Tucked into a corner of the Mercer Hotel in downtown Hong Kong, Sushi Shikon has a small, intimate space for just 8 diners with the chefs standing just on the other side of the low counter. The benefits of this setup are total visibility into everything the chefs prepare, which is super cool. Every component of the meal, from the fish all the way down to the hay used to smoke the Bonito, is imported from Japan each day. If your goal is a super-authentic Japanese meal while visiting Hong Kong, this is the place to do it, and Holy Toledo will you end up paying for it. At more than $500 per person (list price) without alcohol for the privilege of such things as Japan-fresh hay, the price is not justified (especially with the perspective of, as I write this, wrapping up at some very fine sushi places in Japan).
HONG KONG, CHINA
PRICE PAID: $520 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 6.0/10
The first dish is a Kobako crab, a very special kind of female snow crab from the west coast district of Kanazawa. The name literally means "flavor box," and they've been prized in Japan for centuries. Serving it cold brings out the fruit flavors in the preserves/jam that adorns it, and the texture is just perfect. A strong start. 9/10.
A delicious cutlet of fresh whitefish, seared briefly and served warm with fresh, hand-ground wasabi. A small bite, but wonderful flavors and aromas. 8/10.
Rubbery, warm, and with a surprisingly neutral flavor that a sugary fruit sauce tries and partially succeeds to dance up. 7/10.
Continuing the rubbery trend, this dish of seared abalone was a texture-driven dish, and by that I mean the most interesting thing about it was the odd combination of potato-like softness with rubbery firmness. Not terribly flavorful but engaging nonetheless. 8/10.
In a classic sushi restaurant pairing, right after the abalone comes rice with abalone liver sauce that the chef hands over and encourages us to mix together on our own. The sauce is heavenly-rich, with strong foie gras-like flavors. A bit on the heavy side for an appetizer, but extremely flavorful. 9/10.
So, I have to give credit where it's due- for all the fanfare associated with FedExing themselves hay from Japan each day, this Bonito was deliciously, exquisitely, perfectly smoked, seared, and cooked. This is in the running for most delicious piece of fish I have ever encountered. One is tempted to say that there's no way any other hay besides Japanese hay could possibly bring out such flavors in the fish, but that's totally absurd. Cut down your carbon footprint, fellas. 10/10.
This final round of appetizers- steamed egg custard with snow crab- thick texture, wonderful flavors. 8/10.
So, please excuse the weird photography for the next few courses- the chefs prepare sushi to be served at the perfect temperature for consumption, and the expectation is that you'll wolf it within a few seconds of the fish hitting your plate. Not wanting to piss anyone off, I scooped sushi with one hand and took a really fast photo with the other.
The squid is firm, fresh, and very very good, but not as transcendent as other places. 9/10.
This next fish, teasingly named "whitefish," is both firm and pairs perfectly with the light dabbing of soy sauce the chef adds with a brush in the final step before service.
A beautiful bouquet of flavors- rich greens, umami, and perfectly wasabi'd before serving. 9/10.
This Otoro tasted like the purest, most delectable, most heavenly piece of fish ever created. Fatty but not so decadent that it overwhelms the palate, this slice of tuna stands up well against Masa, Yoshitake, and Jiro. 10/10, mostly because I can't award an 11.
Spanish mackerel is known for a full, smoky flavor that quickly becomes "fishy" if it's not extremely fresh. This does not suffer from any such issue, but the smokiness is a little underserved by the low temperature of the fish. I'm no expert, but it reaches my hand a bit cold. 8/10.
Akagai, also known as Ark Shell or Red Clam, came next. I've never been the biggest fan of these bubble-gum-textured, chewy sea creatures but this is about as good as I've tasted. Rich, sea-floor flavors of kelp and salinity. 7/10.
Check out these immaculately- organized boxes of Sea Urchin (Uni) that were trotted out to prepare the next course- a Junior Whopper-sized seaweed roll of sea urchin. The flavors are earthy, almost like dirt, but a very creamy and rich texture- like eating soil-flavored cream cheese (in a really good way). 8/10.
Next, a beautifully-colored tiger prawn, served quite warm and freshly cooked, definitely took more than two bites to consume even though I realize that this is sushi heresy. 8/10.
This bite of warm, freshly-cooked sea eel practically falls apart and doesn't suffer from the usual eel issues of oiliness. Like a beautifully-baked whitefish, you wouldn't know this was eel unless someone told you. 9/10.
Slightly sugary and sweet, I'll admit that I have never understood the appeal of egg custards, but this one is quite delicate and tasty as we get to the end of the savory courses. 7/10.
Lastly, one of the tastiest (and saltiest) miso soups I have ever consumed- clearly made by hand, with delicately-cut greens and extremely fresh soy.
Desserts in Japan are always a subtle affair, and this baked pear with fresh fruit preserves on top is delightfully refreshing without being heavy. A delightful meal overall! But like I said, ungodly expensive for what you get.