Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hong Kong - Gin Sai 吟彩

Gin Sai is part of the trio of restaurants in the new and luxurious Oakhill apartments in Wanchai, that have opened to "critical acclaim", owned by the Lai Sun group, perhaps known first and foremost for the prices of their establishments, but impossible to get last minute reservations.  (Yes, I suppose Hong Kong is still very much thriving.)  So I was pleasantly surprised to have been able to get into Gin Sai on a Friday night.  It wasn't that new when I first visited but it looked to be a "fly-swatting" night, at least on ground level.  But having valet-ed the car, it was a little too late.

I am not a huge fan of oden, a broth based dish served in wintry Japan comprising a variety of ingredients depending on where you eat it, but fish cakes, tofu and boiled radishes seem to be the order of most days.  Being one of their specialties, I actually enjoyed the very tasty but light broth which I finished.  My choices of radish, a steamed squid and meatball dumpling, alongside a deep fried tofu with chopped vegetables and ground fish were actually good.  Fresh and obviously not processed unlike some places.  Serving it with a dollop of mustard on the side added a little pungency and kick to an otherwise mild dish.

Hokkaido Potato Salad
Having traveled the week and not having eaten less than healthily, I thought a salad would be good.  But I had no difficulty succumbing to the recommended potato salad, which was bound together with a fragrant and addictive eggy dressing.  So much for fiber.  I guess the consolation is that they had lettuce on the side.

Tempura crab claw and sea urchin
This was just appropriately decadent for the lazy.  No peeling of crab necessary and lightly battered and deep fried.  Any uncomfortable heat taken away by the creamy topping of cool fresh sea urchin, the sea sweetness accentuated by a little soy sauce.  Gone too quickly...

Robatayaki ox tongue
This was supposedly French.  Whichever French ox it came from, it was pretty tender with a bite.  Just lightly seasoned and grilled to perfection, good with a little wholegrain mustard, and cold sake if you get some.

Chicken meatball
However, I didn't enjoy this as much since I too like my meatballs only lightly seasoned and with enough crunch from the cartilage they infused it with.  This one was distracting with hints of ginger and garlic.  Not overwhelming but obvious enough for it to be distracting.

Seasonal claypot rice
This was by far my favorite dish of the evening.  And we had to wait a good 45 minutes for this.  Thank goodness for free Wifi.

Claypot rice cooked to perfection with sea urchin, crab meat and egg white, laced with fresh chopped scallions.  And bonus?  More fresh sea urchin.

The result?  A sea-tasty bowl of well formed rice with a little crunch from the slightly charred bits of rice nearest the base of the claypot.  Rice was high quality and well cooked to be separate and distinct - an important factor for me.  Mouthfuls of varied textures and tastes, all different depending on what you pick up with your spoon.  So good I doggy-bagged the leftovers and had it 2 days later.  It was still good.

They had an interesting array of Western style desserts rather than the usual Japanese offerings, probably because it is the same pastry kitchen as Wagyu Takumi, the French-Japanese restaurant member of the same group.  We selected swiss rolls topped with different berries.  Use of good ingredients here ensured the result was a lightly sweet end to a decent dinner.

While prices aren't low, the plus is a comfortable and quiet dining experience away from the world of Suzie Wong that is not far away.  A big bonus in an overcrowded Hong Kong these days.

Shop 3-7, G/F The Oakhill, 
32-38 Cross Lane
Tel: +852-25741118

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