Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Lunch with Fukuoka Ingredients

Recently I was at Whisk at The Mira for a Friday lunch featuring a special menu with ingredients coming from Fukuoka, working in conjunction with a guest chef from the region. There’s no lack of fresh ingredients from Kyushu and the nearby waters, especially the area surrounding Fukuoka in the north being the center of this southern-most main island of Japan, so I think Chef Oliver from Whisk and guest chef Yasuhiro Yamada from Fukuoka’s Hakata House restaurant has the easiest task of turning all these wonderful produce, meat and seafood into a fabulous tasting menu available at the restaurant for a limited time in March.

We started with the beautifully plated Ebisu Oyster with a dash of ponzu, bits of mentaiko and the seasonal nanohana (rapeseed blossoms). In traditional Japanese cuisine, nothing said spring louder than the appearances of bright yellow nanohana, the flower buds of mustard green, in many dishes, and the bits of mentaiko, another Fukuoka specialty of spicy cod roe, was served raw to provide that kick to the clean, refreshing flavor of the oyster, farmed near the Hakata Bay coast.

What followed was another seafood dish, this time a bowl of steamed clams with kombu-dashi, sake, tofu, and shironegi. The preparation was straight forward, but the clams from Shikanoshima Island just off Hakata Bay, despite their small sizes, were surprisingly sweet and plump with a mild sea-water flavor. Our next course of Sazae (turban whelk) was interesting, with the meat and innards grilled in the shell (Tsuboyaki) along with scrambled eggs and vegetables. And on the sides were grilled fushimi pepper, myoga (Japanese ginger sprout) and a slice of simmered daikon topped with miso paste topped with namafu (gluten cake) in flower petal shape and seasonal colors. All were delicious.

Our main course was the seasonal Kasugodai, or the young sea bream, which also has a more beautiful name of Sakura-dai for its characteristic pink colored skin (and almost came into season at the same time as sakura, or cherry blossom, in spring). It’s poached then grilled with the faintest seasoning (probably just a light pinch of salt) with most of the flavor coming from the sides of Matsu Kinoko (mushroom similar to Matsutake but a tad bit milder in flavor), and the kombu sauce (plus wedges of poached bamboo shoot and baby radishes with stems and leaves). Never thought of this combination but I like the contrasting flavor of the rich mushroom and smoky sauce, and the delicate and mild fish meat.

A cup of hot and refreshing green tea from the mountainous Yame region and a fancy piece of wagashi made with the famous Fukuoka strawberries were served on beautiful ceramics-ware as our last course of the meal. I am not sure whether this is the first time the restaurant presents such a fusion menu, but it’s my first time having it here and I enjoyed the meal very much, with great ingredients and refreshing taste.

(Meal was by invitation and based on a customized special menu available only for a limited time)

When? March 9 2018
Where? Whisk, 5th Floor, The Mira Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Sakura Sea Bream Shioyaki with Matsu Kinoko and Kombu
(Whisk at The Mira)
(Culinary Postcard from Fukuoka Promotion)

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