Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Last Minute Lunch Omakase

As another indication that local restaurant business has clearly slowed down, I managed to make a last-minute reservation for weekend lunch at a sushi-ya that I have been wanting to try for a while. Heard good things about Sushi Nakamoto at Pottinger and with its small space – counter only with less than a dozen seats available – means advance booking was often required. But not this time: I woke up Saturday morning and craved for some decent sushi, so I called and got us 2 seats for lunch. Much to my surprise actually.

The restaurant sat in a small shop at street level at a commercial building right in Central. Simple décor that resembled just about any typical upscale sushi restaurant, with the L-shaped wooden counter and 2 chefs working behind. The menu offered only omakase choices, but one could choose from different price points differed by ingredients and the number of courses, and apparently they focused mainly on sushi, unlike some which may offer otsumami courses to start.

We both went for the 15 pieces omakase set, and served by Chef Nawata-san which stood alongside of Chef Nakamoto behind the counter. We started with a small bowl of kegani (Japanese hairy crabs) and mozuku over a mild vinegrette as appetizer while chef began to prepare for the sushi courses. The first few pieces of nigiri sushi were fish of firmer texture and lighter flavor – tai (sea bream), kinmedai (goldeneye snapper), Ishigaki-dai (spotted knifejaw) and Suzuki (seabass). Here the shari (rice) was prepared in the milder style and slightly warmed, and a mixture of wasabi and horseradish was added for the extra kick than usual. All four pieces were served without much seasoning except a gentle brush of soy sauce, and of those I thought the Ishigaki dai was the best, well sliced and with firm, fatty flavor.

Three pieces of tuna were served in the usual order, starting with the akame-zuke, chutoro then otoro. The akame was decent with good texture, quick marinated in the sauce and served. Chutoro was the better of the three, with balanced flavor and soft (but not overly fatty) texture (the o-toro was a bit sinewy) Kuruma-ebi (tiger prawn) was next – in the right size and perfectly cooked. I was just a bit disappointed that chef decided to discard the roes near to the head which I thought would have been the best part, but still I probably would call this the best course of my meal with good flavor and good presentation.

After a brief “intermission”, chef again went for the wooden box of ingredients and started preparing the second half of our meals. We began with the piece of sumi-ika (ink squid), cut with fine criss-cross pattern and served with a brush of sauce on top, followed by aji (horse mackerel) and kohada (gizzard shad). Kohada was the better of the two, with the medium-sized fish split between us two and served with a dab of ginger – I would say it’s slightly over-cured if I had to be critical but nothing wrong with it. Hokigai (arctic surf clams) came from a large piece, sliced thick and grilled on top – I love the soft texture with a bite and a hint of smokiness.

We finished with a few more - kita-murasaki uni (sea urchins) and ikura (salmon roes) served in gunkan-style, negi-toro rolls and last but not least, the anago (sea eel). The Uni from Aomori was fresh and tasty, and I love the rich flavor of the chopped toro and leeks in the simple roll chef prepared for us. The egg castella cake was done in the traditional style with the softest texture without overly wobbly, and the meal also came with the dessert of choice, between yuzu sorbet and yogurt (we both chose the former and it's good).

This is definitely a notch better than what I considered to be average sushi, but at this price range I expected there would be a few pieces that stood out but nothing particularly wowed this time. Chef probably could do with better honed knife skills (or as an easier fix, a sharper knife) and he failed to spot a big piece of bone in the first piece served to us, which was also a no-no. Also a little bit uneven on the application of wasabi. But overall the ingredients were of good quality and the meal did serve the purpose of satisfying my sushi crave, and I wouldn’t mind going back some time in a similar situation.

When? November 16 2019
Where? Sushi Nakamoto, 10 Pottinger Streett, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights: Kuruma Ebi

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