4 of the best unconventional Omakase menus in Hong Kong
Tired of the pomp and ceremony that traditionally surrounds the high end omakase, many diners are turning to inventive and contemporary alternatives to satisfy their hunger for tasting menus – where the “let you decide” ethic goes far beyond what is seasonal fish.
Today, were you to take to the soggy streets of Hong Kong and ask a number of foodies about the definition of a “omakase meals’, many (at least half, I’d bet) would tell anecdotes about chutoro, tasting menus at $ 2,500, serious chefs and counters carved out of hinoki. Yet despite his venerable reputation – and the panting and often exhausting fandom that has pounced on him over the years – omakase culture as we know it is more of a system than any full-fledged (and surprisingly young) cooking genre.
Taking advantage of the height of the economic bubble of the mid-1980s, the newly wealthy Japanese began to frequent sushi restaurants in record numbers, leading to eventual industry-wide adoption of the omakase system that has become so closely linked to Michelin stardom, six-month waiting lists and hedge fund bros who constantly rant about “precisely dicked down” nigiri.
The point is that, in its most literal form, a omakase can refer to any establishment where the precise details of your order are left in the hands of the host. Indeed, in Japan itself, the expression (“The choice is yours”) is often used loosely: taken from the service of casual restaurants; cocktail bars; and even the odd fashion store where you can delegate the details to someone who presumably knows better.
Now back in Hong Kong, a growing number of diners are aware of this largely semantic distinction; and, for all kinds of reasons ranging from impatience to curiosity, sink their teeth into omakase that do not meet the established expectations of the system. From Brazilian fusion menus to sprawling drink flights that use alcohol from Japan’s five islands, here are several unconventional (but delicious) alternatives to the classic sushi counter.
A night of ‘Umakase’ at Uma Nota
Renowned for its accessible fusion of Japanese and Brazil flavors, and an atmosphere as friendly as it gets on Peel Street, Uma Nota is resurrecting an old favorite this month under the guise of ‘Umakase’. A celebration of barbecue pieces cooked on the hibachi, this rowdy version omakase will be available for one night only with a choice of 6 (HK $ 490) or 8 classes (HK $ 590).
Beyond the unmissable favorites like cassava bread topped with morcille, the 8-course menu includes two additional dishes that really capture the ‘give-and-take’ energy of Uma’s cuisine Note: lamb marinated in green miso is served with pamonha (Brazilian street food consisting of crushed sweet corn with cheese); while the togarashi used in diners grilled octopus is built on Baniwa chili – named after the native Brazilians who inhabit the country’s border with Colombia and Venezuela. Menu available July 19.
Uma Nota, 38 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2889 7576
Refined fusion in Haku
At the heart of a Japanese restaurant “open to influences from around the world”, Haku is the playground of Rob Jacob Drennan, former R&D chef at award-winning gourmet restaurant in Oslo Maaemo. In his new digs (a jump from the Star Ferry), Drennan constructs dishes of great visual interest and great complexity, working from a base of always seasonal and almost always Japanese ingredients.
For dinner, 7 and 10 course menus are available (HK $ 1,180 and HK $ 1,880 respectively). For lovers of spring produce, the latter is where the best action has to take place, giving you a chance for smaller pieces like the firefly squid caught in Toyama Bay and a Washoku-inspired broth made from Drennan’s beloved main course.
Haku, Shop OT G04B, G / F, Ocean Terminal, Harbor City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2115 9965
The Aubrey Omakase experience
Very good a den first and a restaurant then, The Aubrey – the new Mandarin Oriental enfant terrible, settling in the former space occupying Pierre – has just launched the latest addition to its sprawling and multi-concept offer. The original idea of ââDeputy Managing Director Devender Sehgal, this Omakase Cocktail Experience (HK $ 1,580 per person) takes the eponymous ordering system and brings it to the world of classic cocktails – a segment of Japanese culinary culture that is very popular here in Hong Kong.
Despite a few light snacks that change to complement your drink, the basis of this omakase the experience is a flight from anywhere between 4-6 craft drinks. In the grand tradition of Ginza walk-ups, Sehgal begins by asking guests about their individualized consumption preferences. The conversation tends to focus on everyone’s favorite spirits, types of cocktails, and flavors. This then translates into a delicious, seasonally appropriate drink that’s brewed at the counter – then another. And another. Whether it’s a variation of the classic Daiquiri or a barley-enriched Bobby Burns shochu, Sehgal’s recipes always blend in with an important Japanese element. “The Omakase The style allows customers to truly immerse themselves in the vast world of Japanese spirits, âsays Sehgal. âI hope we can introduce them to flavors that they enjoy, that they may not have necessarily known before. Â»Available for parties of 2-4.
The Aubrey, 25 / F, The Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2825 4001
Okra Omakase’s farewell
As if the protests and the pandemic weren’t enough indication that this is the “end of an era,” Okra (the lawless, gender-defying hole in the wall that’s a staple of Sai’s restaurant scene Wan since 2016) is closing. To celebrate more than half a decade spent blending Japanese culinary traditions with local ingredients and far-reaching influences, chef-owner Max Levy has gone all out until July 31, with a omakase menu (HK $ 2,500 per person) to be served exclusively on the second floor of the restaurant. Full Disclosure: Every seat is reserved until it closes, but that shouldn’t deter you from saying a prayer or two and jumping on the waiting list.
Nominally described as a ‘sushi Omakase‘, Levy’s farewell menu is bound to incorporate the dry aging and house curing techniques that have turned his dishes into such mainstays of the Hong Kong culinary scene. In tandem with a selection of unique, often unpasteurized sakes – prepared by Levy’s sommelier and wife, Izaksun – you have the makings of what promises to be one of the most memorable, albeit bittersweet, meals. from 2021.
Okra, 110 Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun, +852 2806 1038