Where to go for one's wife's birthday is an important question. It must be spot on. This year I decided to go for something slightly extravagent yet safe: Inakaya.
Inakaya is located at the 101 floor of the ICC building. I seem to recall that it used to do robotayaki only. Robotayaki refers to a style of eatery in which the chef grills skewers and then serve the skewers directly to the customer through an oar. It's a reference to the origin of robotayaki, namely, fishermen grilling their food by the seaside and then serving it with the aid of their oars.
Other than Robotayaki, Inakaya also serves other types of Japanese cuisines such as Teppanyaki, Kaiseki, Sushi and tempura.
Inakaya is modern, elegant and very spacious. Of course, there is the wonderful view of the Victoria Harbour. They have normal tables, sushi counters, Teppanyaki counters and VIP rooms. It's actually very suitable for big groups.
One could only order robotayaki at special robotayaki counters but not at other tables/counters. We sat at a Teppanyaki counter that evening but weren't too keen about Teppanyaki so we went for two "omakese" (chef's recommendation) sets instead. One was called "Chef Nozawa's Kaiseki" and the other was "Inakaya Omakase". 野澤料理長發板: Nozawa Omakase: 前菜(由左至右):
Guava with fish flake: very fresh and firm guava with bonito flakes. Light sweetness mixed with a bit of umami makes a very interesting combination indeed.
Saba Cake ( for want of a better translation): The two pieces of cake-like items were really saffron cakes, but combined with vinegar marinated Saba pressed into the cake. This combination is very original and the taste was very harmonious, to my surprise.
Zunda tofu: The green color of what essentially is a piece of tofu came from "Zunda", a paste made from edamame. This made the texture of the tofu more chewy. In Okinawa there is a type of tofu called Peanut tofu, also similarity chewy.
Broiled shrimp with caviar: There was a lot of shrimp miso in the shrimp, which is fairly uncommon. The shrimp miso, together with the caviar, really increased the umami.
Daikon with mentaigo (top right): a very delicately made item. A very thin piece of daikon with a small opening carved into it and then filled with mentaigo (fish roes). Apart from the lovely visual effect, the combination of crisp daikon (white radish) with the saline umami of mentaigo was good.
The final appetizer at bottom left is "Saba (?) nanban": Those who are familiar with Japanese cuisine should be familiar with this one. Essentially it's fish marinated with vinegar, spring onions and carrot. The relatively sharp taste served its purpose of awakening the taste buds for the dishes to come.
The fish itself is not that expensive but grilling an ayu can be a real test of a chef's skills because of it's small size and body proportion. This grilled ayu was above average. The fish had umami but the meat could be firmer. I prefer the one at "Sushi Sase".
One could choose either udon or egg congee. My wife choose the latter. Standard fare in Japanese set meals. Decent.
Melon and Dried Tofu in Fish Stock is certainly a very "kaiseki" dish. The lightness of taste and freshness of ingredients remind me of Kyoto cuisine. The fresh melon went very well with the extremely sweet carrot. My wife really enjoyed it.
A slice of melon and a lovely piece of cheese cake to conclude the dinner.
田舍家 套餐: Inakaya Omakase: 只是擺法不同，但和野澤的前菜相同。
Same as the Nozawa Kaiseki but with a different presentation.
The assorted sashimi was just as good as the Nozawa Kaiseki. It came with Tai, Hamachi and Akami. The Akami was incredibly fresh, not to be taken for granted as it tends to lose its freshness far more rapidly than other types of fish. The tai in particular was very good.
As far as tempura restaurants in Hong Kong are concerned, it's hard to beat the tempura served at "Ippou". Nevertheless, those served here were far better than my initial expectations. The batters were crunchy and not oily and the ingredients used fresh.
The Nozawa Kaiseki had better quality sashimi than the Inakaya Set. It also felt more "Japanese" because of it's light flavour and emphasis on skill and the original taste of the ingredients. My wife prefers this set.
On the other hand, the Inakaya Set had more cooked food. I also find it more wholesome. I prefer this set.
The bill came down to $1980 per person plus 10% service.