Ginza-Iwa wasn't on my radar until an out-of-town restaurateur friend e-mailed to give me a report of some new places he had tried in Hong Kong. He said this was the best meal of the trip. Located in the Asia Pacific Centre in Central, it is the Hong Kong branch of the Michelin one-star restaurant with the same name in Tokyo.
It shares an entrance with its sister restaurant, the teppanyaki-focused Ginza Iwa Sumibi, but if you want a sushi meal, the staff will take you upstairs. For dinner, there's a choice of three menus, ranging from HK$1,800 to HK$3,000. We chose the cheapest, which had five appetisers, 12 pieces of sushi, maki rolls, soup and dessert.
Grilled sanma was fantastic, and the hot, moist pieces of fish had a thin, delicate layer of crackling crisp skin. Also served were slices of garoupa with a dipping sauce, and wonderfully tender abalone. We didn't particularly care for the crab meat with fresh bean curd skin, which was nothing special.
During a short pause after the starters, the attentive waitress gave us small towels for our fingers, in case we wanted to use our hands (rather than chopsticks) to pick up the pieces of sushi. Best of the lot was the lean tuna, which we liked better than the otoro (fatty tuna) served right after it; a really wonderful piece of aji (horse mackerel) that was oily and tender; and shiro ebi (tiny white prawns) that had a sticky texture and which the chef flavoured with yuzu zest.
The last piece of sushi, a piece of anago, was the best version of the sea eel that I've tasted, but the hirame (flounder) had too much wasabi.
Our seats were to the side of the chef, which gave us a good view of the whole preparation area. I noticed that the chef would slice the fish, then lay the pieces on a board while making the sushi for us and the other diners.
I realised that he was doing this to let the fish warm slightly because we were served two sushi courses that the chef took from the fridge and served immediately - the ikura (salmon roe) and uni (sea urchin).
They were so cold we couldn't really taste them, which was unfortunate, especially with the uni, which is one of my favourites.
After the maki rolls, miso soup and pickles, the waitress served wedges of crunchy persimmon.
Ginza-Iwa, 30/F Asia Pacific Centre, 8 Wyndham Street, Central (take the lift to the 29/F and walk up the stairs). Tel: 2619 0199. Open: noon-2.30pm (last order), 6.30pm-10.30pm (last order). Ginza Iwa Sumibi, tel: 2619 0229