New & Noted: Kousen Irori Sumiyaki, North Point – grilled Japanese the speciality, but claypot rice the best dish we had
With set menus ranging in price from HK$680 to HK$1,580, this restaurant’s staff should be more knowledgeable about menu items. Beef tongue, Kagoshima eel and uni claypot rice were highlights
In case you couldn’t tell from the name that Kousen Irori Sumiyaki specialises in grilled items, the two grills – one electric, the other heated by charcoal (sumi) – that were at the centre of the U-shaped dining counter make it obvious.
The menu has a long list of kushiyaki (grilled) items but also offers three sets, ranging from HK$680 to HK$1,580. We chose the mid-priced one, with appetiser, eight kushiyaki dishes, claypot rice, soup and dessert, for HK$880.
We liked most of the dishes, but at this price point, the staff should have been more knowledgeable about what they were serving. Our conversations went something like this: “What is this?” “Lime.” “Yes, I know, but what kind of lime?” “Japanese lime.” “Is it sudachi?” “Let me ask the chef.” (As we suspected, it was sudachi.) The same thing happened when we asked about the oyster, beef and clam.
The meal started off well with an appetiser of seaweed, uni (sea urchin), ginger and a slice of sweet tomato in a tangy, refreshing broth. We also liked the warm, grilled Hiroshima oyster, which was plump and succulent.
Grilled alphonsino, on the other hand, was dull, as was the grilled chicken wing. The Kagoshima beef wasn’t nearly as luscious as others we have tasted, but its flavour was enhanced by an addictive dry dip that contained garlic, dried fish and sesame seeds (it was so good they should consider selling it). Kabocha (pumpkin), served at the same time, was dry.
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Thin slices of beef tongue, served with finely shredded negi (spring onion) and a spear of myoga (Japanese ginger), was light and delicious. Kagoshima wild eel had a sauce that was less sweet and sticky than other versions, but the flesh had a delicate crust and moist interior.
The uni claypot rice served as the last savoury course was so good we’d come back just for that. The rice had a lovely texture, and there was plenty of uni.
Dessert of raindrop cake with kinako (soybean powder) was a delicate and unusual way to end the meal.
Kousen Irori Sumiyaki, China United Centre, 28 Marble Road, North Point, tel: 2885 8830. From HK$680 to HK$1,580