Hashida Sushi @ Mandarin Orchard

Hashida Sushi is a fine dining sushi establishment at Mandarin Gallery. This is master sushi chef Tokio Hashida’s first restaurant outside of Japan. Choose from three lunch sets – $80, $120 or $250. For the higher end set lunches, you will get more premium seasonal fish, sashimi and others. We settled for the modest $120.

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We sat in a cosy six-seater room, and other people only joined us 1 hour later. So we had our chef all to ourselves! Our chef, Kimura Tomoo, was extremely knowledgeable, with years of experience at restaurants in Tokyo’s ginza, roppongi and akasaka areas. He very earnestly described every dish, ingredient and preparation method to us despite struggling with English at times. There were never ending stories, and so much to learn; for example the origins, the seasons, and the culture in Japan. His passion was an integral part of our experience at Hashida.

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By the way, see the knife there. That is an $8000 knife.

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To start with, we had a soya bean skin yudofu, with salmon roe and bonito jelly. Vegetarian monks used to eat this in ancient Japan, but without the roe of course. Very mild and clean flavours from the soya skin, complemented perfectly by the jelly and roe.

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Chawanmushi with scallop and white asparagus. It was soupier than usual chawanmushi. This soup was made from sakura leaf, since sakura is in season now. (Sakura starts to bloom from the south of Japan around this time, and proceeds upstate until it reaches the north in about May. During this season, Japanese enjoy sitting under cherry blossom trees and drinking sake, much like our Chinese mid-autumn festival, where we eat mooncake and drink tea.)

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The meal officially begins and sushi is served. There were 9 different sushi. The first sushi was ishikaya (striped sea perch). It is an amazing white fish with a bouncy texture, and you can taste the sweetness very subtly creep up on you.

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Kampachi (amberjack) has an almost rubber-like texture, like a firm jelly that is very chewy. Quite similar to the previous fish.

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Shimaji (Jack mackerel). Sushi is all about the balance of flavours. Instead of the usual wasabi in sushi, our chef replaced it with Japanese lime instead, because wasabi would be too strong and overpower the taste of the mackerel. The Japanese lime adjusts for the perfect balance of flavours.

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Maguro (blue fin tuna) you might think is uninteresting at first, but our chef used a special marinade to prepare the fish. It is made from soya sauce, Japanese sweet wine, sake, and others that I cannot remember right now. Notice how only the alcohols stuck with me. Hmm. Maguro is not my personal favourite fish, but I do love the dressing very much.

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Taira gai (pen shell clam), is an interesting type of shellfish that I would describe as a crunchy scallop. You can only find it in south Japan. It was served aburi style, and this was a dish that truly blew us away.

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Same kawa (a kind of small halibut) was also another noteworthy fish. Some people nickname it shark’s skin, because it looks like it on the outside. The texture was fatty and soft, like melt-in-your-mouth, but not too fatty as it still held a level of firmness.

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At this point, we were served some miso soup, a welcome warmth after all that cold food. This special miso soup came with a generous number of clams.Miso soup and its paste vary with each prefecture in Japan. This particular miso soup we had is said to have liver detox properties, which delighted us because heaven knows we need it. Our chef encouraged us to drink up too :p

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Ever the crowd pleaser, the appearance of uni ensued in about 5 minutes of photo taking. A truly decadent dish that needs no words at all. We all go a bit weak for uni don’t we? And to say they were generous with the portion would be an understatement. There was SO MUCH!

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Our final sushi was a chutoro, also a perennial favourite.

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The tiny unsuspecting yellow cube below is a tamago, but don’t let it fool you. Before we dug in, our chef kept proclaiming that it was a cake. And I didn’t really get it, until I actually sank my teeth in. It is a very special tamago, very sweet, with a sponge cake texture. Super fluffy like those Japanese cheese cakes. That’s why in the past, Japanese used to eat tamago as a dessert rather than as sushi.

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We have reached the end of our gastronomic adventure, but even the closing was epic. Japanese fruits – strawberry and melon were unbelievably sweet.

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If you are interested in going for dinner, it is omakase style. But you can speak to your chef if you have any preferences, allergies, or budget. It is useful to note that Hashida is a sushi restaurant, so there is little to no hot food served, besides maybe chawanmushi and aburi style sashimi. If you favour beef/duck in your sushi, you will find none here as fresh fish is the star at the restaurant.

A special mention to my dear friend, who generously treated me to this meal. I am very grateful you introduced me to Hashida. It is always a joy to dine with fellow foodies, and enjoy the finer things in life together. Good things are meant to be shared. In total, it was $290 for two people after tax. We are coming back again soon!

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St. John (Nose to Tail Dining) @ London

Nose to tail dining is a fairly recent culinary trend that has been rippling through the foodie world, even finding some footing in our sunny island (ie WOLF Nose to Tail Dining). If you are not familiar with the concept, it refers to utilising every part of the animal in food preparation, including those rarely used in conventional cuisine like offal. Typical dishes include pigs’ ears, ducks’ hearts, bone marrow, etc. This is to fully stretch the potential of the animal and cooking possibilities.

Since I am in London, I thought what better than to go where it all started. Chef Fergus Henderson is the pioneer of Nose to tail dining, and has published a best selling cult cookbook “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Dining”. His restaurant St. John’s was awarded a Michelin star in 2009, amongst other accolades. That’s why we were giddy with excitement when we saw the man himself when we visited St. John’s a few days ago. He isn’t always there, but they were filming an interview that day.

You can choose to sit at the wine and bakery where the wine and bread are prepared, but we had our meal in the adjacent dining room. The whole place was white walls, cement floors and wooden chairs. You are also encouraged to turn off mobile phones during meals. It’s like a blank canvas, and the only impression you should form of the restaurant should be based on their food.

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Rabbit offal & celeriac was a starter that came first. It was lightly pan fried and the natural flavours of the liver and kidney were allowed to shine. It came with radish and rocket on the side. If you are a fan of innards in Chinese cooking, this dish would be right up your alley. But unlike Chinese styles, this is a lot more organic and natural tasting.

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Brown crab meat on toast was thick and creamy. They were generous with the crab meat, and there was lemon on the side to squeeze should you want a zesty kick. I felt that this was an elite level of comfort food, because it’s good old toast, but with a really kick ass topping. Lovely to eat.

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Grilled ox heart, beetroot and horseradish was surprisingly meaty. Is a heart supposed to be this meaty? It tasted very much like meat rather than an organ. Perfectly cooked. This is a must order!

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Snails, sausage and chickpeas was the most flavourful part of our meal. Sausage was salty, the broth was spicy, snails were chewy and chickpeas were chickpeas. Yummy!

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Can’t decide which is the best dish because all were so good. We were so pleased with all the food. And already planning our next visit to try everything else.

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