellfish, even though we were offered torigai (giant cockles) available as an additional a la carte item, but we figured we shouldn't over-eat and declined his suggestion. Other than that I like the choices - even though it's somewhat predictable, most of them were based on seasonal selections.

Soup with Kinki Fish
We finished the meal with the egg castella cake and soup. The castella has the right spongy texture but it's a bit burnt on the outside giving it some unwanted bitter aftertaste - it's almost perfect but not quite. Same with the soup served at the end - with the head of kinki fish thrown into the broth base I expected something more intense, but it's a bit too light to my liking.

In general I think the place was decent and offered great value for money. They aren't top-notched in absolute scale but I felt it's good enough for me for a non-serious meal in Hong Kong. Perhaps it might even become my go-to restaurant in the future when I want a casual dose of sushi. Next time, I should try their dinner.

When? July 1 2014
Where? Sushi Mori Tomoaki, G/F, 9-23 Shell Street, North Point, Hong Kong

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