I've come to learn that there's a certain cache if you're a Japanese restaurant on Minden Row/Avenue including the exclusive "K" restaurant which I've only lunched at. With less than an hour to spare on a Friday night, I still tried my luck for a reservation - I have this fetish for having people laugh or sneer at me. Tomi was the second number I dialed and was lucky enough to get the last 3 seats.
I was told I have to settle for sitting at the open kitchen. I said in retort: "Isn't that the idea?" and she tried to explain to me that it's really an "open-kitchen" .. yada yada yada. Well, I wasn't paying much attention already, trying to pack up office before the weekend and racing out to meet the dining companions. I only realized when I got to the restaurant that it is really just sitting by a totally functional and quite the opposite of what one might find at the L'Atelier in Central.
Poring through the menu back and forth, we still settled with the first set dinner (akin to a Kaiseki), and were hopeful of a decent meal. Although service was a little abrupt, we did get served promptly and had our teas refilled now and then. No small talk, no pushy sales.
|Steamed Japanese Hairy Crab or Kegani|
First up: steamed hairy crab. Yes, it is as simple as it sounds. But simply done means you can savor the natural sea sweetness of the crustacean. Served with a crab vinegar laced with crushed ginger, this is simplicity at its best.
|Consomme of Abalone and Sharks' FIn topped with Uni|
This came together a lot better than it looked. The consistency of the consomme was thicker than usual, which I'm not really a fan of, but the good news is that it was less gooey than the run-of-the-mill Chinese sharks' fin soup. Both the abalone and fin were of passable quality and the Uni and vegetables over the top when stirred into the hot soup, made for a fragrance and taste that was uniquely oceanic in the face of a fresh breeze.
|Assorted Sashimi - Akagai, Ebi, Shima Aji, Tai, Maguro, Ika and Vinegared Mackeral|
A decent choice of Sashimi, and while you cannot expect top-notch quality, they were fresh and there was enough variety to actually make this a more substantial course than expected.
|Grilled US beef|
Unfortunately, this was in my book, the worst course. The beef was way too chewy for me, and way too much effort to finish. A real pity since the taste wasn't half bad. If only they used a cut that was easier on the molars.
This was tasty and the abalone was well steamed to be firm but not rubbery, and tasty from the infusion of soy. Nothing overly special but enjoyable, especially after all the work I had to do with the preceding beef.
|Oyster in a half shell|
We found it odd that we went back to cold food after several courses of hot food. Perhaps the limited kitchen was a factor, perhaps the young chefs forgot, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.. but it was a decent oyster served chilled to my liking and really, perhaps, a nice way to "freshen" the palate before the grand finale.
|Kamameshi with Uni and Salmon roe|
I really liked the mini Kamameshi topped with Uni and Salmon roe. Allowed to warm with the lid on, the steam wilted the roe and sea urchin without cooking them, allowing the 2 distinct flavours to seep into the rice. The result: a burst of the deep sea on your palate as you chew into each mouthful of rice. Only complaint: the rice wasn't allowed to sit long enough for the sides to get crispy.
|Japanese glutinous rice dumpling with Azuki red bean paste|
Dessert was a traditional glutinous rice dumpling akin to a "mochi". They used pretty good quality flour and the dumpling doesn't overly stick to your upper palate as you try to work your way through it. And of course, the only type of red bean paste I enjoy, made from Azuki red beans, smooth and not a trace of "sand" in this healthy dessert, and an uncloying way to end.
It's not Wagyu Kaiseki Den - this is the casual version, but for the price, it's fairly good value.
Tsim Sha Tsui