I don’t really remember any specifics from the first time I went to Xenri no Tsuki. I remember the food being up-to-par (we ordered a whole mess of à la carte items), I remember loving the low-key quiet atmosphere, I remember dropping a whole lodda’ money on the meal. I remember not really being blown away…
… but for some reason, I also remember telling myself that this place had more to offer. And that I should give it a second chance.
Thank God I did. Because if visit #1 was promising, visit #2 made me realize that Xenri no Tsuki was one of my favorite restaurants in the whole of Hong Kong. No joke. I’ve been back three times since my 2nd visit. Why? Because it’s crazy good.
After polishing off our beautiful amuse bouche trio, The Nelson and I decided it would be wise to order a small bottle of chilled sake. I was in super girly mood, so meekly suggested we try the seasonal Arabashiri Junmai Ginjo “Spring” sake from Masumi Brewery. Beautifully sweet, with rich floral aromas—really tasted like springtime in a bottle :)
The Nelson went à la carte, starting with a rice bowl topped with minced tuna and fresh uni. Not really wanting to think about what to order, I went with the seasonal Chef’s Recommended Kaiseki set ($500 – $800. I went with $600). I had no idea what I was in for… and I had no idea I would be so blown away by what they had in store for me. First course rolled up—a thick round of daikon on miso paste. Clean, simple presentation to match the clean, simple flavors. A very classy start. Next up was the artistically-presented “five point” appetizer—five tidbits arranged on a giant white plate sprinkled with purple shiso flowers. Fish fin tempura on sliced cherry tomatoes, duo-colored egg, sliced tuber with miso on shiso leaf, chicken roll with burdock and sprouts, mozuku kombu… each item was carefully thought-out and delicately presented. I was definitely impressed by this point.
The highlight of the meal though came in the form of course no. 3—seafood dashi teapot soup. The clear broth was fortified with all the goodness of the waters. The first cup was subtle but delicious already. I let it steep for a while. Second cup. Better. Third cup. Amazing. Fourth, fifth… it just got bolder and bolder, better and better. I’m being completely honest when I say that this is the first time I’ve ever been blown away by soup. It was magical almost…
But apparently, the Xenri chefs were just getting warmed up. The next plate to grace my table was a generous sashimi platter. This generosity included fresh uni that tasted like all the sweetness of the sea, a delectably rich jumbo sea scallop, and my personal favorite—creamy-fleshed sweet ebi shrimp. And as an extra testament that Xenri no Tsuki is the real deal—they serve their sashimi with freshly-grated wasabi. Don’t let them tell you otherwise—it does make an effin’ big difference.
After all the delicate flavors, it was finally time for something big and substantial. Enter the restaurant’s award-winning “Kobe Wagyu Housyou Yaki”—a thick slab of premium Wagyu beef blanketed in a thin, crispy parcel made from beancurd sheets. It was a huge serving… I was trying to calculate how these people are profiting from this $600 dinner, because there was even MORE after this prime Wagyu steak. Yes, a whole lot more. There was a whole salt-broiled carp fish more (milky fleshed and broiled to perfection). There was a seared nigiri platter, which included eel, tuna, uni, salmon and my love-in-fish-form of engawa (flounder dorsal fin). I will forever be grateful to Xenri no Tsuki for introducing me to the wonders of this cut of fish—it has such a wonderful taut bite that melts and melds into an addictive film of fish oil that coats the tongue. Oishii.
To round off the near-perfect meal, I was expecting just some boring scoop of green tea or sesame ice cream (as much as I love traditional Japanese cuisine, I can’t say I’m particularly inspired by trad. Jap desserts). But thank God the Xenri team kept the surprises coming all the way to the end. My trio of tofu ice cream (silken and refreshing, with a subtle hint of nuttiness), matcha pudding and glutinous warabi mochi left me with a giant idiotic grin on my face.
I was well fed and well sake’d. I was happy. It also helped that Xenri no Tsuki’s floor manager is one of the most attentive, friendly and professional people I know in the HK F&B industry. She was on the A-game all the way with her recommendations and explanations (and believe me, I asked many many many questions throughout the meal) and she kept checking in regularly to make sure we were enjoying our meal. And of the many times that I’ve been back, she’s always been just as awesome.
So there sums up why I love Xenri no Tsuki. As much as I love Hong Kong, it’s hard to come by a restaurant that combines kickass food, five-star service, comfortable environs and won’t-burn-a-whole-in-wallet prices (seriously, all that above food for $600…) in one neat package. So when you DO find a place that combines all those things—i.e. Xenri no Tsuki—you’re golden.
It may not have been love at first bite, but I know now, it’s definitely love.
XENRI NO TSUKI ($$$$/$$$$$)
6/F, Jardine Centre
50 Jardine's Bazaar