When in Hong Kong: Sushi Shikon
I've just landed in Hong Kong. And it's hot. As fuck. And I'm tired. As fuck. And the only thing delaying my inevitable fourteen-hour face plant -- apart from the blaring neon lights and thick Friday night Hong Kong energy -- is that I'm hungry… As fuck. But no handmade street noodles for me tonight. The traditional Cantonese dim-sum will have to wait until tomorrow. No crispy, fatty duck hatched mercilessly over rice -- although the thought alone has me wiping drool off of my chin. Tonight, faced with a whole new world of Chinese delights, I’m going for sushi. Yes, sushi. In China. Stick with me. Sushi Shikon is the Hong Kong outpost of Chef Masahiro Yoshitake’s three Michelin star sushi joint in Ginza, Tokyo – Mecca for any self-proclaimed connoisseur of raw fish and vinegar rice. Shikon boasts three stars as well, and when I arrive at the tiny restaurant on the first level of The Mercer Hotel, giddy would be the only way to accurately characterize my mood. It’s simply an eight-seat counter draped in light wood. No clutter. No frills. Stoic, intimidating in its simplicity -- nothing is out of place. Well, nothing except for my beleaguered, travel-weary gaijin body. And as I sit, I'm presented with the only question I'll be asked to answer for the remainder of the night: Beer or Sake? My reply is the only acceptable one as I see it: Both. Please…
Yoshitake isn't presiding over the evening’s events. Instead it's executive chef Yoshiharu Kakinuma conducting this orchestra -- glaring down at me with a level of seriousness I haven’t quite experienced since Sister Bernice’s fourth grade religion class. But it makes sense, in a way, because Kakinuma is about to take me to church.
The sashimi and appetizers are first up -- a few slices of snapper that induce my first reverent bow. Then, abalone with liver sauce, which is attractively toothy and sweet, the sauce hitting an earthy note. Octopus? Yes! It’s boiled and more tender than any I've had in my entire life -- causing me to envision the epic massage that sea creature must have received earlier in the day -- all in preparation for my arrival. All of the ingredients I’m gleefully ingesting were flown in, as they are every day, from the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Thank you, Kakinuma, you blessed soul.
Six appetizers deep, and the eye of the storm is ready for landfall . A small basket with a tiny, tented wet napkin is slipped in front of me. The maestro, Kakinuma, grinds fresh wasabi root like he’s playing an ancient instrument. It’s on! Ten perfectly curated pieces of sushi are coming my way. I don’t know which piece lands first – all I know is that I eat it slowly, eyes closed, muttering things that if the person next to me heard, I’d surely be committed. It was some piece of deliciously soft fish over warm rice, brushed evenly with aged soy. And when I look up? Kakinuma is staring at me, knowing, and enjoying, that he just drew blood. One perfect bite and I’m a true addict. Eyes wide. Veins wider. More, please.
It’s all happening now – Chu-Toro (medium fatty tuna), O-Toro (fatty tuna), some sweet and briny and crunchy clam variety that I’ve never before laid eyes upon. Then, exactly what I’ve been waiting for: the Japanese shrimp. A magical swimming rainbow, presented to me for approval before being sacrificed, boiled and served, thankfully, with some of the brains still attached. I say a prayer.
The sea urchin and eel are next. Oh, the uni! It’s the complete embodiment of this insane, once-in-a-lifetime meal. Multi-layered. Surprising. A full-body experience that everyone I encounter from this day forward will hear about. The egg loaf (Tamagoyaki) comes last – the opposite of the piece you’ve managed to avoid ordering at a every sushi joint you’ve ever been to in the States. This? Is more pound cake than egg, and has me offering the highest compliment via query: how the hell did he do that? I rest in my state of merriment for a good ten minutes, unable to move. I imagine this is what one feels after climbing Kilimanjaro, or finishing the New York Marathon. Euphoria.
I pay my bill – coughing up, ahem… HUGE amounts of HKD -- and my respects to Chef Kakinuma, who relents with a slight smile for the first time. Check that, it’s more like the sinister smirk Michael Jordan gave his opponents after ripping their hearts out. Now I’m on my way home, more floating than walking – toes tingling from the beer and sake. I will tell everyone about this night. I will tell every person visiting Hong Kong to carve out time for Sushi Shikon. I will tell them that they won’t regret dropping big bucks because this is the only place outside of Tokyo where you can have this experience. And, let’s face it, you’re never getting into Jiro’s anyway. And when I finally face plant, fully clothed, on my pillow, I know I’ll dream of sushi.
by Zahir McGhee
Sushi Shikon $$$$$ 3 Michelin Stars
The Mercer Hotel 29 Jervois Street Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Sushi Shikon offers a single omakase course.
OMAKASE $3,500 HKD ($450 USD)
6 APPETIZERS, 10 SUSHI PIECES AND DESSERT
SEASONAL LIGHTLY GRILLED FISH OR BOILED OCTOPUS
STEAMED ABALONE (LIVER SAUCE)
Seatings 6:00pm and 8:30pm, Counter or Private Room, 7 days