Sunday, January 7, 2018

Surf n Turf with the Meat Master

"Let's do Surf n Turf at my restaurant!", my friend A was suggesting the other day so I joined a few other friends to come to his restaurant in Causeway Bay called Nikushou for a sumptuous meal with beef and seafood, done Japanese style.

With the name of the restaurant literally meant "Meat Master", the restaurant is specialized in Yakiniku, or Japanese grilled meat. But unlike most other Yakiniku restaurants with izakaya-style décor, noisy customers with filthy smoke from the tabletop grilling. Nikushou represents those luxurious style Japanese restaurant that one would normally only find in Tokyo with wooden, zen-like décor and a gorgeous view on the high floor of a commercial building overlooking the racecourse not far behind.

We were seated in the private room at the back, and we spent no time digging into the gorgeous seasonal ingredients as soon as everyone arrived and we were served our first dish of seikogani, or female snow crab. The short season of seikogani only began a few weeks ago and lasted til January, and the one we had was flown in from Shimane Prefecture and right into her prime filled with rich and firm roes and delicate meat, perfect with a dip of the light vinegar sauce.

After the sashimi platter of oyster, sea urchin and kinmedai (goldeneye snapper), the abalone with liver sauce, and a piece of wagyukatsu (deep-fried Saga beef cutlet) with winter black truffles, the matsubagani (male snow crab) appeared at our table, steaming hot and ready to serve. The gigantic crab from Hyogo, weighed 1.2kg, was served 3 ways and shared among the five of us. First was the crab leg with the juiciest meat, followed the delicate meat in the body. When we finished everything, A took the shell of the crab (with the tomalley and bits of meats still inside), put it on top of the grill and cook with a splash to sake in the traditional way of cooking called Kourayaki (甲羅焼き). This is seriously intense umami flavor with a hint of sea water minerality and sweetness, all coming from the crab alone - I didn't hesitate to drink up the sauce (known as kourazake) from the shell.

By this time we were only half way through the "surf" part of the meal, then it was the beef. While most top-end Japanese restaurants in town source their wagyu from a single origin, A sources his beef from across Japan (and overseas), taking the best cut from different breed with some rare parts only available in specialty restaurants in Japan before.

We started with the ox-tongue from Australian wagyu, cut thick and grilled in relatively low temperature (around 300C as A explained to us while preparing the food in front of us at a special grill at our table) It's mildly marinated, allowing the meaty flavor shone through, and grilled with a slightly charred crust for the crispy texture.

Next was a pair of Yamagata beef, first cut called shinshin (back hind tissue) from the 30-month cow and the second tougarashi (front hind tissue) from the 66-months cow. Both were gently "brushed" against the heated grill like what one would do in a shabu-shabu. The latter was the clear winner with well-balanced meat taste and fat. We continued with more, each coming from different region, cut into different thickness with slight variations of cooking time and temperature, like the Kobe Beef Misuji (which was like the oyster blade in western term but cut paper-thin), the Matsuzaka kurashita (top chuck roll) and Hida "Zabuton" (medium chuck roll). And we finished off with the thick-cut Iwate "marzawa" wagyu sirloin served with shaven Perigord winter black truffles, the rich egg sauce in a bowl of rice. Several condiments were served on the side, including wasabi, salt flakes, special tare sauce and lemon juice, but most of the time I was happy eating the slices of beef on its own since they were marinated before grilling and the meat flavor was intense. They were sumptuous to the max, and it's also a pleasure watching A, donning the butcher's apron, showed off some fancy moves grilling the meat in front of us.

It's certainly an indication of how awesome was this meal when everyone nodded their heads when asked whether we wanted more food despite we were pretty stuffed by then. It's when plates of Japanese curry rice were brought in, something not on their menu yet but soon to be when they began serving lunch at the restaurant. Made with the tender hida beef with house-made curry and Hokkaido yumepirika rice, the new breed of rice now considered the top grade. It was comforting with good flavor.

A is a serious wine and sake drinker, and he was so kind to share a few bottles of his wines and sake with us. Of course Kuheiji and Isojiman being two of my favorite sake brands are always good with food (served with the beautiful stemmed glass created by Jeannie Cho Lee MW), and I also like the champagne, blanc du noir and made with biodynamic/natural methods, with the rounded texture standing up well against the fat from the wagyu.

For those who are really into the meat they eat, this should be their mecca, and this is hands down the best surf n turf dinner I have had in town with top ingredients and straight forward cooking.

When? December 6 2017
Where? Nikushou, 22/F Zing!, 38 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay
Menu Highlights? Wagyu Yakiniku (7 varieties)
Yamamoto Pure Black Junmai Ginjo, Yamamoto Gomei Kaisha, Akita Prefecture
山本 純米吟醸 潤黒 - 秋田県山本合名会社
2016 Kuheiji "Human" Junmai Daiginjo
釀し人九平次純米大吟釀 Human - 愛知県 萬乗醸造
Isojiman Junmai Ginjo, Isojiman Shuzo, Shizuoka Prefecture
磯自慢 純米吟醸 - 静岡県磯自慢酒造
Champagne Marie-Courtin "Resonance" Blanc du Noir Extra Brut NV
2014 Domaine Lecheneaut Nuits-Saint-George AOC

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