Sunday, December 14, 2008

Two Pieces of Real Japan in Causeway Bay

My good friend DGT
organized dinner with me and another partner-in-crime last night. The evening turned out to be a charming experience evoking the "feel" I have of Japanese urban life, which I quite miss as I haven't travelled to Tokyo much since my work project finished a few months ago.

DGT booked a table at Ajitomi, a Japanese homestyle fusion restaurant I haven't been to in years. It was nice to see the place still going strong, especially during these trying times. I also came to appreciate the level of care and detail only a Japanese owner-chef could instill in the food, decor and ambiance.

We ordered a lot of food as usual. Notable mentions included a Kyoto green salad with black vinegar and a Jap style ox-tail curry rice. The black truffle mushroom spaghetti was nice but DGT reckoned the cream-based pastas tasted better. Our absolute favourite was a stewed pork meatball, with a sweet and highly flavourful dark sauce. It almost tasted like a good Shanghainese "lion's head". We loved the dish so much we ordered seconds and ended up having 10 golf-ball sized meatballs between the 3 of us.

But alas, we loved the sauce even more. We ordered extra rice to lap up the remains and repeatedly banned the waitress from taking away the plate. The owner chef was quite pleased and told us that her sauce had been essentially stewing for 4 years - no wonder!

To continue the theme of the night, DGT suggested drinks at the nearby "b.a.r. Executive Bar" operated by Ichiro Hiidome, who used to be the bar manager at the Tokyo Westin amongst other hotel credits. Coupled by the mentioning of the fact that the bar served whisky with a ball of ice, I knew instantly that this b.a.r. should not be missed.

The meticulous and quintessential Ichiro-san did not disappoint. Watching him construct cocktails was like a mini show. He stirred glasses swiftly with his end finger stuck out, and his arms would vibrate an at ultra high frequency when using the shaker. The rest of his body would follow his arms and his mouth even twitched somewhat to one side due to the intensity. This was rather mesmerizing if you were witnessing the act for the first time.

As for the results: his "green tea milk" cocktail had distinct hints of the key ingredients without being overwhelming. A "Starbucks #2" had layers and layers of milk and rich coffee, a torched top, and coffee ice cubes to ensure no taste dilution until the end. My Yamazaki 12-years was no slouch, although I preferred something stronger for sure. Anyway, the chilled glass and ice ball made up for the experience. Subsequent orders of fresh mango champagne and Japanese pear juice with red passion fruit liqueur were of decent quality - but we were probably longing more for concoctions named "XYZ" or, simply, "Special" that Ichiro-san made for other customers. time, I know I will be back soon.

Ajitomi and b.a.r. both made me feel like I stepped into actual pieces of local Japan in HK, a rarity in my experience. My thanks to DGT for bringing me along.

Ajitomi - 7/F Circle Plaza, 28 Tang Lung Street T: 2836 0671

b.a.r. Executive Bar - 27/F Bartlock Centre, 3 Yiu Wat Street T: 2893 2080

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