The dynamic duo of Norihisa Maeda and Hideki Fujikawa takes Mizumi at Wynn Macau to new culinary heights
One hailed from Osaka and the other from Hokkaido, but together the formidable pair has earned plenty Michelin and Forbes stars for Mizumi to be placed high on the must visit list of gourmands.
Mastering the Japanese culinary arts
Inspired by the television cooking show Iron Chef, Norihisa Maeda left Osaka at age 15 to go to Tokyo to learn his trade. Like most chefs, what he learnt at his first job has had the most significant impact on him. “I discovered the culinary arts of Japan, and my cooking techniques today and the dishes I prepared are based on what I learnt, even though I continue to improve the dishes. I appreciate kaiseki cuisine, be it traditional or modern, for its sophistication and complexity. The cooking style of traditional kaiseki is simpler, while modern kaiseki tends to be more complicated, with a taste combination that is unique,” says Maeda, Chef de Cuisine.
Since then, Maeda has perfected his skills over a 32-year career in the kitchen in Japan, Hong Kong and Macau. To him, the secret of his cooking is constant exposure, study, and experimentation.
For Hideki Fujikawa, Master Sushi Chef, his love of sushi which his family could only indulge in on special occasions brought him to his apprenticeship at the revered, two-Michelin starred Sushi Zen in Hokkaido when he was 18. Mentored by the great Tustomu Shimamiya who received the prestigious national ‘Master Contemporary Craftsman’ award, Fujikawa became competent enough in three short years to enable him to earn a spot behind the sushi counter to help the chef. After that, he was sent to Wynn Macau by his mentor who also serves as a consultant Master of Sushi for Mizumi.
“My most memorable experience at Sushi Zen was the first time I sliced fish for a guest. I was so nervous, and my hands were shaking. I wanted to do a good job, but didn’t want to cut my hand,” recalls Fujikawa. Today he faces no such problem, having mastered the technique with aplomb.
A star-studded menu
A culinary force to be reckoned with, the dynamic duo has garnered the industry’s most prestigious awards for Mizumi. In 2017 and 2018, the restaurant was bestowed two Michelin stars by the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau, as well named a Forbes Travel Guide five-star restaurant.
An example of its culinary finesse is the wagyu beef teppanyaki. “We use 29-month old gourmet Ishigaki beef from Okinawa prized for its perfect marbling, amazing flavour and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. We slow cook it to perfection before quickly heating it on the teppan, ensuring that the surface is crispy while the meat remains tender,” explains Maeda.
When it comes to sushi, Fujikawa prepares them from the heart, with love. Though he maintains the Hokkaido style that he was trained in, he’s adept at adding a touch of innovation. The o-toro sushi is a perfect showcase of his skills. Instead of using one piece of fatty tuna, he stacks five to six ultra-thin slices of the fish with cleaned tendons together to create an incredible melt-in-your-mouth feeling that is rich with umami. For a new creation, he turns to chu-toro. “Inspired by the popular seared salmon sushi, I seared the chu-toro slightly, then marinate it in a special soya sauce mixed with tuna dashi for one day for an umami-rich flavour. To serve, I sliced the marinated chu-toro thinly and stacked two to three pieces together.”
Catering to guests’ taste
In addition to their expertise, another secret to the chefs’ success is their desire to cater to their guests’ taste. “Hong Kong had the greatest impact on me as a chef. In Japan, my customers thought my food was good. It came as a shock to me in Hong Kong when I received some comments that the taste was not good enough. I have learnt a lot about local preferences since then and have adapted accordingly. I am very open to guests’ feedback, and they motivate me to improve,” says Maeda.
Fujikawa, in the meantime, observes his customers from his vantage point behind the sushi counter. “I want to entertain guests and make them feel happy. Even though I may not be able to understand their language, I observe carefully their reaction from their first bite to see whether they are pleased with the sushi. If not, I will adjust with the next piece.”
It’s this instinct, attention to detail, commitment to continuous learning and improvement that will see them reaching the absolute pinnacle of the star galaxy.
Mizumi at Wynn Macau
Address: G/F, Wynn Macau, Rua Cidade de Sintra, NAPE, Macau
Tel: +853 8986 3663
Mon, Wed to Sun: 5:30pm to 11:30pm