One of the most beautiful parts of omakase dining is the interaction with the chef, watching his or her skills and dedication come alive.
Chef Lap Leung is one omakase chef whom we want to watch to in order to soak up his knowledge of Japanese cuisine. As the head chef at Sushi Rin, Chef Leung has created a loyal following that has supported two locations, in Sheung Wan and Tsim Sha Tsui. His dedication to the craft is evident in each dish, which is meticulously planned and executed by him.
We took some time to chat to Chef Leung to learn more about his passion and what goes on behind the scenes of an omakase dining experience at Sushi Rin.
When did you start your training in Japanese cuisine?
I have over 20 years of experience in Japanese cuisine, and I started my culinary career at the age of 16. I rose quickly to Executive Chef after a few years with intense practice and studies. But in order to further improve my culinary skills and build a solid foundation, I decided to step out of my comfort zone (and the Executive Chef position) to become an apprentice at Kenjo, one of the first high-end Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong.
You’ve spent a fair amount of time in Japan. Can you give us a memorable experience from your travels there that has shaped your cooking today?
During the time I was studying in Japan, I was impressed with the craftsmanship, dedication and spirit that are such hallmarks of those in the restaurant business – chefs work long hours! It is about creating the best dishes with care. It took me one year to learn how to wash rice, soak rice and cook rice. Constant practice has cultivated my dedication and respect for cooking and taste. The hard learning experience also made me adhere to the attitude of “keeping the tradition and striving for perfection” and insisting on making authentic Kanto sushi and presenting the best taste to our customers.
There is an increasing number of restaurants offering omakase dining in Hong Kong. Can you tell us about your experience with omakase and how this trend is evolving?
In the past, the cost of a omakase meal was based on à-la-carte orders, but now most restaurants are offering set menus, so customers can clearly know how much food will be served and the price. For future trends, I think there will not be many differences in the nature of omakase, but it is possible to offer à-la-carte dishes for customers to choose from that are off the set menu. No matter how the format changes, the most important thing is to actively communicate with customers and understand their needs in order to create the best interactive omakase experience.
What is your guiding principle in cooking?
My guiding principle in Japanese cooking is simple; it can be summarised in eight words – 守住傳統、精益求精 – which means “pay tribute to the tradition of Japanese cuisine and strive for excellence” . My culinary philosophy of “seasonal eating” comes into practice as I pay attention to sourcing the highest-quality seasonal ingredients for our customers. Each dish is crafted with my meticulous attention to detail, while familiar flavours and techniques are still carefully preserved. I hope to bring guests an authentic Edomae omakase dining experience.
Please tell us about the saury (秋刀魚) menu that is available at Sushi Rin this season. Why did you choose this fish? Are there any challenges in using this ingredient?
The Saury Feast includes appetisers, five types of sashimi, a roasted dish, a fried dish, a cooked dish, six types of sushi, soup and dessert. There are eight saury dishes on the dinner menu, including saury salad, saury sashimi, saury tartare sashimi, saury sushi, saury pressed sushi stick, saury tempura with perilla leaf and plum, salt-grilled saury and saury claypot rice. Through different cooking methods, guests can experience the flavour of the “King of Autumn Taste” from multiple angles.
Japanese saury is a popular ingredient in Hong Kong. Our Saury Feast uses different cooking methods that can bring freshness and get rid of the stereotype of it being “fishy”. For example, salt-grilling fresh saury brings out its aroma. In addition, the oil in the saury claypot rice enhances the fragrance of saury and highlights the freshness of the fish. The Saury Feast brings out the flavour of seasonal saury to the extreme, giving guests a delicious and ingenious omakase experience.
In terms of challenges, saury has a lot of bones that are small and fine. It is a challenge to ensure the time taken to debone the fish is not too long, which can compromise the fish’s freshness. This is a delicate balance.
Sushi Rin’s Omakase Saury Feast is priced at HK$2,080 per person, with an eight-person minimum. It’s available only at dinnertime.
Sheung Wan: 126–128 Jervois Street, 2567 1168
TST: Shop 1, UG/F, H Zentre, 15 Middle Road, 2567 1328