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.

Short rib and tongue

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.

Gyoza

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