Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Unagi Part 2: Uza x Tatler Dining Kitchen

I have enjoyed quite a few pop-up dinners at the lovely Tatler Dining Kitchen lately, and I got to say the latest installment was the one I anticipated the most with our friend A taking over for a 2-week engagement with his new dining concept Uza and a tasting menu combining Unagi (freshwater eel) and Izakaya (Japanese pub) cuisines (hence the name)

I went on one of the “preview nights” when A and his team was still putting final touches to the tasting menu, and I was joined by a number of friends over the tables right outside the open kitchen. Unlike my dinner a few days ago where Unagi was the dominant ingredient at a specialty restaurant, the summer delicacy of freshwater eel was only used as part of the menu, which also featured other ingredients reflecting the seasonality of Japanese cuisine and presented in the casual style – “similar to those fine izakayas common in places like Kyoto”, as A shared about this new dining concept soon to be revealed somewhere in Central later this year. 

This evening we began with the salivating medley of ingredients such as tomatoes, corn, myoga, cucumber, Junsai (water shield), Taiwanese bamboo shoots and ponzu and umeshu jelly served in a stemmed glass. It’s appropriately paired with Umeshu on the rock, made in-house with plums (ume) from Wakayama and aged for over 2 years. Our second dish was unagi chawanmushi (steamed egg custard) served in a beautiful porcelain lidded cup. Took me a little while to accustomed to the unusual tangy ume sauce on top – unusual, but enjoyable I have to say, with excellent texture. 

Moved on with a couple egg dishes – first the comforting karasumi potato salad served with a halved smoked eggs with runny yolk, then the thin slices of hida wagyu served with lightly sauteed onions from Awajishima with rich egg yolk sauce drizzle on top. Both sound simple izakaya food but well executed using some of the best ingredients one could find. We went on with more classic Japanese pub food, including the sababouzushi, chicken karaage and gyoza made with Saga white pork and Taiwanese Yilan Sanxing "3-star" scallions. I especially enjoyed the chicken karaage with the rich mayo made with mashed chicken liver and a touch of Sichuan pepper (and even better after we asked for A’s special mala chili oil to be drizzled on top).

The super crispy grilled unagi was made famous at A’s original restaurant Nikushou at Causeway Bay and that made it to the tasting menu here as well, served with the rustic and slightly sweet tare sauce mixed with fresh sansho peppercorns for that tingling taste. And to finish, it’s the mini unagi-don made with farmed eels from Lake Hamanako with Hokkaido Nanatsuboshi rice underneath and nukazuke pickles on the side. The slightly burnt crust of the eel was flavorful with plenty of tare sauce basted on top while cooking and I love the combination of that and the rice with its balanced flavor and a hint of sweetness and of the right texture. And at last, a plate of seasonal peach and grape to wrap up. 

Plenty of booze went around throughout the evening with interesting selection to go with the menu. After the umeshu to start, we went from the Sicilian white (using an indigenous grape) to a sweet Austrian wine and to a couple more sake bottles from Japan. The Junmai Ginjo from Akita was the one most noteworthy, brewed using an unusual method of aging in higher temperature to speed up the process to create this unique combination of refreshingly young yet rounded and slightly fermented flavor more common in a long-aging bottle. 

By the time you read this this pop-up showings are probably all booked up, but no worries, just start lining up when A’s new venture Uza opens, hopefully soon. 

When? August 6 2021
Where? Uza x Tatler Dining Kitchen, Haus Hong Kong, Shop 38&40, 48 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Smoked A5 Hida wagyu sukiyaki with Awajishima onion
2018 Planeta “Eruzione 1614” Carricante Sicilia DOC
2017 Kracher Beerenauslese Cuvee, Burgenland, Austria
Mutsu Hassen “Tsubo Hassen” junmai-daiginjo – Hachinohe Shuzo, Aomori Prefecture
陸奥八仙 壷八仙  純米大吟醸 – 青森県 八戸酒造
Takashimizu “Kaongedatsu” junmaiginjo – Takashimizu Shuzo, Akita Prefecture
高清水加温熟成解脱酒 - 秋田県秋田酒類製造/高清水酒造
Web: (Tatler Dining Kitchen)

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