If it’s Japanese food you fancy, in Hong Kong you needn’t venture far from wherever you are standing; whether its sushi, yakitori, robatayaki or ramen you’re after, you will almost always be just a stone’s throw away from that Japanese fix. Brand new Gin Sai in Wan Chai is doing things a bit differently. Rather than specialising in one or perhaps two or three kinds of Japanese dishes, it pretty much does most of them – at least most cooked dishes.
The décor is very modern, with exposed light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The main walls are made up of angular shapes in earthy colours, while sliding doors leading to a private room are beautiful silk floral screens brought over from Kyoto – an interesting blend of east and west.
As I mentioned, the menu is vast, ranging from tempura, to robatayaki, to ramen, to oden, to steamed meat and seafood; if you want to be able to taste a significant slice of the menu, I suggest either going absolutely famished or, preferably, with a group of other famished people.
We began with some assorted Japanese-style hors d’oeuvres, which came beautifully presented and were surprisingly delicious. I was admittedly a little frightened of the miniature cuttlefish, yet, dressed in a strong sake-based marinade, this little creature went down (or rather, slipped down) a treat. The seaweed and the tofu skin topped with sea urchin were equally good, suggesting the start of a very good meal.
Instead of edamame to nibble on whilst the rest of our food arrived, we were served preserved blowfish. This had a texture like jerky, and a sweet but dangerously moreish taste, intensified by Japanese mayonnaise.
Although sashimi isn’t on the a la carte menu, given that Gin Sai specialises in cooked Japanese food, it does, however, appear on the set menu. The chef’s selection of prawn, sea bream and toro were wonderfully fresh and tender, my favourite being the sea bream.
The Wagyu salad offered an exciting contrast in textures from the melt-in-the-mouth beef, crunchy iceberg lettuce and juicy cherry tomatoes. The beef was coated in a gorgeous sesame dressing, giving this salad the definite thumbs up in my opinion.
Oden is a dish I had neither tasted nor even heard of before, so of course I had to try it. This slightly salty broth, with a choice of up to five boiled ingredients (mine had Japanese sausage, radish and deep-fried tofu) was perhaps my least favourite dish of the night, offering little in the way of excitement. I can imagine, however, that on a blustering, cold winter’s day, this would be the ideal dish to warm you right to the bones.
Moving on to the grilled items, the chicken meatball yakitori was deliciously tender and flavoursome, infused with chopped spring onion and a hint of charcoal, reminding me of a hot summer’s barbecue. The pekorosu, or Japanese onion, was lovely and sweet, without that pungent oniony flavour.
Best of all the grilled dishes however, was the salmon belly. Perfectly crisp skin gave way to equally perfectly flaky flesh that needed no encouragement to bring out its wonderful smoky flavour.
The spectacle of the evening was the Seiro, again something I have never before seen nor tasted. A huge bamboo box containing a layer of A5 Wagyu beef and a layer of seafood was placed in the centre of our table, above a hidden stove. After a mere few minutes, we had delicious and fresh steamed seafood and beef. Infused by the bed of vegetables beneath the meat/seafood, it had a delicate flavour that did need a splash of sauce (ask for the sesame one) to help it on its way.
Having never been a fan of green tea desserts, the brown tea ice cream sounded equally as unpleasant. It was, however, quite the opposite, carrying a sweet flavour and a heavenly silky texture.
An average feast at Gin Sai is likely to cost anything from $600 a head to $1500 a head, without drinks. Although everyone likes variety in their lives, I can’t help but think that Gin Sai is trying to do too much at once. The food is good, the service is fine (there was a definite language barrier), yet I left feeling a touch overwhelmed and unsure of Gin Sai’s real speciality.
Shop 3-7, G/F, Oakhill
32-38 Cross Lane
Tel: +852 2574 1118