It’s no secret that I love food: starting from an 8am breakfast in the morning to counting down hours to lunch, to either cooking or trying out a new restaurant after work- I’m always savouring my current meal (or snack(s)!) while planning the next one with a stream of endless recipes and dishes cycling through my head. While I love eating, more often than not it’s a transient pleasure that lasts the length of time for the last bite of chocolate to melt on my tongue and then the meal is either forgotten or locked away, until the next time I visit that spot and try to recall what I had. Every once in awhile, however, a meal comes along that is so delightful, detailed and downright delicious that it’s compartmentalised into my bucket of “bests”: best burger I ever had, best pizza I ever had, best pasta I ever had… Sushi Tsuraku was one such experience that went above and beyond, and while it’s not cheap by any means, it’s definitely worth it and has since topped the list as the “best sushi” I’ve ever had.
If you have cash to spare and a special occasion to celebrate, be it an anniversary or birthday dinner (without the kids!), I would recommend booking a degustation menu at Sushi Tsuraku for an intimate, exclusive experience that is sure to be an unforgettable meal for you and your partner. Opened last year, this 30-seat restaurant serves up only three options for dinner: the Koyo menu ($880) which includes 10 pieces of sushi and sashimi, the Yuki menu ($1,280) which includes 14 pieces of sushi and sashimi and the Tsuraku menu ($1,680) – this last one offers no description and simply states: “Special Omakase menu featuring the finest seasonal premium ingredients.” (Book three days in advance if you’re so tempted to try this!) All sets also come with a few additional hand rolls, chirashi don, miso soup and dessert – but the fish is definitely the star of the show here.
Dinner is served in the Omakase style, which in Japanese means “chef’s choice”. Your dinner is literally placed in the hands of the chef, and you’re expected to trust them to serve up whatever is most fresh and in season, crafting their own preparations and individual interpretations. Sushi Tsuraku employs four sushi chefs for dinner, and you’re guaranteed to get a different experience each time. It’s a gamble if you don’t eat certain foods, but if you’re game, it can be a very rewarding experience that teases and tantalises your taste buds in unexpected and delightful ways.
We were hosted by Chef Sze Nok and started off with a few beautiful appetisers – sweet corn flown in from Hokkaido, untampered with, gelatinous fish stock jelly with seaweed, fresh from Okinawa, flounder with apple granita jelly and scallops blanched in lime juice and sesame.
Each dish paid homage to the ingredients with a minimal amount of dressing, but they all held heaping spoonfuls of precision, delicacy and attention to flavour and textural combinations that are most closely associated with Japanese cuisine.
I knew it was going to be an amazing meal from the moment I bit into the crisp, fresh sweet corn, and it only got better from there. We ordered the Koyo and the Yuki menu, so we were served up at least 14 variations of sushi and sashimi altogether (I might have lost count after the first mouthwatering bite!). The fish is flown in from Japan every morning, so you are literally getting the freshest seafood short of travelling to Japan yourself. Our showcase of fish started off with a charcoal-smoked hairtail, which was carefully and deliberately constructed with apple jelly and shiso flowers. Besides the stunning vision it presented on the plate, the fish itself had a lovely soft texture complemented by a hit of charcoal smoke and the slightly tangy jelly to cut through.
This was followed by a thin slab of bluefin tuna wrapped in nori (the less marbled and less fatty portion that according to our chef is preferred by natives) and flounder fin nigiri with the most satisfying, crunchy texture that took my palate for a pleasant spin.
The yellowjack had a softer, more melt-in-your-mouth quality and the amberjack that followed was topped with red granita jelly and had a lighter taste and texture. While we had a small saucer of soy sauce each, our chef advised us to eat the fish as presented, since the sauce was already brushed on as part of the assembly, the “new style” of nigiri, so we were told. We were right to place our full confidence in the chef, as each blissful bite had just the right amount of salty, sweet, citrusy and spicy kick from the wasabi to create the perfect mouthful.
We also tried shrimp sashimi with sea urchin powder, which was incredibly fresh, and torched pacific saury, which was arguably the best bite of the night for both my dining companion and I. It was one of those “omg” food moments – the most buttery piece of fish I’ve tasted that completely melted in my mouth. The sushi/sashimi was rounded out with torched rockfish from Hokkaido, a huge serving of fresh sea urchin (again “wow”!) and a piece of succulent fatty tuna.
On to the hot foods, we were served a steaming bowl of grouper, paired with okra, mushroom and melon – a healthy and palate-cleansing soup with subtle flavours that paired well together. We also enjoyed a steaming bowl of miso and finally, a small strawberry panna cotta to bookend the delicious meal.
You definitely get what you pay for here and if you want to experience the precision, technique and fresh flavours of Japanese cuisine on a whole new level, this is a must-try menu for a special occasion date night. A small tip: if you’re splurging on the menu, maybe avoid the drinks menu (or take a close look at the prices) as we were recommended a very expensive $1,200 bottle of sake that was definitely not worth the same price as the food it was paired with (unless you’re a sake connoisseur, that is!). Also note that the service is attentive – almost too attentive – so if you’re hoping to go somewhere where you can slip into a dark corner indiscreetly and enjoy a private conversation this may not be the best choice.
Sushi Tsuraku is all about celebrating the art of Japanese cuisine and that means everyone, from the staff to the waiters to the customers themselves, is focused on the exhibition itself with little to distract from the slice of the blade, the careful placement of a shiso leaf, the hiss of the blowtorch and the subtle sprinkling of seasoning. This is a place for true sushi-lovers and we, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Sushi Tsuraku, 9/F, 11 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2521 0008; www.sushitsuraku.com