Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Fine Dining Takeaway Part 3: Nikushou Bento

When we heard our friend A (aka Meatchelin by his social media handle) started offering dinner bento box deliveries from his restaurant Nikushou in Causeway Bay, we immediately called to order. We have had a few rounds of western and Chinese food deliveries recently but not yet Japanese, and as far as food is concerned, we have little doubt A will deliver at the level we expected. 

Was surprised A showed up at the door with our food just as we finished work at home, and even more surprised that it’s delivered in a nice reusable tote bag. Good a restauranteur at least do something to reduce waste. Inside the bag were two boxes – one cold and one warm. Not the best presentation I have to say, but I gave them every credits for being the one with the least packaging. 

The menu came in the form of bento with many items in small bite portion, so it resembled more like the elaborate osechi (often had during the New Year) rather than ekiben (those fast food bento boxes for train travel) Carefully unwrapping the paper boxes stuffed with all items, I decided to spend the time plating properly to do the food some justice – the cold items in a lacquer bento boxes, and the rest in proper ceramics ware. 

Despite the name of the restaurant meaning “Meat Master”, this special-edition bento focused more on the seafood items, all of them imported directly from Japan. Hokkaido scallop was served in thin slices with salsa on top; the Akkeshi oyster was small but with firm texture and rich flavor – all it needed was just a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. The abalones and Okinawa togan (winter gourd) was slow-poached in dashi and served cold. Saba Bouzushi (Kyoto-style pressed sushi with mackerel) was a bit loose but it was tasty, with the neta slightly cured but retained its fresh taste. Hamo (Pike Conger Eel) probably arrived from Japan cut and cooked but one couldn’t go wrong with this seasonal dish with a dab of plum paste on top. 

Then there were a few other non-seafood appetizers – first a wedge of Shizuoka Amela tomato which was probably the sweetest type yet retained a firm texture, then there’s a small dab of the Hida wagyu tartare topped with the shoyu-egg yolk sauce. It’s well marinated and flavorful. Last but not least was the slices of tamagoyaki, soft and fluffy with the right mix of dashi to the egg wash for the well-balanced taste. All of these fit nicely in the lacquer bento box. 

Traditionally Japanese bento can be enjoyed in room temperature but I decided to reheat some of the warm items. We loved the grilled freshwater eel during our last visit to the restaurant, and glad to know that it’s almost as good reheating that on a net on top of the stove with a sprinkle of sansho peppers, with the skin still crispy. The couple thick slices of Chateaubriaud came not from Japan but from local slaughterhouse, and they were tender but with a good bite and full of meat flavor without the need of any additional seasonings. Thought that would have made a good steak sandwich too. 

And to finish, Nikushou’s signature curry hida beef rice with a spoonful of the special Sichuan Mala sauce which made all the difference. I kept the rice at room temperature but just spooned the piping hot curry sauce on top for the right texture and serving temperature. Went for a bottle of sake from one of the breweries from Toyama that I started to like in recent years with the special junmai ginjo that was bottled unfiltered and unpasteurized for the nice clean flavor with a hint of banana and minerals. A little alcoholic but worked perfectly with food. 

I probably need to learn from Japanese housewives on how to assemble a pretty bento, but I think I did a okay job this time – of course credits go to our friend who prepared the best ingredients to begin with.  

When? July 31 2020
Where? Kitchen at 17A featuring food from Nikushou
Menu Highlights? Hida-beef Curry with Sichuan-mala sauce
Drinks? Haneya "Prism" Shiboritate Junmai Ginjo, Fumigiku Shuzo, Toyama Prefecture
(羽根屋 PRISM 究極絞りたて 純米吟醸 - 富山県 富美菊酒造)

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