Date of review: October 2, 2013 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
Sandwiched between the aged and much-loved Danish Bakery and the popular noodle bar Ramen Jo, Sushi Mori is the poshest newcomer on the block. The dark, heavy sliding wood doors conceal a small room seating just over a dozen at the L-shaped bar, with no other tables; this older sister of the original Sushi Mori on Tang Lung Street is more discrete and more personal. The space has a relaxed vibe about it, with barely-discernable soundtrack of sophisticated jazz and the casual chatter of clientele (many who appear to be regulars, judging by their uninhibited banter with the eponymous chef Mori) – the space is half-empty on a Friday evening, surprisingly, but we enjoy the tranquillity.
We reviewed the original Sushi Mori six months ago and came away impressed with the sashimi and sushi offerings, but less so with the robatayaki and washoku. At this new, pared down branch, there is no physical printed menu, and chef Mori along with his small brigade with shower you with a parade of small appetisers and grilled items as well as, naturally, an impressive succession of sushi and sashimi. We began with a rather rich dish of monkfish liver, steeped in a small pool of tart ponzu and sprinkled with chopped tiny spring onions – a princely way to start the meal. What followed was an impressive symphony of fresh seafood, delicately prepared. One of our favourites is the rather esoteric dish of the large suction cups from an octopus tentacle – skilfully carved and presented next to some slices of octopus sashimi with just a bit of salt and sudachi zest, the cups have a bounce and a crunch that is surprising and enjoyable. Less successful is a Hokkaido scallop, which has a slightly stringy texture as opposed to a silky smoothness. After asking if we would like to try a few cooked dishes before starting on the sushi, chef Mori segues into presenting us with some of the real highlights of the meal. Ayu fish – pregnant with briny roe – is grilled until smoky and crisp, its fins spry from the heat and salt, and served on a bed of tade (the wispy herb known as water pepper, which grow along the banks of the rivers in which the ayu fish swim). The leaves are also ground and mixed with vinegar into a bright dipping sauce, but the fish is so sweet and well seasoned we leave most of it untouched. Grilled wagyu beef with matsutake (now in season) is also a showstopper; the beef has an almost crispy exterior, which gives way to buttery, medium-rare flesh, while the matsutake is fresh and pungent with the pine aroma that gives it its name. Chef Mori’s sushi, of course, is unmissable – highlights being a gunkan-maki of creamy Hokkaido sea urchin, served a little colder than most to great effect, and a piece of sushi made from crabmeat mixed with even more sea urchin before being topped with aka-uni (red sea urchin). There is no dessert this time, but we finish with an immensely soothing milky fish broth studded with nameko mushrooms.
A small but concise sake list comprises high-quality bottles from Yamaguchi, Fukushima, Shizuoka and so on. Apart from listing details such as provenance, how many per cent the rice grains have been milled and the alcohol level, the nihonshu-do or sake meter level is also provided to indicate the dryness/sweetness of that particular bottle. On our visit, we also sampled the house-made plum wine, which was a pleasant aperitif.
With the space being limited, there is little room for service to fail, and it doesn’t, with attention to detail strictly adhered to – for example, we were moved one seat down when it was discovered that one of the lights overhead had burnt out. We also particularly enjoyed the hospitality of chef Mori, an affable man who clearly enjoys serving his customers and listens carefully to dietary restrictions and preferences and adjusts his presentations accordingly.
The omakase is priced at HK$1,300 per person which, given the premium ingredients and diversity, is a fair amount to pay. No service charge is added to the bill, but we think it would be well deserved.