Before its major facelift next year, NOBU at the InterContinental hotel will take diners on a culinary journey through Japan with eight promotions based on regional specialities from the islands of Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu and Hokkaido. On a recent visit, Executive Chef Sean Mell and Executive Sushi Chef Kazunari Araki guided us through the first speciality menu showcasing Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu.
A native of Fukuoka, Chef Araki created a menu based on his personal experiences growing up. The first dish, a whole conch sautéed in garlic butter served alongside toro shioyaki, is a tribute to his favourite food stalls (yatai) in the city. The bouncy texture of the conch was in perfect contrast to the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth seared fatty tuna. The yuzu pepper topping added zing to the fatty fish while NOBU‘s signature coriander sauce was uplifting and refreshing.
The trio of white fish sashimi was accented with unique flavours ranging from dried miso powder to mentaiko, along with a cold dashi dipping sauce. We especially enjoyed the ara (grouper) sashimi, made even crunchier with a dip in the ice-cold dashi. It’s a Fukuoka tradition to wash sashimi in ice water to enhance the texture of the fish, and Chef Araki’s rendition adds even more flavour with this savoury, cold broth.
The gyoza with yuzu pepper mayonnaise, a NOBU signature sauce, was given a creamy, luxurious touch with flame-blazed uni. A classic Fukuoka dish, the sea urchin is usually served with yuzu and pepper on the side, but NOBU instead combined these flavours in a mayonnaise sauce.
The hero of the meal arrived in the form of grilled saba nestled in a calm sea of black sesame ponzu sauce. We‘re not usually fans of mackerel as often the fishy taste can be a tad too overpowering, but we found NOBU‘s rendition of this popular Fukuoka dish to be utterly irresistible. The texture of the flesh was incredibly buttery and melted in the mouth with the consistency of rich toro. The light pickling of the fish infused the meat with sweet, tangy undertones, and the luscious black sesame ponzu sauce struck the perfect note between sweet and sour. We are still dreaming about this dish!
The chicken noodle soup that followed was light yet comforting and cleansed our palates in preparation for the cheese and strawberry dessert.
Made from Brillat-Savarin cheese, the dessert was dreamily creamy yet surprisingly light, and when paired with the strawberry sauce that had been reduced with red Cabernet and pink peppercorns, it tasted like a slightly boozy and very indulgent cheesecake.
This tasting journey throughout Japan offers a rare opportunity to sample the key flavours of the country through NOBU’s own unique interpretations. Being so close to Japan, the Hong Kong location is one of the only NOBU restaurants around the world that is able to offer a menu so closely linked to Japan’s seasonal fish stocks. The six-course lunch menu is priced at $668 while the eight-course omakase dinner menu is priced at $1,488. Alongside the à la carte menu, the Fukuoka tasting menu will be available until 11 February 2018, when it will be replaced by a new menu featuring the best of Nagasaki.
The restaurant and hotel itself will close its doors after Chinese New Year in 2019, with the restaurants undergoing a massive six-month renovation. All 500 rooms will also get a complete makeover, with the refurbishment staggered in stages for the next few years, so get your fill of NOBU before it takes a sabbatical next year!
2/F, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, TST, 2313 2323
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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