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2010-09-27 422 views
With all the hype and media exposures of Sushi Sase 鮨佐瀬, one would certainly have high hopes for an omakase experience conducted none other than Chef Sase himself. Expectation was set high for a chef with a pedigree and fame like Chef Sase Satoshi(佐 瀬 聡), who used to worked in Sushi Zen in Sapporo, Japan and had received numerous awards and acclaims.For our dinner, we universally ordered the 板前おまかせ膳 (Itamae Omakase Zen) Chef Omakase Course. We requested to have Chef Sase serving us in our re
For our dinner, we universally ordered the 板前おまかせ膳 (Itamae Omakase Zen) Chef Omakase Course. We requested to have Chef Sase serving us in our reservation, who obviously was very busy trying to fulfill all the requests during the meal.
(I made up all the Japanese dish names as they are not stated on the omakase menu)
All our sushi (except for those with heavy sauce) were served on the ceramic platter. The wakame and daikon stripes were placed there all the time, but didn't provided much actual use as the wakame was completely flavorless like some leftover from making dashi... Soon after we sat Chef Sase started to prepare for the 4 of us.
前菜: 数の子と蟹 寒天寄せ (Kazunoko to Kani Kanten Yose )
Herring Roe and Crab Leg Jelly
It’s described by the manager and the chef as yokan (羊羹) to us, but I couldn’t agree with the texture as most of the yokan I had were much firmer. This to me appeared to be thickened by kanten (寒天) and hence the name. The top “jelly” part was made with katsuo dashi (鰹魚汁) with crab leg meat (not shredded). The bottom part was congealed kazunoko (herring fish roes) which only provided a textural play as I could only taste the dashi and some crab flavor. Nothing surprising or memorable.
When the sashimi shoyu was poured in front of us, I tasted it and it was so light that I couldn’t even sense any savory or sweet note. Following the 先付 were different sashimi:
刺身1: 天然鯛の刺身(Tennendai no Sashimi)
Sashimi of Natural Tai Fish
The flavor was mild as expected. What surprised me was the rather soft texture, as I expected it to be more firm and “bouncy”. Lime juice was slightly added to give a citrus flavor, but to me it’s rather unnecessary.
At this point Chef Sase was still telling us the names of the pieces that he is serving… But it wasn’t an interactive experience until I ask him questions about the origin or ingredients of the dishes.
刺身2: 北海道水たこ煮 (Hokkaido Misudako Ni)
Slow-Poached Hokkaido Octopus in Homemade Soy Sauce
A common dish in Japanese restaurants, tako is slowly poached until very very tender. The sauce varies from sake or red wine to flavored dashi. Here they used a housemade sweet shoyu and sake based sauce which penetrated into the tender tako meat.
I enjoyed the firmer piece with the suction cups. The body “meat” was even more tender, meaty and succulent.
刺身3: さんま刺身 (Sanma Sashimi)
Pacific Saury (秋刀魚)
While fatty the sanma sashimi were still not at the peak level. The skin had a thick layer of fat but the meat was too lean and barely there! I have had better ones.
刺身4: 釣喜知次( 炙) (Tsuri Kinki Aburi)
Torched Kinki with sweet glaze, topped with oroshi, wasabi
The highlight of the dinner, the kinki fleshes were both moist and luscious but hardly greasy! It’s not the same kind of “buttery” like toro or hamachi kama, but more like“moist” from meat juice and water! Since kinki lost its sweetness quickly after death, the light sauce helped to give a little sweet flavor. Possibly my favorite of the night.
刺身5: 毛蟹の足 (Kegani no Ashi)
Hokkaido Hairy Crab Leg
Well, Hong Kong people like me who are spoiled with sea crabs like “flower” crabs or “red” crabs are not going to be very impressed by this. It’s not particularly sweet or oceanic. Just ok.
At this point Chef Sase no longer explained what he was serving and just placed the fish / meat on our platter and left. This was not what I expected for an omakase experience.
刺身5: 毛蟹 (Kegani)
Hokkaido Hairy Crab with its roe
Again, not very flavorful with just a mild crab taste. The roe flavor was weak, not intense like good Shanghainese hairy crabs or even yellow oil crab. It’s again just ok.
燒物: 松茸燒 (Matsutake Yaki)
Grilled Matsutake Mushroom
Ok, so for Japanese restaurants of this caliber, I certainly expect that the matsutake is the real deal from Japan. But when I asked Chef Sase, he DIDN’T EVEN KNOW where these were from and needed to ask the manager!!!! To me, this was unacceptable for a serious Japanese chef to have no knowledge of what he is serving. EACH ingredient should have be carefully chosen and inspected by him before serving to the customers. At least that’s my experience with high-caliber chefs!!!!
To add insult to injury, it turned out that the matsutake mushrooms were from Yunnan! Compared to the Yunnan wild matsutake mushroom at Sheraton Celestial Court, I did like the thick “cut” here better as it was more meaty and juicy. I enjoyed the earthy aroma of these mushrooms but others may find it bitter.
As we proceeded to sushi, sushi shoyu and wet towel to clean the hands were provided (as they wanted you to eat with your hand)
The gari (pickled ginger) was housemade. No artifical note, though the cut was a bit too thick for me.
An odd practice I noticed was Chef Sase’s excessive use of lime juice with the fish. He literally squeezed lime juice to every fish which I found to be redundant and sometimes masked/ overshadowed the true flavors of the fish!
寿し 1: さめかれい (Samegarei)
Right-Mouth Flounder (鮫鰈 / 右口魚)
This is simply a special type of karei (鰈) so the flavor was mild. Not much different from your karei, but the fish was cut a little thicker than normal.
寿し 2 : 大助鮭づけ(Oosukesake Zuke )
Oosuke Salmon (Marinated in Soy)
Originally we wanted to substitute this but the restaurant claimed that their salmon was very special and 大助鮭 is one of Chef Sase’s signature. 大助鮭 is a special breed of natural salmon and it’s highly praised as “鮭が絶品”
While I don’t have the doubt about the superiority of 大助鮭, I didn’t really think the piece that I have was of good quality. It did not taste different (or better) despite being marinated in soy before. In fact the mouthfeel was a little discerning because the flesh didn’t not feel “smooth” (like over-aging…).
The intention of the grated horseradish was to balance the richness of the fish. But it was dry and mushy, and its lack of any spiciness did not add to the dish at all.
寿し 3: ぼたん海老 (Botan Ebi)
Quite standard and fresh, at least it matches the quality that you would expect from sushi place like this. But again why squeeze the lime juice?
寿し 4: 鯵 (Aji)
Japanese Jack Mackerel (池魚)
This was fine but again somehow the flavor was just not that intense. The really good aji I tried had this luscious oily fish (not fishy) flavor that explodes in your mouth. This one didn’t do that….
I asked for kohada(小鰭) but they didn’t have it that day…
寿し 5: ホッキ貝(炙) (Hokkigai Aburi)
Torched Japanese Surf Clam (北寄貝)
The thick hokkigai slice provided plenty of “crunch” which certainly indicated the superior freshness. It was torched but I did’t find much for “grilled” flavor or char. A nice glaze was applied to the clam and added to the juiciness. One more time, why the lime juice? I found the citrus flavor diluted the sweetness of the clam.
For most of the sushi, the rice is quite adequately molded, not too firm and with right ratio of neta to rice. But the rice of some of the pieces in the end was just too lose and fell apart the minute I picked it up. It wasn’t too vinegary which I preferred
寿し 6: 大間產 ガ–リツク正油大とろ(炙) (Ooma Garikku Shoyu Toro Aburi)
Torched Otoro from Ooma with Garlic Soy Sauce Aburi
This was one of the more enjoyable sushi of the night. The otoro was from the kama section (neck meat close to the head/ 魚鮫 in Chinese), some of the best and precious parts of the tuna fish with really high fat content. This time the torching process did its job as the melting fat really coated and lubricated my mouth and provided an amazing mouthfeel. It came doused in a garlic soy sauce, which was delightful and did not overpower the fish flavor. Overall it did not blow me away, but I enjoyed the piece.
寿し 7 & 8: 馬糞海水雲丹(Bafun Uni ) & イクラ ( Ikura)
Bafun Sea Urchin (in Sea Water) and Salmon Roes
Two of my favorites normally. Unfortunately here both the uni and the ikura were not of top quality.
寿し 7: 馬糞雲丹(Bafun Uni)
When I tried bafun uni in the past, I seriously closed my eyes to savor every minute of the oceanic flavor and sweetness! The creamy uni surrounded every tastebud in my mouth and the long sweet aftertaste was unbeatable!!!
BUT THIS WAS NOT. Despite this uni being from Hokkaido and preserved in sea brine instead of preservative (so no artificial taste or bitterness), it didn’t ring that bell in my head to scream “I am in heaven!”. The mild sweetness provided no aftertaste that lingered in my mouth. Not a very impressive uni in my account.
寿し 8: イクラ (Ikura)
Ok, this one was just plainly poor. Fresh ikura should be “firm” yet burst with “jus” in your mouth easily. These ikura were soft and lifeless. In fact the texture was like those toppings you find on the chirashi bowls in supermarket. Enuff said.
寿し 9 & 10: 穴子 (Anago) & 玉子 (Tamago)
Sea Eel and Egg
Something really wrong happened here: The soup was served in between these 2 courses and the uni and ikura. PLUS the most important thing was they came when I have not even started to eat my uni and ikura. So suddenly there were 5 items in front of me, with no direction from the chef on what to eat first. (By this time he pretty ignored us unless we initiated a question ….)
One couldn’t help but to feel being “rushed” to finish off the meal and pay the bill. This shouldn’t happen in an omakase dinner, and more unbearable when the chef has such high reputation in Japan.
Just refer to the picture and I think you can tell how sad this anago was. Once you tasted it you felt even more depressed. It was dry, lean, stringy, and completely lacked the exquisite texture of the eel skin adhering to the meat and sweetness of anago. I really think this was not much different from what you get at Genki Sushi. How sad!
The tamago sushi was another disappointment. It was pre-made and was the exact piece that had been sitting right in front of us for the whole night! Made-to-order? Forget about it.
When tasted the tamago was cold and sweet. I am fine with the sweet rendition of tamago, but its texture was similar to a leftover sponge cake with the moisture drawn out. I felt that the food ordered had completely fallen apart at this point. A long sigh...
吸い物: 清汁仕立 - 鯛, きのこ, オクラ
Clear Soup – Snapper, Kinoko Mushrooms, Okra
A very light soup with a very mild (almost indiscernible) fish flavor.
デザート: 抹茶プリンx2 (Matcha Purin x2 ), 黒ゴマプリ(Kurogoma Purin), キャラメルプリ (Kayarameru Purin)
Green Tea Pudding x2 , Black Sesame Pudding, Caramel Pudding
Surprisingly, desserts were the highlights of the dinner!!!!
4 of us ordered all the desserts available except for fruits. These desserts came expertly prepared and were immensely delicious!! So silky and smooth they slided down my throat! The sweetness was well-balanced with the featured flavors like matcha and black sesame which were spot-on! I also love the soft black bean on top of the match pudding, though someone got a really hard chestnut topping At least we got a sweet ending.
I really want to persuade myself that it was one of those off-nights, as I was expecting somewhat an omakase experience closer to what you can get in Japan. However, some of the obvious service gaps, like not knowing where the matsutake was from, having too many dishes served at the same time, together with a few poor sushi offerings, had avoidably created some let down among us, particularly when Chef Sase was serving us himself.
Ultimately it wasn't the price that so disappointed my party in this dinner. It was the lack of familiarity and caring interactions with the sushi chef, and the unexciting, albeit fresh ingredients, that caused a "great sense of loss" in my mind