2017's Top 20 Restaurants: Shinji By Kanesaka
By Charmaine Mok
November 21, 2016
For the past five years, the team at Hong Kong Tatler Dining have had the task of reviewing hundreds of restaurants to ultimately select 20 that we feel represented the year's best dining experiences. Among so many meals eaten, we're confident that these 20 restaurants have achieved just that.
The setting is austere, but the spirit of Shinji by Kanesaka is found—and felt—in the details. Framed high above the entrance to the kitchen is a phrase swept out in evocative calligraphy; roughly translated, it is clearly a reference to the way of the most skilled sushi chefs: “Through a single press, the spirit of the object comes alive.” As we watch the graceful movements of itamae and chef de cuisine Toru Osumi behind the bar, the significance of those four simple kanji is brought into sharp relief.
Despite his youth (at age 34), Osumi brings with him more than a decade’s worth of experience, having worked for Shinji Kanesaka in both the original Ginza restaurant as well as the second outpost in Singapore. Here in Macau, his profound dedication to the art of sushi is a welcome, sobering respite from the loud, high-gloss levels of excess found elsewhere on the Cotai Strip.
For a while during an early seating, we’re the only guests, allowing Osumi to work attentively and without distraction. But we soon find that the chef has a cheeky facet, too, with an openness and energy that tells us of the pride he takes in his ingredients and his craft.
It’s felt in the series of expertly moulded nigiri that is placed before us, with a cadence that is neither rushed nor stilted. Aged yellowtail brushed with the slightest amount of soy sauce brims with a full, rich aroma on the palate. The hidden underside of horse mackerel is subtly anointed with the merest brush of scallion purée and topped with a nub of fragrant shiso, the flavours unfurling wildly as they mix with the fish and tender grains of rice, which are cooked in pure spring waters sourced from Kagoshima. The energy from a deft flick of the wrist sends the edges of a giant Japanese clam curling towards the sky just before Osumi sets it down on the serving slate. It’s a poetic parade of land and sea, in miniature.
The energy from a deft flick of the wrist sends the edges of a giant Japanese clam curling towards the sky
The omakase at Shinji allows us to experience the best of Japanese produce beyond sushi as well, all crafted into wonderful displays. Kegani, or Japanese horsehair crab, is cloaked with a pristine sheet of yuba (tofu skin) and topped with the tiniest dab of intensely flavoured grated ginger. Kinki fish benefits from a rustic swipe of white miso, highlighting the oiliness of the flesh. A round of pristine, meaty scallop is quickly grilled and wrapped in a sheet of toasted seaweed; upon handing it to us, Osumi grins and says, playfully: “Japanese hamburger.”
These moments of joy are what gives Shinji its charm. As more guests begin to filter in, the environment changes. The chefs banter with each other and diners clap their hands together in glee. More sake is poured. The food is beautiful but, most importantly, the space is alive.
Shinji by Kanesaka, Level 1, Crown Towers, City of Dreams, Estrada do Istmo, Taipa, Macau; +853 8868 7300