LoveBites Lunches: Nadaman

Every now and then, one deserves a little treat in the form of a nice lunch in the middle of a work day, and whilst my favourite Japanese lunch stop is still Sushi Kuu (addicted to their sashimi salad!), I had a cheeky treat at Nadaman the other day and I tell you, their tonkatsu set really hits the spot!

Lunch sets range from HK$240-$530. True, it’s not the best value Japanese lunch set on the block, but you pay for the setting, quality and 5 star hotel experience. Whilst I feel that the assorted sushi set most probably would leave a grown man still hungry, who wants too eat too much in the middle of the day and snooze in front of the screen afterwards anyway? The tonkatsu set is very generous, with a good range of side dishes and a killer chawanmushi (the recipe on their website, check it out!). The tonkatsu is crispy and juicy, with a nice big heap of thinly shredded cabbage that goes down very well with their tangy Japanese salad dressing.

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Sushi Set – Appetiser, assorted sushi, chirashi sushi rice and clear soup HK$360

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Kaisen Don and Ebi Tempura Soba Set: Appetiser, assorted sushi rice, cold udon and shrimp tempura HK$260

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Tonkatsu Set: Appetiser, steamed egg custard, deep fried Kagoshima pork cutlet, rice, pickles and soya bean soup HK$380

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A particularly good chawanmushi

The setting is bright and cheery, and some of the waitstaff have been working there for decades. Our server was a sweet older woman who was very attentive – almost too attentive actually. She continued to take individual dishes away as soon as we finished them, interrupting our conversation. But she was super sweet, so we just grumbled a bit amongst ourselves and didn’t say anything.

If you really feel like treating yourself, I highly recommend that you go in the evening to try Nadaman’s supreme teppanyaki dinner (HK$1,380) – if you do, you must get a seat at the teppan counter to enjoy the full experience.

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Tokio Joe and the Sony Cybershot RX100

Tokio Joe is  a LKF stalwart and part of the Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments Group, it has been there for yonks and is always packed for lunch, and I had never been there!  I needed to try this place out, and since it’s my mum’s birthday week, I decided to treat her to some raw fish.  Tokyo Joe has a great selection of lunch sets, both single dish sets and combination sets, and all are served with complimentary miso soup, daily appetiser, tea and dessert.

As a side note, I have started to use my new Sony RX100 camera to shoot my food porn (my photographer bro gave it to me for my birthday, thanks so much little bro!) – it has a Carl Zeiss lens and is said to be ‘the best pocket camera ever made’. I have to say, I am inclined to agree! It takes amazing shots with razor sharp image quality and professional-looking depth of field, as well as great low-light performance for when I’m out for dinner. I love the adjustable flip screen, which helps to take direct overhead shots of plates, and also the bendable flash (although I’m afraid that breakage risk is a bit higher) for bouncing the flash off the ceiling for more ambient lighting.  I must say, my focusing skills are a little out of whack in some of these photos, but I’m still learning how to use it’s many functions and settings.

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Complimentary Tomato Salad – the daily appetiser

We started off with a wonderfully refreshing appetiser – fresh tomatoes, in a soya sauce/olive oil dressing and topped with sweet and crunchy caremelised red onion. Really nice.

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Horen So Goma-Ae (Spinach Salad with Sesame Dressing) HK$ 75

This spinach salad was very nicely presented in a roll-shape – you peel off the crisp stalks of cold spinach and dip them (or rather, drench them, as I do) in the creamy sesame sauce.

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Spicy Toro Tartare HK$ 290

This toro tartare is one of Tokio Joe’s signature dishes, and for good reason. A generous mound of spicy, crunchy, creamy tuna tartare sits on lettuce for easy transfer from plate to mouth. I really want to try making this at home, so we made an effort to dissect the tuna tartare and put together a recipe – tuna, spring onion, fried spring roll wrapper, (maybe a touch of) some minced shallot,  La-Yu chili oil, Japanese mayonnaise.

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Deluxe Lunch Box HK$ 225

I love the choices available in the deluxe lunch box – it’s a great selection of everything one might want from a Japanese lunch, and I thought it was extremely well-priced for what you’re given.

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LoveBites Lunches: Sushi Kuu

We all have those places – those places that we go to over and over again, and every time, we order the same thing. Because we know it’s good, because we have a craving for it, because we know we love it. The Sashimi Salad at Sushi Kuu is my ‘thing’. There are so many delicious choices on the lunch menu, and yet most of the time I say no to the menu, and I order the sashimi salad.

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Sashimi Salad

Salad greens, dressed with a yummy yuzu dressing, and topped with a generous amount of fresh sashimi, and this amazing crunchy stuff, it hits the spot. It satisfies the hunger without being too filling. I have been ordering it for years, and the portions have always remained consistent, as well at the selection of fish. As an added bonus, it’s always the quickest dish to arrive, so if you’re in a rush, it’s a good one to order.

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All my favorite sashimi selections

The salad has all of my favorite sashimi selections: scallop, salmon, sweet shrimp, hamachi and tuna.

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Yum

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Sen Ryo: Fresh Sashimi, Unbeatable Prices

What do I do if I’m craving some sashimi but I don’t want to pay through the teeth? Why, go to Sen Ryo of course!

There are a few places here in Hong Kong that serve sashimi at unbelievable prices. When I was in high school, we would catch the bus down to Causeway Bay and grab a seat next to the conveyor belt at Genki Sushi, Sen Ryo’s cheaper sister restaurant. Sushi One is Causeway Bay was also a favorite for a short period of time after it first opened, but when the sashimi quality started getting noticeably worse, it spelled the end of my custom there.

Thank goodness my sushi spending is no longer limited to a pocket-money budget, and Genki Sushi is a thing of the past. Whilst Sushi Shin and Sushi Kuu are my favorites, if I’m in the mood for a sashimi super feast, Sen Ryo is it – with it’s fresh seafood, consistent quality and crazily unbeatable prices. For fresh fish that is imported from Japan, you’re not going to get better than this – eat to your hearts content, until you are close to bursting, and you will still only pay around $150-$200 per person.

A loaded conveyor belt

A loaded conveyor belt

During the main dining hours, the sushi belt is loaded with colourful plates of different choices from the menu. If you’re short on time, then this is the way to go, but I prefer to order fresh from the menu. The menu is extensive, featuring sushi, sashimi, hand rolls, salads, grilled and cooked items and desserts. Check out their full menu and prices here on their website.

Sen Ryo unfortunately doesn’t take bookings, so if you are going for lunch, unless you show up at 12pm or even 11.45am to be sure, you will wait 45 minutes to an hour for your table, especially if you have a party larger than 4.

If you become a Sen-Ryo Member, you can join the online queue for your restaurant of choice via their app to save time. Simply ask for a points card at one of their outlets and spend $1200 within two months (very easily done).

Here are some of my favorites …

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Tai Hang Eats: Katte Shabu Shabu

It’s starting to get HOT ‘n SUNNY, Hong Kong! Could this mean the first scorching Rugby 7’s weekend that we’ve seen in a few years (fingers crossed)? One can hope … still, you may have a week or two to sneak in some tummy-warming shabu shabu sessions before the real heat comes. We paid our first visit to Katte Shabu Shabu a couple of weekends ago with our foodie friends and sat at the 8 person counter table. Each setting is complete with your own electric hot plate which heats your individual hot pot – a nice touch! It was better to not have to share, and a smaller and shallower bowl means you can keep better track of what goes into your pot.

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We all started off with a chilled glass of Hitachino Nest White Ale, a superbly refreshing and surprisingly tasty beer with hints of orange! I’m not a huge beer drinker but am always up for a Japanese brew, as I find they tend to be more delicately flavoured. You can find the beers at several restaurants around town, and if you’re a real enthusiast, you can place an order with their Hong Kong distributor GoTech Limited, and have it delivered straight to your front door! All information is available on their very well designed (and dare I say cute) website.

 

hitachino nest beer

The menu is designed so that you order a Shabu Shabu Dinner Set each. Some of us went for the Deluxe Set, which features A5 Kyushu Beef Sirloin/Ribeye in 80g (HK$380) or 150g (HK$600) portions. Others opted for the Seafood Set: oyster, prawn and 200g of horsehair crab for HK$480. The menu states that the Seafood Set has to be ordered 12 hours in advance (!!), but we didn’t have an issue. I unfortunately didn’t take a picture of it, but it was a very generous plate of quality fresh seafood, and each set comes with assorted raw vegetables, noodles, soup and a dessert.

The Japanese take their beef very seriously such that some beef connoisseurs might even be able to differentiate the type of animal and the terroir which it was reared on! Let’s get our terminology straight here – the term ‘wagyu’ refers literally to ‘Japanese cows’. Within the wagyu umbrella are several breeds of cattle, which are often referred to in name by the prefecture that produced them. There are a few different types of cattle that are reared on the island of Kyushu, and it wasn’t specified which one we were eating at Katte.

‘A5’ refers to the Japanese Wagyu Beef Grading classification, A5 being the best standard of beef that you can get your hands on! The grading is determined by the yield grade A-C and quality (referring to marbling) grade 1-5 of the beef. Here’s more information if you’re interested!

If you want to know more, Asia Tatler has written a great article about Wagyu Beef.

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A large portion of vegetables, making this quite a healthy meal!

Some of us chose the Red Snapper broth, whilst others chose the Sukiyaki broth. The Red Snapper broth was milky white in colour and quite mild in taste in the beginning, but never have I drank so much broth at the end of my meal! Once we had our full and the dipping subsided, the broth had absorbed all the flavour of the veggies, beef and seafood such that it’s taste is so wonderful that you can’t stop dunking your spoon. The Sukiyaki broth was also surprisingly nice, not too sweet and actually preferable for dipping the pork slices and seafood. If two of you are dining together, I would suggest getting one of each broth and trying them both.

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From the Dinner Set: Clam Soup

The clam soup almost too delicately flavoured. It was a nice way to warm up the stomach before starting with the shabu shabu, but other than that, nothing to write home about. And giving you one clam is a bit stingy!!

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The $600 set comes with 5-6 slices of A5 Kyushu beef

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The $380 Deluxe Set comes with 3 slices of A5 Kyushu beef

I didn’t want to be limited to just eating beef or seafood, so I decided to take the smaller beef set, and for the same price as the larger set, I ordered a selection of other things from the hot pot and kushiyaki menus. Having reviewed the photos afterwards, my beef looked much more marbled then the other beef – why the discrepancy I wonder?

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From the Hot Pot Menu: Japanese Pork Slices HK$150

The Japanese pork slices were very flavourful and although a bit chewy, they were excellent dipped in the Sukiyaki broth!

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From the Hot Pot menu: Scallops HK$60

These scallops are humongous! I feel that scallops really shine the most when they are grilled, and it was almost a waste to dip them in a hot pot. Nevertheless, they were nice and meaty, and a generous portion for $60.

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From the Kushiyaki menu: Grilled Ox Tongue with Salt HK$46 per skewer

The Ox Tongue was really well seasoned and whilst one or two of the pieces were a bit chewy, the rest was nice and tender and definitely up there as one of the better Ox Tongue kushiyaki that I have tried. Definitely better than the ones at Kushiyaki Beco, though not as amazing as the ones at 3 Monkeys.

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LoveBites Lunches: Hatsu Japanese Restaurant

It seems as if all I’m writing about these days is Japanese food, but can you blame me? It’s tasty, light, and comforting food. If you stick to the good stuff, you don’t have to feel guilty about eating lots ‘n lots! More than anything, I enjoy being able to enjoy several things in small portions. The first fresh, cold bite of a piece of salmon sashimi, the smoothness of chawanmushi as it slides off your tongue and down your throat, the comforting warmth of miso soup and the crunch of tempura – all those pleasures, served on cute little colourful dishes on one platter, really turn me on.  Hatsu just recently opened in Bank of America Tower last year, and I’m sure for the office-folk it’s a welcomed replacement of the Burger King that used to be in it’s place. I was a bit sad to find out though. I have a secret love affair with The King – I sneak out sometimes when no one’s looking for some tasty buns ‘n fries …

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A table by the window…

Anyway, back to the point! I requested a table by the window, and with the sun shining outside I sipped on the green tea in my very cute little teacup, and surveyed the menu. There is a HUGE selection of lunch sets – 6 whole pages to be exact, plus another Special menu featuring hotpot. Bento boxes, sushi and sashimi sets, fatty tuna over rice, steak, tonkatsu, katsudon, eel rice, salt-grilled mackerel, sukiyaki, tempura … they’ve got it all! Each one is served with an appetiser, chawanmushi, miso soup and dessert, and you can also help yourself to the salad bar. The lunch sets range from HK$160-$280, and it’s a really great value set lunch if you ask me!

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The self-service salad bar

TN and I both opted for the hotpot options, tempura hotpot for me, and the beef hotpot for her.

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Tempura hotpot lunch set HK$180

The set came with a generous selection of nigiri and maki rolls, all the favorites which were fresh and do well to satisfy a raw fish craving.

Fresh Nagiri, and all my favorites!

Fresh nigiri, and all my favorites!

By the time we had gotten around to the hotpots, if my tempura had been crispy to start, it definitely was not at this point. That was a real shame – perhaps next time I’ll ask them to serve it on the side. Soggy batter definitely subtracted from the full enjoyment of this dish, however everything else was very satisfactory. Hey, we’re not expecting haute cuisine here, and it was really enjoyable for what it was. I will most definitely revisit, it’s a great spot for lunch.

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Tempura Hotpot

Additional note made on 25th March 2013: I went to Hatsu for the second time for lunch today and was disappointed. The udon noodles were terribly soggy, and the sushi wasn’t as fresh. Perhaps it was because we visited towards the end of serving at 1-2pm, but it certainly wasn’t consistent with the first time I was there.

 

Hatsu

Address: Shop G4, G/F, Bank of America Tower, 12 Harcourt Road
Tel: 2971 0002

Kushiyaki Beco, and the first time I tasted yuzukosho

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The Chefs Recommendation board

I recently asked a friend, who lived for several years in Tokyo, what her favorite Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong is – and Beco was her answer. Never one to ignore a good recommendation, I booked a table there as soon an an opportunity arose. She then very sweetly sent me a list of things to eat, “in order of importance” 🙂

Butter-yaki scallops
Short rib yakitori
Tofu steak
Croquette
Goya Chanpuru
Beco Pork Miso Soup
Liver yakitori (for the liver lovers)

Opened in 2011, a collaboration between Sushi Kuu chef Satoru Mukogawa and On Lot 10’s David Lai, Kushiyaki Beco is located along one of the stairway streets off Hollywood Road, where La Cabane Cellar is. It’s a small, cozy eaterie reminiscent of the tiny yakitori restaurants in Shinjuku. With just 20 seats on the ground level and around the same upstairs, it’s casual and quite unassuming, as some of my favorite restaurants tend to be. I saw Quail Egg Skewers on the Specials board, and I knew we were onto a good start.

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Ground level dining

I was wondering what the name meant, and found out that kushiyaki means ‘grilled skewer”. I asked myself, doesn’t yakitori mean then same thing? Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Yakitori (焼き鳥, やきとり, ヤキトリ?), grilled chicken, is commonly a Japanese type of skewered chicken. The term “yakitori” can also refer to skewered food in general. Kushiyaki (skewer grilled), is a formal term that encompasses both poultry and non-poultry items, skewered and grilled. Both yakitori and kushiyaki mean the same, so the terms are used interchangeably in Japanese society.

You learn something new every day!

IMG_4336Another new discovery that evening was that of yuzukosho (yuzu paste), simply the most bad-ass crazy-awesome sauce out there. It’s a fermented paste made out of yuzu orange peel, chilis and salt. The type of yusukosho depends on the the colour of the chili used – bright green for green chilies, and orange-y red with red chilies.

The taste and mouth-feel of this paste is quite extraordinary. At first taste it is salty, but then your tongue is tricked into thinking it’s more bitter than salty, due to the yuzu peel. Then the chili kicks in, not a kill-your-palate burn, but a warm, subtle numbing heat.  Forget wasabi, I am now going to be using yuzukosho with everything! Want to know more? Check it out here.

At Beco, yuzukosho was served with the short-rib skewers and ox tongue skewers. The short-rib is beautifully tender and incredibly tasty, and whilst the ox tongue had a nice texture, it wasn’t as flavourful as I would have hoped.

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Short rib (HK$60 per skewer) and  ox tongue (HK$65 per skewer)

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Tofu steak  – HK$45 for 3 pieces

The grilled tofu ‘steaks’ were smeared with a yuzu jam and topped with pine nuts and red pepper threads, served atop a piece of lettuce for easier transfer from plate to mouth. Again, I was a big fan of the yuzu jam, but the tofu wasn’t seasoned enough for me, and it was a bit bland.

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Grilled Hokkaido Scallop “butter-yaki” HK$100 each

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Gyotaku – dinner time!

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Ever since DW told me about the wagyu and truffle hand rolls here and how amazing they were, I have been trying to find an opportunity to get my hands on one of those rolls!

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Hamachi Tataki Salad (HK$100)

After a very satisfying set lunch at Gyotaku, which featured more of the traditional and predictable Japanese fare, I was excited to try their “creative sushi” items, as well as some of the signature dishes that I had read about in anticipation of the meal.

First off was the Hamachi Tataki Salad, featuring salad greens and seared hamachi with a sesame dressing. The sesame flavour were nice and the dressing not too heavy, the serving of hamachi was quite generous for the price. I still am totally smitten with the sashimi salad and the Japanese black pork shabu shabu salad at Sushi Kuu however, which remain the favorites.

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Gyoza (HK$40)

 The gyoza were very sub-standard and not a good example of the creativity featured on their menu. They could have also done with more filling.

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Spicy Tuna Maki HK$120

Now, these maki were AMAZING! After eating a VERY disappointing Spicy Tuna Maki at Taku the week before, this one is visually impressive, with a nice crunch from the cucumber, a spicy minced tuna filling, and a super yummy spicy sauce garnish. I’ll go back for that. Continue reading

Taku – overhyped tofu and killer onsen egg!

Searching for a late night bite to eat last Friday, and with a particular craving for Japanese food, we happily came across Taku after finding out that Gyotaku had already closed their kitchen for the night – I was happy to taku what I could get at that point.  I had eaten dinner here before and it was not particularly memorable. Last year however, it had been a big regret that I missed the special menu by local celebrity chef Christian Yang, so in we went.

Taku makes an effort to stands out from other Japanese restaurants in two ways, however I’m not entirely convinced with them. They make their own tofu each day, and have a nice selection of chilled, steamed and fried (agedashi-style) dishes based on this humble ingredient. I was excited to try it and although agedashi tofu rocks my world, I thought a chilled option would really let the taste of the tofu shine. It ended in unfortunate disappointment, as I found the texture of the tofu too grainy to be called silken, and with a ever so slight whiff of un-freshness. Now, I am no tofu expert, but I certainly have had much better elsewhere.

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“The way”

At Taku, you aren’t provided with little dishes in which to pour your individual serving of soy sauce. Here, you paint your sushi! There is a communal pot and brush on each table – whilst an original idea, I’m not sure whether the people before me were as careful not to get a fish roe or two on the brush before sticking it back in that pot. To be fair, I did see them take all the pots away at the end of service to be emptied. Still, its a tad unhygienic isn’t it, not to mention a bit of a waste? I still ended up asking for a little dish and pouring it anyway…

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Painting sushi…

And now, for the food!

The true highlight of our meal, and the one thing that would keep me going back for more, is Taku’s Seafood Onsen Egg – it is truly a magnificent dish. This is not just a pretty face – not only does it look amazing, it’s packed with a sweet-salty flavour of the sauce, the firm freshness of the raw scallop, the silkiness of the uni, the POP of the salmon roe, and the crunch of the scallions made this (literally) one of the best Japanese dishes I’ve ever tasted. Why have I never ordered onsen egg before??

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Seafood Onsen Egg HK$68

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LoveBites Lunches: Gyotaku

Gyotaku

Are you looking for a nice alternative for a relatively light Japanese  set lunch other than Sushi Kuu in Central? If yes, then we are in the same boat. I LOVE Sushi Kuu, but I ALWAYS go there. So when I saw Gyotaku flash by on my Facebook news feed (I know, I know), I clicked.  I work from home mainly, and thus do not know the weekday lunch scene too well – for something like this, one must rely on recommendations!

‘Gyotaku’ is a Japanese traditional method of fish printing. The method was initially used by fisherman in order to record their catches, and is now also practiced as a form of art. As far as I remember, there is no tribute to ‘gyotaku’ in the restaurant apart from their logo, and  but we were too involved in ordering and then catching up. The food at Gyotaku is meant to be creative/fusion, my Facebook buddy DW told me that I just HAD TO try to the wagyu beef hand rolls, but wanting to watch the calories after the holidays, CM and I went for the set lunches instead.

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Sweet Kabayaki Eel lunch set $140

This eel dish was really quite wonderful. Moist and full of flavour, nicely charred from the grill, it was a real winner.

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Side salad

The set comes with the usual rice and miso soup, as well as a side salad, pickles and dessert. All were satisfactory!

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Side sashimi (extra $30)

You can pay an extra $30 for a side of sashimi, which is definitely worth it of you’re craving some fresh, cold raw fish. Or you can also choose from the a la carte menu.

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Grilled Miso Cod Fish Set $140

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