Sunday, May 24, 2015

Shinji by Kanesaka, Macau (and what it feels like to have an anti-foodist husband)

Sushi counter at Shinji by Kanesaka, Macau
I was invited on a junket* by City of Dreams Macau to try out some of their signature restaurants. I'll be writing about all of them in due course, but out of the list I was offered, I was most excited about Shinji by Kanesaka, a sushi restaurant with two Michelin stars at its original branch in Ginza**.

There's a Kanesaka in Singapore too, as well as Palace Hotel in Tokyo, so this (if I've done my 2-minute Google research properly) is the fourth restaurant by Shinji Kanesaka, and the first in Greater China.

Finding the entrance was rather fun - it's in the lobby of the Crown Towers Hotel, hidden behind a row of bamboo that I'd always assumed was just foliage for lobby. (The staff kindly pointed the entrance out to us when we were dashing about aimlessly). Once inside, we were led to the sushi counter, although there are also rooms at the back. I didn't specify, nor was I given a choice when I booked, so I don't know how the seating works. Maybe it was because we only had 2 people.

Uni with smoked eggplant and okra
I was actually a bit nervous about sitting at the counter as I knew G didn't quite appreciate having to eat raw food, and I was secretly conflicted about whether I wanted a us to be at the counter or in a room - although I would have personally liked to sit at the counter, I thought that if we were, by chance, seated in the rooms at the back, I could eat out of plain sight whatever he refused to eat, so it would have been a blessing in disguise. Anyway. So G started screwing up his face while taking the tiniest bites, and taking deep breaths like he was being forced to jump off a cliff and into the dishes. The staff promptly noticed, and all his sushi was lightly torched before being served to him. The food snob in me is rolling my eyes at the thought, but you gotta love a Japanese restaurant that doesn't kick you out for not being "respectful" to what they're serving you.

Monkfish liver and glazed octopus
There were basically 3 choices for dinner - a sushi-only menu, and two omakases. I chose the smaller omakase menu - Omakase Wa. We also ordered a flask of sake (Dassai 23 Centrifuge, a pretty well-known export-oriented sake from Yamaguchi) and G had a beer (Sapporo)***.

Uni sushi
Like all omakase, what's served depends on what's in season and in stock on the day. I'm told by our server that all the ingredients are flown in from Japanese and that the namesake chef (Shinji Kanesaka) chooses all the ingredients before dispatching them to his various outlets, including this one in Macau.

Red snapper sashimi
There were, I'd say, around 20 courses. Starting with appetisers like smoked oyster (extremely smoky, and a funny way to start the meal - by blowing your tastebuds way off...), uni with smoked eggplant (they obviously like smoking stuff here) and monkfish liver with yuzu (excellent and new-to-me combo - went together much like how lemons and cream does).

Vinegared seaweed and o-toro maki
Then we progressed into sashimi, then nigiri-style sushi, which is what most people would recognise as just "sushi" - mouthfuls of cooked, vinegared sushi rice topped with fish, as well as one maki (vinegared seaweed and o-toro). As is customary at many counter sushi restaurants, you're encouraged to eat with your hand, which meant I was too lazy to clean my hand completely every time I was done eating, hence there aren't photos of them... We had flounder, yellowtail, sardine, horse mackerel, and probably more that I forgot. The rhythm was good - we didn't feel rushed (especially with our chef going in the back to torch each piece of G's sushis...).

Grilled cod
The flow of the meal was fairly logical - light to heavy, both flavour and texture wise - except for the smoky items mentioned earlier. There weren't particular highs or lows. Everything was decent, but not particularly memorable. Although I have to say, the nori on the maki rolls were very nicely dried and had a light toasty flavour - something I've rarely experienced outside of Japan.

Hokkaido hairy crab two ways - with vinegar dressing and plain legs
There were a couple of minor issues - one with the toughness of the red snapper sashimi, and the other with the slightly off clams in the miso soup, and their extreme sandiness; the latter in particular I would not have expected at any reputable restaurant.

One of the desserts - tofu ice cream with amazingly juicy, delicious fruits
For around MOP2500 (same in HKD), it's right in that weird spot where I can't say I'd rather fly to Japan, but it's not exactly cheap either.

Shinji by Kanesaka
G/F Crown Towers
City of Dreams
+853 8868 7300
Lunch & dinner Thu-Mon; dinner Wed. (Closed Tue and Wed lunch.)

* I paid for none of these meals, but I asked (and was granted permission, thank you CoD) to book and go anonymously, which is the way some restaurant guides work - take from that what you will - so it's good enough for greedy ol' me.

** For a great post on the original Kanesaka in Ginza, check out my friend Gary's blog.

*** Like many Japanese restaurants serving sake, you get to choose from a selection of unique glasses to drink with. All of the ones at Shinji by Kanesaka were handmade pottery, and I chose a wide-mouthed one as I like to take "wider" sips, so that the rice-y sweetness of the sake washes across my tongue. Another note about glassware - G's beer was served in a very thin Japanese glass, which is fairly common these days, but I watched in amusement as he held the glass to the light and tried to inspect every millimetre of the thing!

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