In a small wood paneled private room off the main dining room, Chef Yoshiharu Kakinuma sits down with a cup of matcha green tea. Taking a breather between lunch and dinner service, he starts talking about his childhood in Tokyo. "As a child, I used to copy my father and grandfather. The fish market was my playground, and my grandfather would take me and introduce me to the fish sellers", he tells me, "highlighting the importance of communication between fishermen, fish sellers and the chef".
As the sister restaurant to Tokyo's Sushi Yoshitake, Sushi Shikon, the only three Michelin star restaurant outside Ginza, has recreated the Tokyo experience in the heart of Sheung Wan. Both restaurant menus are the same, and change monthly, reflecting the freshest seasonal produce available. Everything in the restaurant, from the produce to the water used in cooking, is flown in twice daily from Japan.
Dishes are executed to let the fresh produce shine, leaving no room for error. "I think sushi is the most complicated dish to make", Chef explains, as we move to the sushi bar in the main dining room. "It's a very naked, honest cuisine. I stand here, in front of the customer, with no place to hide - they see everything."
This is true of the seasonal starter, sea urchin pudding with Japanese sweet corn purée. The ingredients are sourced from Hokkaido, famed for its sea urchin. It doesn't disappoint - the creamy, rich sea urchin pudding contrasts beautifully with the natural sweetness of the corn.
Moving meticulously around the workspace on the other side of the sushi bar, Chef gathers his handmade sushi knives - a celebratory present when the restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars - and inspects a bowl of octopus legs. Picking one, he deftly slices off bite-sized portions for the next course. I gingerly take a bite, expecting it to be chewy and tough, as octopus normally is. To my surprise, the octopus is tender and melts in my mouth; a result of the 1.5 hour sea salt massage given to it.
Next is the signature abalone liver sauce served with steamed abalone. Delicately sliced grooves are made in the steamed abalone so diners can liberally coat it with the rich, addictive umami sauce. Before I could ask for a spoon to finish the last of the sauce, I was given a small ball of sushi rice, creating a "Japanese risotto" of sorts, and savoured every last drop.
Chef's favourite fish to work with is blue fish - sardines and mackerel in particular. Unfortunately those aren't on the menu today; instead we have seasonal fresh golden eye snapper and fatty tuna, flown in that morning from Japan. Using elegant, quick movements, Chef crafts pieces of nigiri sushi, urging me to eat it with my hands. Accompanied by homemade soy sauce, the quality and freshness of the fish shines.
The meal finishes with a slice of castella egg, a twist on the traditional Japanese steamed egg. It is sponge cake-like, soft and light, made from fish paste and shrimp paste, without flour and leaveners. The subtle seafood undertones of the velvety-smooth egg cake lingers on my tongue.
Recalling his childhood summers spent at the fish market with his grandfather, Chef reflects on the skills his grandfather taught him. "I wish I could cook for my grandfather. He passed away without seeing what I have achieved and the sushi chef I have become now. I want to make him proud." As the chef of the only three Michelin star Japanese restaurant outside Tokyo, Chef has much to be proud of.
* This review is based on a taster menu, not the restaurant's full menu.
by Andy Knight