Fans of Tokyo’s Sushi Aoki are in for a treat this week – Chef Aoki Toshikatsu is in town and for three days from April 19-21 he will be serving lunch and dinner at Fumi alongside Executive Chef Masakazu George Imai, creating an innovative sushi tasting flight that will traverse the traditional Edomae style as well as contemporary evolutions, with the Japanese celebrity chef creating dishes tableside to wow and delight.
A 12-piece nigiri sushi lunch will be priced at HK$1,380. Some of these dishes will make it into the 16-course dinner menu, whose highlights include prime otoro and three types or sea urchin, for HK$2,550 a head.
No small number of diehard sushi fans have been to Sushi Aoki in Nishi Azabu over the years, and will know Toshikatsu’s wares well (the many types of sea urchin are always welcome) – but this time we thought we’d chat up the elite sushi chef on his own favourite dining haunts around the world.
Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse, Monaco
L’hotel de Paris is a Monaco institution housing one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants, a homage to the white-tablecloth experience, where the dishes are a work of art and the service flawless. “My younger brother runs a restaurant in France called Makoto Aoki, and he strongly recommended me to visit Chef Alain Ducasse’s restaurant,” says Toshikatsu. “The vegetables and different sauces were outstanding and my favourite dish was the pigeon. It was an honour to be at one of the best restaurants in the world.”
Gramercy Tavern, New York
This New York institution is helmed by chef Michael Anthony, and encompasses two halves – the tavern side is walk-ins only with an a la carte menu (the Gramercy Tavern burger is rather legendary), while the dining room is mainly reservations driven, with a fine-dining experience that’s led by the seasons. “A friend of mine, Masa, who was then a sushi chef at Union Square 15 East recommended this place to me,” says Toshikatsu. “My wife and I ordered Chef’s Tasting Menu and the chef, Michael Anthony, created different dishes for us despite being very busy. It was such a touching gesture.”
Côte D’or, Tokyo
You won’t find much on the Internet about this Tokyo-based French fine-dining outfit, but Toshikatsu insists it’s one of the best in a city that’s already chock-full of amazing restaurants. “When I was a trainee, one of my customers took me there and ever since then, this is a place I would go on special occasions,” he says. “Authentic French cuisine which is carefully and thoughtfully created by Executive Chef Saisu never fails to amaze me. The kitchen is spic and span and this also says how the chef cares about his creation and his customers.”
“Executive chef Ueda is an old friend of mine from when I was living in Kyoto as a young boy,” says Toshikatsu. But that doesn’t make it easier to get a reservation at this Ginza-based ode to kaiseki. “This is a very hard place to book,” he confirms – but it’s worth the effort. “I managed to book one time and his soup is phenomenal. It is the taste of Kyoto. He uses high-grade ingredients abundantly and the plates are also beautiful.”
Fumi, Hong Kong
If Chef Toshikatsu didn’t love it, he wouldn’t be cooking here this week. “I came to know this restaurant through one of the owners, John, who kindly favours my restaurant in Tokyo. When I first visited Fumi, they were running a Miyazaki beef showcase and the dishes created by their culinary team were unique and wonderful – the creations were authentic Japanese but with a hint of twist which made it more appealing to the customers. The restaurant focuses on bringing Japanese flavours, history and culture to Hong Kong and this is something close to my heart, too.”