Gin Sai is located in the Oakhill, that somewhat random corner of Wan Chai with a number of high-end Japanese restaurants. Wagyu Takumi is the flashiest option, somewhere you feel you may need a special mortgage to get dinner, but the omakase menu at Gin Sai starts from a decidedly reasonable $480.
It’s been open for three years now with chef Ogawa-San leading the kitchen and a team who, unlike most Japanese restaurants which specialise in one or two areas, cover off pretty much all the bases between them. So there’s sashimi and seiro mushi, ramen and tempura, robatayaki and yakitori. Generally speaking, they make a decent job of them, even if the execution isn’t up to the exacting standards you’d expect from standalone specialists.
With 70 covers and private dining in a big space, you never feel cramped or that you risk eating your neighbour’s plate by mistake. That *almost happened to me at Genko Sushi. All their produce is from Japan including, of course, their sake, served in your choice of glass:
Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing. Not quite Toritama, but still some fine char on the little bird.
Scallop with bamboo shoot, jelly and choi sum, served on a beautiful shell.
Mackerel, golden eyed snapper and fatty toro tuna:
There were special sauces for the tempura, including an unusual but appealing turnip purée.
The two sauces in bowls were for the seiro mushi, a decidedly healthy way of steam cooking in wooden boxes. With no oil or even seasoning, as is traditional, it needed the sauces.
The movie star hair of the guy preparing it was impressive:
The first tempura made me laugh out loud, probably inappropriately. Apparently getting it to stand is quite the feat.
Abalone was incredibly tender, the first time it has convinced me as an ingredient. Normally it’s had the textural appeal of a squash ball, but here I finally got it. Better late than never.
Tempura has to have moisture in the product being battered and fried, hence why vegetables or seafood are perfect. As in fish and chips. Crab with a generous dollop of uni the colour of Amber.
The final version of squid in Shiso leaf was a great bite, especially so in that yuzu dip.
The biggest surprise was saved til last, a frankly absurd combination of persimmon… and cheese. One of those flavour revelations which should never work but absolutely does. Chef explained he experimented with lots of fruit until the persimmon nailed it.
A final hurrah with a sweet potato dessert. Cooked for 40 minutes in tempura batter – yup, 40 – you then dip it in brandy then icing sugar.
There were other dishes along the way, making for a generous two and a half hour soiree. Even though there’s not exactly a shortage of Japanese restaurants in town, Gin Sai has earned its place as somewhere with a good range of techniques under one roof, with frying top amongst them.