Update: I revisited Xenri No Tsuki for lunch on May 7, 2013. While food quality remained the same, the restaurant does not seem to honor the "choose your own sushi set of 16" menu price at HKD280. Instead, I was charged over HKD1500 for a la carte! I can no longer recommend dining here for ethical reasons. (proof sent via email)
Original Review: Several online reviews mark this place as an outpost for quality bargain sushi, so I made it a point to visit early enough in my trip to return if I agreed. Located on the sixth floor of a fairly non-descriptive building, I can't imagine much foot traffic. Yet this place was packed on a Sunday night. When you enter, whole fish are lined up in the first section of the bar, suggesting the freshness of what they were serving. While I never saw a whole fish broken down in the two hour dinner, every piece of fish I had tasted fresh.
One of the advantages of sitting at the bar is that you see every order being made. A little over half ordered sashimi platters. The other half were mostly individual pieces. If you're ordering omakase, you probably get better service sitting in front of the person responsible for your food. After seeing what everyone else is ordering, you can influence your own selections by pointing out things you like. I think I must have eaten one of nearly everything in the display case.
Xenri No Tsuki is very good though no bargain, clocking in the US$150-200, HKD1200-1500 range. So it's cheaper than a Tokyo 3 Michelin, but you're not getting even close to that level of quality. I would probably order à la carte next time to stick to the real highlights. In ways, this performs at a 1 Michelin level; enough elements are off (such as the odd height seating with rail that hits your knees, slightly too soft sushi rice, ingredient selection, awkward service timing, etc.) that it's never going to be in the two star league, but it achieves that, "better than your average so-called high-end sushi place" status with a price to match.
1. Chicken Knuckles: Deep fried and crisp, these are crunchy bits of cartilage made edible through process.
2. Clams and Vegetables: Seasoned with dashi and vinegar, these were a refreshing bite.
3. Tuna Blood Line: Meaty, almost beefy flavor with sukiyaki marinade. It's like the dark meat part of canned tuna, but fresh with a springier texture.
4. Houbou (Blue Fin Robin) Sashimi: Light, translucent slices of lean, mild white fish. There's a certain air dryness to the houbou that takes well to the ponzu-negi sauce. It's like slightly dried hirame (fluke).
5. Snapper Sashimi: Semi-fatty and fleshy with a clean finish.
6. Hokkaido Uni in Shell: It's weird seeing someone go through the pain of removing all the inedible parts from the shell for presentation when it's so much easier to just take the uni out of the shell, wash everything else out of the shell, and put the uni back in on top of some daikon. Lighter in flavor and creamier than California uni, this just comes across as too light compared to the California version, which is happily, half the price.
7. Conch Sashimi: The chef threw this on the cutting board a few times to tenderize it, but this was cut a bit too thin. Crunchy, slightly briny, giving way to a sweet finish.
8. Hokkiado Botan Ebi Sashimi: Sweeter and less gummy than the one at Shou Zen. I still think this should be torched.
9. Kinmedai Sashimi: I love this fish, but this is sliced too thick. Slightly sweeter than snapper. Firm, with nicely balanced oils.
10. Shima Aji Sashimi: Bigger and fattier than regular Aji, this fish swims deeper in the ocean. The larger size gives this belly cut less crunch on the entry than the cut at Shou Zen and a wonderful creamy mouth feel.
11. Baby Squid Sashimi: Only in season for a few weeks, this has a great little burst of briny flavor with a hint of acid from the ink sac. I'd still prefer it lightly poached and served cold.
12. Ida Aji Tataki: Served in seaweed wrap and dressed with negi, grated vegetables and soy. The seaweed overwhelms the mild aji varietal.
13. Toro Sashimi: Two glorious rectangles of the most meltingly fattiest pieces of toro in recent recollection. Clean collagen. Tuna pudding. Glorious.
14. Madai Sushi: Lean, clean fish. The sushi rice is slightly over-watered and just holds together but could use more tooth.
15. Mejina Sushi: Clean, but lean and not very flavorful.
16. Kampachi Sushi: Hello early 2000s throwback when this was wildly popular in San Francisco! A sweeter, slightly firmer hamachi with a clean finish.
17. Ikura Sushi: Nicely briny with a slight false dashi aftertaste from the seaweed/rice/roe combination.
18. Akamutsu (Red Bluefish) Sushi: Torched, this has a rich sea bass taste. The soy glaze is lightly caramelized on top. Underneath, a sprinkle of negi adds pungency and sweetness. This alone is worth the trip.
19. Engawa (Fluke Fin) Sushi: Melty, fatty and torched with soy to release more room temperature collagen.
20. Kani Miso (Crab Back Fat) Sushi: Concentrated crab back flavor with cucumber keeping it from soaking into the rice until it blends in your mouth.
21. Tempura: The pumpkin is perfectly fried so the inside is just cooked through, but it's still pumpkin. The scallop with momiji (orange, daikon-like root vegetable) in ohba leaf is perfectly cooked, but nothing special.
22. Broiled Salmon Fin: Rich and fatty, this in up there with the cheek in the delicious throwaways in the salmon aisle.
23. Black Sesame Ice Cream: Faintly sweet with sesame oil flavors in a non-heavy way. This has been sitting out, as there are ice crystals laced throughout.
Table Wait Time: 0 minute(s)
Date of Visit: Apr 28, 2013
Spending per head: Approximately HKD1500(Dinner)Other Ratings:
Value for Money 1