(Source: www.womguide.com, edited by Fergus Fung)

The essence of Japanese cuisine does not lie only in its presentation, but also the masterful use of seasonal ingredients. It respects the ever changing cycle of nature and the seasons that bring the arrival of fresh produce. Aside from that, a chef’s passion to food is just as important as his culinary experience and a sense of perfection when it comes to the dishes he creates. THE CHEF has earned a stellar reputation of his originality and creative take in food, creating dishes that combine French sensibility and the masterful art of Japanese cuisine. THE CHEF is here in Hong Kong from now until the 14th, as he showcases his culinary expertise through the set menus he creates for THE RESTAURANT.

日本菜之精髓不單是賣相精緻,食材的運用亦十分重要。廚師多年累積的經驗,加上在味道配搭方面獨到的分析再將之轉移至餐碟上的菜式,需要的不只是 對食物的一份熱情,還帶有完美主義的執著。在日本享負盛名的主廚,於本月7至14日來臨香港餐廳獻技,示範融合傳統及現代特色的日本菜。

THE CHEF has created set menus for his culinary showcase, including a lunch set and a dinner menu. Diners can choose to enjoy his dishes as they are, or pair them with a sake selection from Koji Sake, specially selected to match with THE CHEF’s creations. We found the lunch menu particularly interesting. To start off, the first course is consisted of 5 seasonal dishes. “Tataki of Wagyu Beef” is beautifully rare paired with a sweet corn sauce. “Swimming Crab and Red Bell Pepper and Red Vinegar” is seducing the palate with tangy tones from both the red pepper and red vinegar, both combining to offset the richness from the freshly picked crabmeat.  “Grilled Small Yam with Yuzu Miso Paste” features the right textures – the grilled yam slightly toasty but creamy in texture whereas the miso is rich and perfect with the zingy yuzu zest on top. “Konbu Seaweed Marinated Okra stuffed with Kinzanji Miso Paste” is a unique surprise, as okra tends to turn slimy when cooked. Here the slimy inside is stuffed with a sweet miso paste, balancing the flavours reminding our palate with after taste of kombu. The pair of “Autumn Mackerel Sushi with Pickled Myoga Ginger” rounds off these seasonal dishes. Now is the season for autumn mackerel, and here the fish is pressed firmly against rice to make sushi, with the right level of richness balanced out by a bite into the preserved Myoga ginger. Note that it is the harmony of these five dishes, all in unison for the hymn of Umami. Pairing these dishes with the “Yasakatsuru Asahi Kurabu Junmai Ginjo” sets the right tone for the beginning of the meal.

主廚在港推廣其間將推出一系列的料理套餐,其中包括午市及晚市套餐, 客人可點選套餐並佐以Koji Sake各款清酒,在盛宴中帶出味覺享受。午餐先以時令的小吃為首,一客共五款名為「八寸」的菜式。「日本產和牛烤飛霜」的肉味香濃之餘配搭清甜玉米蓉。 「石蟹紅椒伴紅醋」用上了新鮮拆的蟹肉伴以烤過的紅椒,別具異國風情的紅椒蓉,鮮與甜的配搭清新。「小芋柚子味噌田樂」是鮮香味噌與軟糯的小芋是質感上的 完美結合,點點提鮮的日本柚子皮為小吃添上果香,是為開胃之選。 「昆布醃秋葵釀金山去味噌」看似簡單,但煮熟的秋葵質感外脆內軟,輕輕切開釀入味道濃中帶甜的味噌,十分開胃。四款前菜中加上時令的「秋鯖壽司配茗荷甜醋漬」,鯖魚以甜醋輕醃,加上米飯壓實成壽司。茗荷入口特脆,鯖魚味道特鮮,四款小點的味道均以「Umami」為主題,配以「弥栄鶴 旭蔵舞 純米吟醸」,令享用四款小吃的同時味覺上的感覺得到適當的平衡。

A small bowl is presented. In it, a “Grilled Millet Gluten in White Miso Soup”. Here, THE CHEF brings forth his French influence by creating a Miso Soup that resembles more of a Veloute. It is a fine, smooth soup that suggests sweetness. The grilled millet gluten is chewy but blends in just right with the soup.

「燒粟麩白味噌湯」入口如法式濃湯般的質感,幼滑順喉之餘味噌帶點甜味,配上帶有點點小米的燒粟麩,質感煙韌。

Along the lines of simplicity as a theme, “Thinly Sliced Young Yellowtail served with Asatsuri Chive, Japanese Ginger in Ponzu Sauce” features fanned out sliced yellowtail set against finely chopped chives, ginger, and shiso flowers on the side. These tiny purple blossoms exude the heady aroma of shiso, when combined with the tart ponzu sauce, works well with the Restaurant’s own brand of “Junmai Daiginjo” to emphasize the richness of Yellowtail even more.

刺身以貫徹簡單不花巧的菜式為主,「油甘魚薄切配香蔥生薑柑橘醋」是以肥美新鮮的油甘魚,吃時只需伴以蔥花、生薑及點點的紫蘇花及蘸以酸甜開胃的柑橘醋。伴以帶細緻芬芳的「餐廳自家釀製品牌純米大吟釀」,令油甘魚的鮮味更加突出。

Centering the long plate of the lunch’s grilled dish is the “Shio-Koji Preserved Goose served with Seasonal Vegetables”. Shio-Koji and Goose both have a strong, rich flavour. Combining the two ingredients will require some boldness in a sake to not be overwhelmed. Such is the case with the “Fusoutsuru Junmai Daiginjo”. The sake, when served slightly warm, pairs well against the crisp skin of the goose, offsetting its richness, and it also helps with digestion for the next courses to come.

來到午餐中的燒物,長碟正中央放上主菜。「鹽麴燒鵝肉配季節野菜」是其中一道主廚採用本地食材研製的菜式。鹽麴及鵝均為味道濃厚的食材,烤製的鵝肉外皮焦脆,油份豐腴 。呷一口微暖的「扶桑鶴  純米  大吟醸」。不但令鵝肉的鮮味持久,還有幫助消化的作用。

One of the notable favorites of the meal, the “Simmered Seasonal Vegetables with Dried Scallop” is a showstopper. Fresh vegetables are harvested at their finest state, and simmered in a broth flavored with dried scallops. The fresh brininess brings out the simple sweetness of these vegetables, particularly bringing out the best of the pumpkin and potato, simmered just to the right texture with flavours penetrated through. The cherry tomato kept not only its colour, but also its fruity juices within. The “Yasakatsuru Nishiki Kurabu Junmai Daiginjo” has just the right level of spiciness and sweetness to accentuate the vegetable’s freshness.

午餐的亮點之一為其「煮物」,「季節野菜乾瑤柱煮物」延續主廚以食材鮮味掛帥烹調哲學,以乾瑤柱製作鮮味的湯汁炆煮時令蔬菜後再勾成薄芡。菜式中的蔬菜看似是簡單的配搭,但馬鈴薯及南瓜炆得酥軟,而小蕃茄的色澤依舊殷紅,菜汁豐盈,乾瑤柱帶有海洋的鮮味,配上陸地上的香甜,配搭微暖的「弥栄鶴 錦藏舞 純米大吟醸」,甜味過後帶有點點的辛香,更突出蔬菜的鮮甜原味。

Near to the end of the meal, we came across another highlight of the meal. The “Hairy Crab Meat and Matsutake Mushroom in Congee” combines the fresh flavours of land and sea, harmonizing in the pot with Japanese rice, creating the softest congee. A sip of “Hiokisakura Seisui Ryokusan Junmai Ginjo (Milling 45%)” brings out the rich flavours of the crab, enhanced by the Matsutake mushroom.

再來海洋及陸地的鮮味配合,「毛蟹松茸雜炊」以夏末初秋的珍品松茸,配上肉味鮮甜的毛蟹。煮起的粥當然不乏松草的菌香,加入日本米煮的粥更加綿滑。富有麥香的「日置櫻 清水綠山 純米吟釀(精米步合45%)」令毛蟹及松茸的鮮味特質更加豐富,是上佳的清酒配搭。

Surprises come at desserts as well. THE CHEF presents a Kuzukiri served with Black Syrup and Kinako alongside a Matcha Ice Monaka. These translucent Kuzukiri, like fine vermicelli made with Kudzu root, is soft and creamy. It is served with Japanese brown sugar syrup, imparting a pleasant molasses flavour and a nutty topping of Kinako, dried soy bean powder, is a taste of Japanese tradition there. THE CHEF’s Western influence is demonstrated through his Matcha Ice Monaka. A ‘Monaka’ resembles an ice cream sandwich, except the ‘bread’ is made with thin wafers. Here the wafers sandwich a flavorful green tea ice cream. Both desserts are best paired with the “Sparkling Nigori Sake”, cloudy may it seem, but the rich rice flavour and a slight citrus tones bring out the sweetness from the desserts and mark a wonderful finish to a meal that doubles as a perspective from the Japanese culinary vision.

甜品也有驚喜,「葛絲 配 黑蜜黃豆粉 配 抹茶雪糕三文治」集合軟滑的葛絲,入口一陣涼快,黑蜜濃而甜。雪糕三文治別具外國菜的特色,加入抹茶雪糕增添和風 。午餐的尾聲以名為「吃驚仰天」的有氣濁酒作結,酒香馥郁含豐富米香,甜度適中。

THE CHEF’s 7-course lunch is priced at $980 per person ($1380 with sake pairing), and a more extravagant 10-course dinner is available at $1980 per person ($2680 with sake pairing). These set menus are available now until September 14. Reservations are strongly recommended.

主廚炮製的豐富七道菜午餐每位980元,配搭清酒每位1380元。另有更豐富的十道菜晚餐每位1980元,配搭清酒則每位2680元。套餐由即日起至本月十四日供應,建議提早訂座。