The kind of creative dish served over the course of
an omakase dinner at Uehara
A piece of sushi that looks really beautiful to me
Your eyes are not deceiving you -- there really are
two slices of otoro in that one piece of sushi ;b
Around five years ago this month, I set foot for the very first time in a small sushi-ya with a discreet entryway situated in the border area between busy -- and sometimes super crowded -- Causeway Bay and quiet -- except when the Fire Dragon is out and about -- Tai Hang. Since that first visit, I've returned to Uehara for omakase dinner more than twenty-five times now according to its owner-chef, Takahiro Uehara.
Over the years, I've had the pleasure of introducing a number of friends to the purveyor of the best sushi they've declared that they have ever eaten and celebrating the birthdays of more than one person with a slap-up meal there. I've also had a number of celebrity encounters there -- as in I've found myself seated on occasion next to or just a few seats away from such as: a two Michelin star chef -- who vouchsafed that Uehara deserves two Michelin stars too -- and his wife -- who told me that she tries to dine there at least once a week; the owner of a gourmet yakitori chain whose branches in Hong Kong and Tokyo are included in the respective cities' Michelin guides; and a Cantopop singer-actor who will forever be associated with his Young and Dangerous character!
As lovely as many of these social experiences have been though, the truth of the matter is that the star of the show on each of my visits to Uehara has always been the food -- which can be so very good that certain choice morsels there can cause me to make moany noises. More than incidentally, I also am not exaggerating when I report that, during my most recent dinner there, my consumption of one particular piece of sushi actually cause me to literally shiver eight times in a row! And, for the record: no, it actually wasn't that which consisted of two melt-in-your-mouth slices of otoro -- one seared, one raw -- on a "just right" sized portion of rice but, instead, a more humble but somehow incredibly ecstacy-inducing piece of kinmedai (alfonsino)!
Since I had dined at the Hong Kong outpost of Sushi Saito a couple of months prior to my most recent visit to Uehara, I had been filled with some trepidation that the fare at my favorite sushi-ya would pale in comparison with what I had at my one meal (thus far) at the two Michelin star sushi-ya in the Four Seasons. Honestly though, I really shouldn't have worried that dining at that more flashy establishment would have made it so that I would no longer be able to enjoy my meals at Uehara: For, if anything, my experience of having been to Sushi Saito made me all the more convinced that dinner at Uehara is extremely good value (compared to such as that more heralded -- and consequently, more expensive -- sushi-ya whose lunch price is about the same as Uehara's dinner).
Based on price alone then, I'd be more willing to return to Uehara for dinner than return to Sushi Saito for lunch -- and this not just because dinner at Uehara always leaves me feeling satisfyingly full whereas I came away from my lunch at Sushi Saito feeling less satiated than I would have liked! (In addition, I have to admit that I still can't justify paying as much for a single meal anywhere as I would have to if I were to go for dinner at Sushi Saito -- or, indeed, a number of other sushi-ya that are listed in the Hong Kong edition of the Michelin Guide.)
Something else that makes more willing to return again and again for omakase dinner at this unassuming, yet obviously high-end, sushi-ya whose talented chef-owner never ceases to surprise and amaze me with new dishes and tastes on each visit that I make to his establishment. To be sure, there are certain staples that he regularly offers up because he knows they are customer favorites (such as the cream cheese with shark cartilage that goes really well with sake, and the uni gunkan that signals that the savory portion of the meal has come to an end). But it also is the case that each time I've gone to Uehara for dinner, I've been presented with at least one dish or type of sushi that I hitherto had never had before -- at the restaurant or, sometimes, anywhere else previously.
Right from my first meal at this sushi-ya, I could tell that Uehara-san takes great pride in including seasonal fare in the omakase meals he serves up. And time and time again now, I've been introduced to a number of fish (e.g., sakuramasu (Japanese cherry salmon) and akakamasu (red barracuda)) and other seafood -- and also sections of fish (e.g., maguro no hohoniku (i.e., tuna cheek)) -- that I hadn't previously realized was edible as sushi, and have found to be amazingly delicious in many cases.
But even when I know to expect the unexpected when dining at Uehara, I still have been surprised by at least one dish served at each and every dinner that I've had there. A case in point: on this most recent visit, the very first dish of the night consisted of slices of... Japanese onion topped by bonito flakes and a salad dressing-like sauce! And while this may sound rather underwhelming and even cheap, the onion turned out to be the sweetest I've ever tasted -- and yes, it really was served raw -- and turned out to be an ideal appetizer for the feast that was to come that evening! ;b