Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Friday Night at Sushi Kuu

You probably won’t find another place as vibrant and lively as Sushi Kuu on a Friday evening. In Hong Kong's business standard, this casual Japanese restaurant at the foot of Lan Kwai Fong has been around since forever and is still going strong with the flamboyant Chef Satoru Mukogawa supervising a troupe of chefs working behind the huge L-shaped sushi bar, serving a wide variety of classic and new dishes to the crowd of customers every day.

It's baffling even to myself that I have never been to Sushi Kuu before in its over 8 years of existence (it was opened in 2007), despite more than a handful of our friends calling this their favorite restaurant in town. But I knew we couldn't have asked for a better occasion to check out the place for the first time when our church friends C and M, who were regulars at the restaurant, asked us to join them for dinner there on a Friday evening before a long weekend.

The trendy décor of Sushi Kuu resembles just about any typical high-end contemporary Japanese restaurants (think Zuma or Nobu) and is much bigger than I thought, with the sushi bar with a capacity of 20 being the centrepiece and over a dozen tables scattering around the open dining area, along with some private rooms on the side and a bar near the entrance. We were seated at the center of the sushi bar, right in front of Chef Satoru-san's work area – I guess that’s what people called the best spots of the house. Not only we had the ideal seat to see all the actions at the sushi bar, we also had perfect view of the fresh seafood ingredients kept in the refrigerated glass cabinet in front of us.

We began with the onsen egg with uni (sea urchins) and ikura (salmon roes) served cold in a white ceramic bowl with soy-mirin sauce. The spoonful with everything mixed and brought together by the silky egg was basically an umami heaven that one couldn’t resist. That was followed by the raw oyster served with ponzu sauce, a small bowl of the seasonal Nanohana vegetables with mountain yam sauce, and a few sashimi pieces – hirame (fluke), hotate (scallops), Tsubugai (whelk clam), Botan-ebi (spot shrimps), Shimaji (Striped Jack), Hamachi Toro (fatty yellowtail), and finally the fattiest o-toro (fatty tuna). I particularly love the botan-ebi and o-toro, with both of them of top notch, with the right texture and served at the perfect temperature.

With a few drinks with Satoru-san while we were taking a short break, we then moved on to a few cooked dishes delivered from the kitchen inside. First we started with the lighter Furofuki Daikon (light stewed white radish), followed by the grilled Hamachi Kama (yellowtail) served with ponzu dipping sauce, Meguro no Suji (Tuna tendon) grilled then braised in mirin, shoyu and dashi. And lastly it was a few thick slices of wagyu beef sirloin served on a hot ceramic plate with garlic crisp and grilled eggplant. I thought the tuna tendon was very nicely done – taking a challenging part of the fish with torching to bring out the rich, smoky taste, then slow-cooking to soften the texture and let in the flavor of the marinate. It went perfectly well with the wine we were drinking.

Before our dinner started, chef joked that everything we saw inside that refrigerated glass cabinet in front of us would end up on our table at some point, and we soon realized he meant just that (almost), finishing our omakase menu with half a dozen sushi courses, including the isaki (grunt fish), shimaji (striped jack), hirame engawa (fluke fin), kinmedai (golden-eye snapper), and toro done 2 ways – first just with a dab of wasabi and the other torched. Most of the pieces seem to be on the richer side in terms of taste, something typical of many Japanese restaurants around town, but I thought all of them were tasty. Well if you must insist, I personally am more used to the rice served a little warm, with the neta (the fish topping)  and the shari (rice) at around the same temperature, but it’s not really a big issue.

The combination of uni and ikura must be Satoru-san’s favorite ingredients, and they made another appearance after the series of nigiri sushi in the form of a mini chirashi bowl, with loads of Bafun Uni and ikura – both Hokkaido specialties – served on top of some rice in a small ceramic bowl. When we were told the last piece is going to be the "house maki", I didn't expect it literally meant a piece with just about everything in the house – there's even more uni and ikura, then chopped toro, shrimps, thinly sliced cucumber and pickled daikon, and some rice of course – in a sushi hand-roll so huge that we had difficulties of holding with both hands. That’s more than sumptuous – that itself could have been a meal for some people. We finished our meal with a refreshing and aromatic bowl of snapper soup, and a slice of Japanese honey dew melon as dessert.

We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and had a great time. Look, this is not the kind of serious edomae sushi-ya that served the most consistent and technically-accurate dishes, something that required 100% focus by the chefs and by the customers (to start, I don't think Satoru-san was even 100% sober by the time our dinner was done), but for a casual dinner on a Friday evening before the long weekend? I would definitely say Sushi Kuu is an ideal place to be, for their more-than-decent food, and more importantly, for the lively atmosphere that everyone could just chill and enjoy. We loved it!

When? April 1 2016
Where? Sushi Kuu, 1/F, M88 Wellington Place, 2-8 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Onsen Egg with Uni and Ikura
Eikun "Izutuyaihei Sanwarigobumigaki" Junmai Daiginjo - Saito Shuzo, Kyoto 英勲 純米大吟醸 井筒屋伊兵衛 祝米三割五分磨き - 京都市 齊藤酒造
2009 Domain Taupenot-Merme Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru

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