Date of review: April 10, 2013 | Reviewed by: Elaine Wong
On Tang Lung Street in Causeway Bay, there are numerous eateries and watering holes, from sidewalk dai pai dongs to hot pot restaurants, and Sushi Mori is a more high-end dining option new to the scene. The sushi restaurant and its sister izakaya, both named Mori, form a split-level establishment in Circle Tower. Lots of light wood and warm lighting forms a welcoming atmosphere, making up for the interiors which otherwise lack windows. A white-marbled sushi counter takes center stage with back-lit bamboo-printed boards as background. If you are getting the omakase, make sure to book yourself in one of the dozen seats at the sushi counter to fully enjoy the charm of interacting with the chefs and watching them in action. If you order a la carte, more likely will you be seated at the smaller and understated dining room that houses a few tables that seat four.
The menu of Sushi Mori splits into three booklets: sushi, robatayaki and washoku (traditional dishes). Robatayaki and washoku are prepared by the kitchen of Izakaya Mori downstairs. We came with high expectations of the sushi section after hearing that the culinary team is led by an ex-member of Sushi Hiro, and the raw fish served at this newcomer did not disappoint. We had a glorious start to our meal with three selections of sashimi. The kinki rockfish was bright white and plump, and deliciously fatty thanks to the fish oil released from the gently seared skin. Buri (wild-caught yellow tail) and alfonsino are equally fresh and full of flavours, and correctly served at a temperature for best enjoyment. The high note is sustained with our nine-piece sushi platter. The sushi rice distinguishes itself with a glossy brown colour because of the use of black vinegar, which taste significantly less sour than the normal mixture with white vinegar. Like most Japanese restaurants, Sushi Mori is still, regrettably, serving endangered blue fin tuna. State your preference before ordering, otherwise the platter will arrive with a chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) sushi. The freshly made sushi all taste simple and clean, with a comforting amount of wasabi. It’s the high quality seafood that steals the show, alongside two egg curds made from shrimp paste and burdock that looked and tasted like sponge cake. Salmon skin with burdock roll delighted us when the salmon skin arrived hot and crispy, giving the maki sushi a crunchy texture against the soft, moist rice. However, make sure to finish the dish before it gets cold, as the salmon skin will become hard and dry. For robatayaki we ordered pork with plum sauce in shiso roll. The dainty pork roll is a balance between fat and lean, but the flavour is overwhelmed by the very tart and sour sauce. Luckily our palate was rescued by the flat, round rice cake with a cheesy Camembert filling that followed. The Japanese mochi is grilled to a beautiful golden and crisp crust like a miniature bun fresh from the oven, forming a nice contrast to the soft and chewy texture inside and the lava of molten cheese centre. The dish is quite rich so you can request cutting the rice cake into half beforehand, and save some room for other items. As recommended we ordered an assorted tempura from the washoku menu, but we were immediately turned off by the thick and lumpy batter on the plate mixing prawn, fish and root vegetables, and it turned out to be the worst part of our meal. The uninspiring appearance was matched by equally soft and mushy prawns, and unacceptably fishy sillaginoid that we could hardly have a second bite. To finish, the white peach sorbet is light and fragrant, while the ground chestnut ice cream is nutty and creamy – both are good way to end the meal.
The drink list focuses on Japanese liquor ranging from shochu to sake, but if you insist on a wine to complement your meal, there is an off menu house red to opt for. The entire sake list is available by bottle as well as in carafe (ranging between HK$85 and HK$450), a good deal for those who want to sample more varieties. There are about 20 selections but there is nothing out of ordinary. There is a one liner description for every sake but they are pretty general and do not necessarily reflect the actual product. We suggest ordering from the more refined junmai daiginjo selections as the inexpensive house sake Ugonotsuki Yamadanishiki was rather sweet and one-note.
The hostess is very polite but in a way doesn’t seem to be too genuine. We were asked to order market price fish without being informed of the actual cost. Otherwise, service was attentive through the meal, and our tea and sake glasses were never left half empty. The wait time between courses varies, and there was a significantly prolonged waiting time for robatayaki and tempura as they were prepared and transported from downstairs. Expect better service from the sushi chefs if you are having omakase at the sushi counter.
A modest meal for two with a small carafe of sake will cost HK$1,300 or more, and the portions will generally not to satisfy your hunger. If you order omakase the price will easily double to HK$1,200 to HK$1,500 per person. And make sure to state your preference for raw fish and sushi over tempura to make sure your money is better spent.