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Elegant imperial Japanese
Publication Date : 21-12-2013
The writer savours the slow food of old Japan in Hong Kong.
Kyoto is about arts and culture while Tokyo is about setting trends. The cuisines coming out of these cities, too, are as different as night and day. Pauline D. Loh savours the slow food of old Japan in Hong Kong.
Everything here is about pure natural flavors, lovingly cooked the traditional way. The bean curd is made fresh from soybeans grown locally, using water from springs that flow down Kyoto's maple-fringed mountains. Then, they are flown to Hong Kong daily.
The tofu is served many ways at Kyo-Shun, so named to reflect the best of seasonal cuisine from the ancient Japanese capital. Carefully cut out with a floral mold, it is slathered with sweet yellow miso and quickly blasted under the grill and toasted to a deep golden topping.
Or it is served in a special wooden tub that allows the dish to be heated with glowing charcoals, which warm a teapot full of lightly flavored broth that is poured over springwater-poached tofu.
These are flavors you enjoy with a quiet heart, calm mind and cleansed palate.
There is nothing rushed about dining on Japanese imperial cuisine as koto string music plays gently in the background. There is nothing brash and bold, and you can leave the fusion theories to the Tokyo restaurants.
At Kyo-Shun, there is a lot of attention paid to the food served on the table, from the delicate poppy seed-coated single whole chestnut on the appetizer platter to the steamed fiddlehead jelly rolled in toasted mung-bean powder.
The restaurant is one among the trio on top of The One in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui's Nathan Road, a business venture by Hong Kong celebrity actress Carina Lau, in association with a Chinese businessman.
It has set itself apart from the many Japanese eateries in Hong Kong by its exclusivity, and specialties such as the Japanese clay pot rice varieties served in traditional donabe earthenware fired in Kyoto.
These thick, red-glazed pots are among the oldest pottery in the world, with a history dating back more than 10,000 years.
Donabe clay-pot rice is a regular feature of seasonal kaiseki meals at high-end restaurants, and suits the ambiance at Kyo-Shun perfectly.
We had the sea bream clay pot rice, and our nostrils are immediately charmed by the wafting scent as the lid is lifted.
The rice is thoroughly infused with the fragrance of the fresh sea fish, and we finally realise why those television gourmets on Japanese culinary programs were always falling into raptures every time a donabe clay pot appeared on the table.
Kyo-Shun is not your garden-variety, tonkatsu-sushi-ramen restaurant. You go for the atmosphere, for the culinary heritage that characterises Kyoto cuisine and for the astonishing view out of its windows at dinner.
Perched on top of one of the newer towers along the main shopping artery of Nathan Road, The One is home to the usual coterie of designer labels. Access to the 18th floor can be a little confusing, as you need to catch two escalators up to an upper-floor podium before getting onto dedicated lifts.
The 18th-floor lift opens onto Tapagria, the restaurant group's Spanish tapas and sangria bar. Farther to the left is Zurriola, the Spanish restaurant. And, tucked toward the end of the corridor is Kyo-Shun, a surprising entry into a very different world.
Dark wood, decorated panes and a chorus of greetings from chefs and waiters welcome diners, but otherwise, the atmosphere is that of muted elegance.
Kyo-Shun is the place to go when you want to entertain in style. It is a restaurant where you can talk discreet business or even consider proposals, private or corporate. And of course, the pretty, delicate and delicious food is a bonus.