Saturday, September 26, 2015

Good to be home - OZONE x SUSHISAMBA Dinner

After spending a few days in Ho Chi Minh City walking in sweltering heat and feeding myself mostly on casual, street food, it was good for a change for my first meal back in Hong Kong. During the Moon Festival long weekend, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is running a pop-up special menu at their OZONE restaurant, featuring the food and drinks from New York City's SUSHISAMBA restaurant, and they asked me to join them for a tasting on the first night of the event.


It's always a pleasure coming up here on the 118th Floor of the highest building in town with the gorgeous, welcoming view, especially in a clear evening like this. Even better that they put us up at the VIP room tucked away from the lounge area, right next to the sushi bar and the kitchen where the food was prepared and plated.

For 5 days only, a special a la carte menu with about a dozen items was offered in addition to the OZONE's regular offering, all brought in by chefs Claudio and John from the SUSHISAMBA empire now spanning to multiple locations around the world. A handful of cocktails with an exotic, tropical flair were also available as part of the special menu.

Train of welcome shooters
SUSHISAMBA made its name for its unique approach to the fusion cuisine of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, with trendy decor, loud music at prime locations, catered to the hip and fashionable crowd. Seems like the ambiance and clientele at OZONE just fit the bill nicely for their first appearance in Hong Kong. The restaurant even threw in a couple samba dancers providing the right entertainment for the dinner guests just for the occasion.

Crispy Yellowtail Taquitos
We began with something light and cheerful - like pair of taquitos and a raw vegetable salad served on edible soil - then some seafood and worked our way up in richness in flavors. The Crispy Yellowtail Taquitos look just like a mini-sized tacos and filled with avocado and roasted corn miso, in addition to a few thin slices of slightly cured yellowtail. I love that hint to sweet corn mixed in the sweet red miso paste.

Mae Terra
It's been a trendy thing for a while for fancy restaurants to serve raw veggies with edible soil as a salad course, but SUSHISAMBA's version, called Mae Terra, was one of the best I had in my memory. Baby carrots, radishes and tomatoes were cured lightly beforehand and served on a bed of "soil" mixed with grinded sesame paste, and a punchy aioli with beetroot, yuzu and black truffle oil. It's sweet and delicious. 

Kampachi Tiradito
In my mind, Peruvian cuisine is always big on acidity, but today it's the sweetness that took over and with a sweet tooth like I had, it's no surprise that I loved all the dishes. Many courses were similar but somewhat different, either with different tastes using different ingredients, or a touch of different herbs and seasonings. It's definitely more South American then Japanese with all those exotic flavors. The Salmon Seviche offered an interesting combination of sweetness from the grapes and spiciness from the thin slices of jalapeno with red onions, celery and cilantro. Similarly, I also loved the Kampachi Tiradito - this time with thin slices of kampachi sashimi served with dots of sweet yuzu fluid gel and a drizzle of light soy sauce and black truffle oil.

Picanha Tataki
A few creative "sushi" dishes were then served and they were all very decent - I especially love the creamy Lobster Maki with mango, avocado, lotus root crisps and a hint of honey in a rice roll topped with lobster salad. The menu was heavy on seafood - a bit too heavy I reckon - with the sole exception being the grilled rump beef served with foie gras, fried quail egg and faroha, like a flour meal with an exotic spicy kick (probably from cumin?) The portion was a bit small - maybe just enough to share among 2 people - but the dish tasted great.

"Love Rio" Dessert
The dessert was served in a deep ceramic bowl filled with "powders". At first we thought it's going to be those flash-frozen nitrogen powder thing, but turned out it's a "dehydrated" coffee mousse served with dark chocolate ganache, tonka bean icecream and macadamia nuts. The different textures worked just great with all the sweet components that I adored.

I felt this is just the perfect "Welcome Home" treat that I needed to bring me back to this lovely city, with an unique array of excellent food and spectacular view to go with. Thanks Ritz Carlton for the kind invitation!

When? September 24 2015
Where? OZONE at The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, Level 118, International Commerce Centre, West Kowloon, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Mae Terra - Tiny Vegetables, Sesame, Beetroot, Yuzu, Black Truffle Aioli, and Salmon Ceviche - Salmon, Red Onion, Celery, Jalapeno, Grape yuzu.
Drinks? 2012 Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

(The meal was organized and paid for by the hotel, and this special menu only runs from September 24-28 2015)

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