NB: Some of my earliest blogs no longer have their accompanying images but enjoy the copy!
At last, an article dedicated to the delicious going-ons at Hyper Japan! This would have come sooner if I had not taken a break from blogging but better late than never. Rather than write a general piece on the whole weekend event, I decided to run through the nominees for this year’s Sushi Awards. The tasting event was my personal highlight.
Thanks to my press pass, I treated myself to a free gourmet sushi lunch! I truly loved all five sushi and, to be honest, it felt as if I’d eaten an entire meal rather than just a few pieces of sushi. It just goes to show how much effort went into the competition.
All images are from the eat-Japan website.
Chef: Kok Haw Lee
The Sushi Awards 2012 winner! I’d actually been to Tsunami for Valentine’s Day, not long before Hyper Japan, so I was expecting great things from this one.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, this sushi really packed a punch! I love chilli but had never experienced it on sushi before. The filling had one of my favourite Japanese dishes of all time, tempura king prawn, along with avacado and cucumber, and it was topped off with shredded chilli, tobiko, tempura flakes and spring onion. We’re not done yet! Finish with a carrot, onion and mayonnaise sauce, flametorch it, and drizzle with unagi and chilli sauces.
The chef, Kok Haw Lee, originally specialised in Malaysian cooking but has been Tsunami’s Sous Chef for the past two years. The Dragon Roll is a stellar example of his trademark style of combining spicy Malaysian recipes with refined Japanese ones.
Scottish Salmon ‘Crisp’ Maki
Chef: Qiang Xia Zhi
I really loved all of the nominees at this year’s awards but the Salmon ‘Crisp’ Maki really was my personal favourite. What really sealed the deal for me was the range of ingredients (in fact, it was the most ingredient-packed sushi there) and the sense that I’d eaten more than just a delicious piece of sushi. With a filling of salmon and seabass, rolled in asparagus, avocado and tempura flakes, mixed with sake, mirin, soy sauce, spring onion and sesame seeds . . . this really is a flavoursome sushi!
Chef Qiang Xia Zhi has had 20 years experience in the sushi world and is Lead Sushi Chef at Tsuru. His creations are inventive, sustainably resource and, above all, delicious.
Road of Lightening
Restaurant: Matsuri St James’s
Chef: Noboyuki Yamaguchi
I was actually given two pieces of this sushi to try because I loved it so much! A vinegared miso and mango chutney mix and cherry balsamic and soy sauce mix are drizzled over grilled salmon marinated in European herb and soy sauce. Top it off with fried ginger and you have an original blend of Japanese and European flavours. Sushi and ginger are two of those things I just can’t say ‘no’ to, so it’s no surprise that I really appreciated the Road of Lightening.
Chef Nobuyuki Yamaguchi comes from a long line of sushi chefs and came to the UK in 2005, where he researches and creates new and exciting Japanese and European flavours at Matsuri St James. His colleague, Asuka Kobayashi, won the previous Sushi Award, so there’s clearly a lot going on in the kitchens! I plan to drop in for lunch next time I’m in London.
Restaurant: SO Restaurant
Chef: Tomokazu Matsuya
A very seasonal sushi! Unusually, it is a sweet sushi and yet it draws on an ancient sushi-making technique. The salmon filling is pickled using a rice malt to bring out its flavour and complemented by the blossom-infused sushi around it. It is then wrapped with a ‘golden thread’ of egg and served on a sakura leaf – bringing spring straight to your plate!
Chef Tomokazu Matsuya was born in Hokkaido and served as a chef in Japan’s Self Defence Forces, travelling all over the world. He came to the UK after 13 years of service and is now the head chef of SO Restaurant, imparting his knowledge of sushi techniques to enthusiastic young learners. I’ve never tried anything quiet like the Cherry Blossom sushi and I really hope it’s staying on the menu!
Very Lucky Strawberry
Chef: Masaki Nishioka
A lot of people might not believe that sushi can be a dessert dish but don’t be fooled. The Very Lucky Strawberry redefines the western idea of ‘sushi’. I’d never tried a ‘sweet’ sushi before so this was really unique and it was a pleasure to taste. The filling consists of spring strawberries, azuki beans and sakura leaves, surrounded by glutinous rice wrapped in crepe batter and brown sugar syrup. A delicate ball of green tea flavoured milk jelly caviar is added on top to complete the effect.
Chef Masaki Nishioka hails from the seafood-rich island of Kyushu and has worked hard in his trade from the young age of 18, studying under celebrated chef Yasuhiro Mineno. As well as Sous Chef at Yashin restaurant, he is also an innovator and experimenter of sushi and keenly researches Japanese food philosophy across the globe.
Next time you’re in London, or if you’re already there, I recommend you go to as many of these restaurants as possible (preferably all of them). The thing I miss most about London is actually the standard of Japanese food. There’s a good range here in Manchester, that’s for sure, but London still comes out on top for me. For the low down on all the contestants, check out eat-Japan and keep an eye out for next year’s event!
Finally, I just need to mention that this blog might now alternate between a weekly and fortnightly format. I’m starting a new job next week (and am very excited!) and so that is taking priority. I will endeavour to return to the weekly format but, if I can’t make it, I won’t put up a ‘no post this week’ post as I have done before. I’ll do my best to deliver next week, so stay tuned and subscribe!