Friday, September 2, 2016

Classic Teppanyaki

A few Fridays ago I was having dinner at Hana Sakazuki, one of the old-school teppanyaki restauarants in Hong Kong. One might argue teppanyaki was not exactly the most "authentic" Japanese cuisine per se, but back in the old days, they are often the more popular ones, even more so than sushi or tempura or ramen which have taken all the limelight in recent times.

Hana Sakazuki, in Causeway Bay just behind Lee Gardens, is one of those teppenyaki restaurants since that golden era, opened in the mid-2000s and still going strong. As I arrived, I was led into the private room, walking past the long sushi counter and the main dining room, where my friends are already waiting.

Chef Tommy walked in and introduced himself as our chef for the evening. We basically followed his recommendations and let him took care of our menu, with a few items we specifically picked. And 5 minutes later he brought in the ingredients in a tray, placed them carefully by the cooking station and fired up the griddle and started preparing for our teppan feast.

We started with a few seafood items. Both the abalone and prawn were of unbelievable size. Chef Tommy skillfully removed the shells on the steel plate in front of us and began to grill them with a splash of oil, garlic and salt. I love the firm texture of the thick-sliced abalone with a good bite. The prawn was longer than my palm - we had the meat from the body, then the tomalley from the heads was saved for the fried rice dish later on.

The scallops were also one of my favorite of the night. Four of us shared two giant scallops - once again grilled with garlic and butter and served on its own shell. Both were of good portion and cooked perfectly with a slightly raw interior and a good, slightly charred top. The razor clams were a bit small in comparison, even though they were still decent.

I was also impressed by the cooking of the eel. It has to be cooked carefully in medium heat to make sure the meat was cooked through but not overdone and the skin was well-crisped but not burnt. A sweet tare sauce was added as glaze at the end just as the eel was ready to be served. And I think he did his in flying colors.

I am pretty sure doing toast on a griddle must be a local invention, but I actually enjoyed it as the intermezzo between the seafood and the meat courses. The slice of bread acts as a "mob" to take up the good flavor left on the griddle, than plenty of sugar was sprinkled for the caramelization. They are almost addictive.

Two types of beef were served - we began with the thin-sliced beef rolls, followed by an 8oz Kagoshima sirloin. And I loved the perfectly crispy fried garlic cooked on the griddle and served alongside with the beef. It's crunchy and almost sweet.

Of course, part of the teppanyaki experience is to watch the chef putting on a "spectacle", showing off some flashy skills and finesse while cooking everything right in front of us on a steel plate. There's no flipping of knife or onion volcano like what I would expect from a Benihana, instead Chef Tommy's skills were solid with good control of timing and everything were done perfectly.

Traditionally, local teppanyaki meals ended with fried rice. The trims of the steak and the tomalley from the prawn heads were added in to enhance the flavor. Chef might have been a bit heavy-handed with salt, but I admired his excellent cooking skills, evident even in a simple dish like this. We finished our feast with the seasonal honeydew melon and slices of peach, both Japanese imports, of course.

Where? Hana Sakazuki, 2nd Floor, Phase II, China Taiping Tower, 8 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Australian Abalone, King Prawn, Eel

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