Saturday, January 22, 2022

Winter Solstice Omakase

Our "Mo Duck Shue" dinner series brought us to yet another omakase meal, this time at Masa, on the week right before Christmas (on the night we traditionally celebrate Winter Solstice). This is also our first visit to this "impossible-to-book" sushi-ya since it's relocated to the current Central location in early 2021. 

The late dinner seating booking meant by the time we were settled in front of the long wooden counter, glasses filled with wines we have brought in and first course being served, it's almost 9pm. We began with the appetizer of shirauo (ice fish) and hirame no engawa (flounder fin) served in a small bowl with nanohana (rapeseed green) and egg yolk sauce, followed by kobako-gani (female snow crab) with tosasu. Both were delightful - especially the seasonal crab dish with the crab roes mixed into the mildly acidic tosasu dressing. 

Meanwhile, Chef Masa-san and his apprentice slowly got the other ingredients ready for the sushi courses with a few cooked or sashimi dishes served in between. The sushi courses were top-notch and of course I never expected less, from the first piece of sumi-ika (cuttlefish) to the final piece of bafun uni (sea urchins). Chef didn't alter the flavor of the shari from course to course but I like the flavor and serving temperature. 

Overall, a few were particularly remarkable: I was overjoyed by the sight of kawahagi (filefish) being brought out. This seasonal catch was at its best during early winter with soft and fatty texture and served with a dab of liver on top for the extra flavor and creaminess. The thick piece of hotate (sea scallops) was carefully butterflied and seasoned with karasumi (mullet roes) underneath, giving the piece a distinct hint of mineral, umami flavor. 

Cutting the neta in thin slices and serving them in layers seem to be a "signature move" by Chef Masa and that's how two of the courses were presented - first the buri (wild yellowtail) with two different cuts (one from the back and one from the belly) with a mild brush of salt water and then the toro (fatty tuna) with multiple slices piled on top of each other, giving it a super tender texture. This unique approach did improve on the overall texture. 

The bafun uni nigiri, which was served towards the end of our dinner, was interesting too, aged and marinated with wakame (sea kelp) adding to the umami taste with a marbled color. Other pieces served included the akami-zuke (tuna) served with the aromatic yuzu zest and yuzukosho for the extra kick, and also the kohada (gizzard shad) brushed with a mildly sweet vinegar dressing.

A few more courses were served in between. The ankimo (monkfish liver) was cutely presented as a mini monaka sandwich; kinmedai (goldeneye snapper) was poached and served with a light seaweed sauce in a lacquer bowl; tako (octopus) was served almost effortlessly with no additional seasoning but with the freshest flavor and most tender texture. I also loved the piece of oyster from Miyagi Prefecture served raw, plump and juicy with a nice hint of sweetness. There were a few more cooked courses too, including the gindara (silver cod) served with a dab of ume sauce, and anko tempura (monkfish) served with shishito peppers and tofu made of ankimo (monkfish liver). 

I was a bit surprised when Masa-san began preparation for the negitoro temaki just as we finished the uni sushi - I was expecting a few more sushi pieces like the Kuruma Ebi (tiger prawns) and Anago (Sea Eels) first but turned out those were noticeably missing from the omakase menu. On the same note, I thought it would have been nice if a few additional shellfish courses were served for better variety. Nonetheless the handroll was excellent with the hand-chopped fatty tuna seasoned with egg yolk and soy sauce for the rich flavor. I could also live with a slightly thicker piece of futomaki - perfectly done, but I was yearning for more food even after that. And we ended our meal with the castella style tamago-yaki (sweet like a crema catalana) and the dessert of strawberries, red bean paste and ice-cream. 

Went light on wine, given we went a bit tight on time, with a bottle of champagne to start followed by some sake. Albeit light in serving portion, it was an enjoyable dinner before the long week of Christmas festivities began.  

When? December 21 2021
Where? Masa, Level 5, CCB Tower, 3 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Bafun Uni Nigiri Sushi
Zaku Okayama Asahimai Junmai Daiginjo - Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten, Mie Prefecture
Champagne Egly Ouriet Les Vignes de Vrigny Premier Cru Brut NV

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