Visited in January 2017
Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Road (12th floor)
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
I had thought… At long last, we are back at our favorite sushi-ya in Hong Kong, Sushi-Ta-ke. It has been over a year since our last visit, and we were beyond excited. Beyond! Unfortunately, this meal did not did not live up to the pedestal we had put them on.
A couple of things about sushi-ing in Hong Kong:
- Hong Kong sushi-yas are Hong Kong-ese owned but with true Japanese sushi chefs. These Japanese sushi chefs speak a little bit of English AND Chinese, which is very fun.
- Hong Kong sushi-yas have much more variety than the states, they are essentially a “little Tokyo” when it comes to fish. Without doubt, NYC, LA, and San Fran are the top cities for sushi in the States. Of them, New Yorkers are far more adventurous than Californians. Don’t be offended Californians, that was not a backhanded compliment, it’s just the truth. You can tell based on what fish you guys stock. But even New Yorkers are squirm-ish with certain shellfish, and certain rare silvers, thus we rarely order/stock these. Hong Kong folks eat pretty much anything you put in front of them. So, they stock quite the variety.
- Hong Kong sushi is not cheap. While most NYC, LA, San Fran omakase runs around $150-$200, and then with the top-top tier ones going above, MOST Hong Kong omakases will run between $200-$300.
- Hong Kong sake mark up is pretty low in both common sushi-yas and supermarkets, but that rule does NOT apply to higher end restaurants. At the higher end restaurants, you will have a TON of options, but the markup is worse than that of NYC. A $50 bottle from a NYC liquor store will run you about $120 at a NYC restaurant. For this same bottle, you will pay about the same, roughly $120 USD in a higher end sushi-ya in Hong Kong, but it will cost only $30 in a Hong Kong liquor store. So for New Yorkers, you don’t see a difference. But for Hong Kong-ers, the mark up is steep.
- Tipping is not customary at Hong Kong restaurants, but most high end restaurants including sushi-yas do appreciate the “rounding up” of the check. They certainly do not expect it though. If not tipping makes you uncomfortable, like it does my boyfriend, go ahead and tip as your heart desires. Unlike in Japan, they will accept it, and they will be VERY thankful for it.
- Lastly and most importantly, the Hong Kong sushi-ya scene is highly dependent upon the Tsujiki market. The Tsujiki market is closed every Sunday, and by year end, New Year’s Eve and the THREE days after. During this time, Hong Kong sushi-yas will still have “decent” stock, but you will not be “wowed”. And who wants to go spend that kind of money and not be wowed?
To be fair, WE chose a bad time to visit. Our visit to Sushi Ta-ke was January 3rd. Place was a ghost town, and now we understand why. We knew that there were closures at the Tsujiki Market, just didn’t realize the closure was going to be that long! Thought we would be in the clear by the 3rd. And to be even more fair, we really have no complaints on any of the individual servings, the freshness, the quality, the preparation. Our only complaint is the variety.
Wait, before I begin on our meal that night, one small gripe about Hong Kong in general and Sushi-Take specifically. If you’ve been reading my posts, you should know by now that boyfriend and I most definitely do enjoy a good glass of something-something, and especially so while on vacation. I’ve often wondered, who’s the authority of the “appropriate” hour that one can start imbibing? What is considered “socially acceptable?” Come on, if you’re not working, have no “commitments” to do anything, such as one would be while on vacation, why should you not be allowed to drink at whatever hour you choose? Not that I’ve ever cared about what people thought, but in Hong Kong, it’s not even a rule or an acceptance issue, it’s a supply issue. With the exception of specific neighborhood pockets, bars DO NOT EXISTS!!! You can find drinks at restaurants for sure, but if you don’t plan to eat, then good luck to you! We LOVE the Causeway Bay neighborhood in Hong Kong, LOVE. But I dare you, try finding a bar open before 6. We walked around for almost TWO HOURS, and found nothing. Ultimately, we just showed up at Sushi Ta-ke 30 min before they even opened.
And now my gripe with Sushi Ta-ke. Before I begin, let me preface with that Sushi Ta-ke has wonderful service. They wait on you hand and foot, and are very accommodating. Once they seat you that is. Until then… At 5:30, 30 minutes before doors open, there was no host, no bar area, they wouldn’t allow us to enter and just sit at any old table and order a drink, they would only allow us to sit outside, on their balcony. If you can get over your fear of heights, and hang out on their 80 square foot (the size of an average bathroom), 8th floor balcony with glass railings, know that you will not be allowed to order and pay for a drink there, alcoholic or non. Where is the service? We ended up going up and down the elevator, stopping at every floor, and seeing if someone was open, and will allow us to come in for a drink. We ended up at a sushi spot 2 flights down, also not yet open, but at least they had the couth to seat and serve us. Thank goodness someone still regards service in this industry!
Our Omakase tonight:
Small Plates & Sashimi:
- ZUWAI GANI with Dashi Jelly – The crab itself was very fresh, very tasty, not at all fishy. The Dashi jelly was a lovely compliment. I would have preferred the crab guts though!!!
- Sesame Tofu Gelée topped with TORO, Scallions, and Sesame Seeds – What is with the sesame tofu gelée? Second time in a row that I’ve had this. Boyfriend for some reason likes this, I love sesame, and I love tofu, but I’m really not a fan of this gelée. And I don’t see how it pairs with the TORO? The TORO was yummy though!
- SHIMA AJI (Striped Jack) Sashimi Platter – I’ve never seen SHIMA AJI served this way! It’s like the more common HIRAME USUZUKURI, where the fish is sliced super thin, and then served with a house PONZU sauce. This was marvelous, really delicious.
- ANKIMO (Monkfish liver) simmered in red wine reduction – First time ever having ANKIMO simmered and served in a red wine reduction. Heck, I’ve never even had ANKIMO served to me warm. Really good!
- Sashimi Platter (clockwise from top)
- CHUTORO (Medium fatty Tuna) – I would argue that this was an O and not a CHU-TORO. It was incredibly fatty, and all around fantastic.
- HAMACHI SUNAZAKURI (Yellowtail Belly) – Eh… I love yellowtail belly, but I’m really not a fan of it served as part of my omakase. It’s just so widely available, so “common”. It’s a waste of a “piece” when it comes to my omakase. That said, it was fine, very fresh, very good.
- HOTATE (Scallop) – The best piece of the plate!
- SHIRAKO (Cod sperm sacs) – This is one of those dishes that Americans get squirmish about. I think in all my years of sushi-ing in the states, I’ve had this no more than a handful of times. SHIRAKO is DELICIOUS. It is typically served cooked, often lightly poached and then in a nice sauce, and sometimes lightly battered and very gently “deep fried”. Kind of an oxymoron huh? “Gently” deep-frying something. You know what I mean. Submerging in a deep vat of oil, but just enough to crisp the exterior drudge, leaving the interior super rare. Another marvelous dish. See? This is what I come to Hong Kong sushi for. For all the dishes that we so rarely get in the states!
- HIRAME (Flounder) Cucumber Salad – Last small plate before our sushi round. This is a great transition serving. Not exactly a palate cleanser but definitely light, bright and over refreshing. Loved it!
- KINMEDAI (Golden Eye Snapper) – KINMEDAI, oh KINMEDAI, how I love you so! LOVE when they start my sushi round with the whites! Wished they ABURIed (torched) my skin, but so long as I have my KINMEDAI, I ain’t complaining!
- OTORO (Super fatty Tuna) – This one was much too oily for me. One of the few times where you really need the rice. At least it wasn’t chewy, and didn’t have a funky aftertaste.
- AKAGAI (Ark Shell) – Yay Hong Kong! AKAGAIs, often called blood clam, are rarely found in the states. It was incredibly fresh, lovely taste of the ocean, and perfect crunch as opposed to chew, such a wonderful shellfish.
- KURUMA EBI (Japanese Tiger Prawn) – In the states, we do tons of BOTAN EBI, sometimes AMAEBI, and rarely SHIRO EBI. But the KURUMA EBI is almost never found. It is so wonderful, so sweet, so mild, and such a perfect texture.
- KOHADA (Gizzard shad) – BOOO!!!! I love KOHADAs, but this one was way too fishy. Can’t tell you if it was over cured, or just old, I just know I would not have done a repeat.
- KINKI (Deep sea perch) – Another fish that we rarely have in the states. We often have AKAMUTSUs (rosy sea perch), but rarely KINKIs. KINKIs are a very light tasting whitefish, super delicious.
- UNI from Korea – I think this is the first time I’ve ever had Korean UNI. It looks half decent, but it really was not any good.
- TORO with TAKUAN handroll – Fourth serving of TORO for tonight. Although I really wish we had more variety, I do appreciate a good TORO TAKUAN (sweet pickled radish). I appreciate it much more than the NEGITORO (TORO with scallions).
Still a big fan of Sushi Ta-ke. I don’t blame them for not having the variety they normally do, I blame myself for the timing of my visit. But I do blame them for not having great UNI. When we visited Gyuuzen Japanese Restaurant (Waygu steaks that you grill yourself, also in Causeway Bay) just the day before, they gave us marvelous UNI from Canada! Take a page! Will still visit again the next time I come to Hong Kong!