We love a good collaboration.
H&M x Maison Martin Margiela? Hello high fashion amazingness at high street prices! Jimmy Choo x The Landmark Mandarin Oriental? Hello teeny, tiny, shoe shaped biscuits!
So when we heard that the most recent addition to Castelo Concepts (the folks behind Jaspas, Oolaa and Wagyu) was Sushi O, a Japanese meets Australian cuisine collaboration, we cleared our diaries, grabbed our chopsticks and whizzed down to give it a try. How would sushi with an Aussie twist rank on the collaboration scale? Were we talking Versace x H&M A-grade fabulousness? Or was this more Madonna x H&M disaster territory (those white nylon cropped tracksuit pants… shudder!)
Located on Bridges Street, Sushi O sits on the fringes of Soho in the area just before you hit the deepest, darkest, hipster depths of Poho. Given that it’s tucked snugly between its older sister Ooola and the uber-cool king of yakitori, Yardbird, we were hopeful that Sushi O would be the secret lovechild of the two – all the laidback Aussie sunshine of Oolaa with a good measure of that Yardbird X-factor…
The restaurant sits street-side with floor-to-ceiling windows that open directly onto the pavement. A long marble bar flanks the open kitchen so that diners with bar seats get a front row view of all the chopping action, whilst other tables are scattered to the edge of the bar, ideal for when there’s enough of you to make bar-side eating feel less social. The décor is very sleek and modern – lots of gleaming stainless steel softened by low lighting and dark wood panelling on the wall – and quirky touches (like a neon pink Japanese pinball machine and a slatted wooden screen menu reminiscent of a railway departures board) liven it up.
Head Chef Persi is the personification of Australian friendliness. As we arrived, he bounded over, chatted to us about our likes, reeled off a bundle of recommendations and quickly returned bearing the first dish of the evening, tataki tuna. Taken from the carpaccio section of the menu, this was a platter of finely sliced tuna, chopped cherry tomatoes and the most incredible chilli yuzu dressing. Famished, we dug straight in and wolfed the lot.
We eyed the next course, a salad, with uncertainty. We wanted great big mouthfuls of filling hearty food, not a couple of meagre lettuce leaves… but we soon changed our minds after sampling this light, spicy, crunchy dish of shredded cucumber, ginger shoots, radishes and chives, spiked with chopped chilli and sprinkled with a dash of spring onion tempura. We even ended up fighting over the last chopstick-ful!
Prawn shumai was up next but these weren’t the little shrimp dumplings we were expecting; rather, little golfball-sized spheres of noodles. A nibble revealed lightly steamed, springy noodles laced with a little sesame oil, encasing sweet, succulent, juicy prawns. A hybrid between sashimi and chips and dips arrived next – diced kingfish, in a creamy guacamole style sauce atop rounds of crispy corn tortillas. Lip-smackingly good and very moreish, we had to restrain ourselves from ordering a second round.
Thank goodness we didn’t, because the next phase of our feast was swiftly brought out – two small but perfectly formed sea bass sliders. Buttery buns encased juicy grilled fillets of sea bass topped with Swiss cheese, all generously bathed in a delicious tangy sauce. Persi warned us that we’d need a napkin to stop things getting messy… I had two napkins and things still got messy, but this is just the sort of dish where mess is an excellent sign!
Still licking our fingers, the second most messy dish was wheeled out – a scampi taco. Much less deep-fried than it sounds, chunks of super light tempura scampi with diced mango and avocado were drizzled with shiso and more of that delicious tangy sauce, before being wrapped up in a big lettuce leaf. A sort of Mexican/Japanese take on san choy bao, this was a definite three-napkiner!
Last but not least, the rolls. Falling more into traditional sushi territory, these were a good end to an excellent dinner. The tuna avocado cucumber rolls were very good but pretty much standard sushi fare, whilst the kingfish crunchy was a scrummy twist on a traditional California roll – buttery kingfish, cucumber and yuzu all rolled up with sushi rice and seaweed, along with a sprinkle of coriander and a dash of tempura crunch.
Who says Japanese food doesn’t fill you up? We were so stuffed that even the prospect of tempura strawberries with coconut ice cream and cinnamon couldn’t yield even a corner of empty tummy!
Well, the results are in, they’ve been counted and verified and we’re happy to reveal that this collaboration is a runaway success! Most dishes as Sushi O will set you back somewhere between $120-190, plus they do set lunch for a very reasonable $98. We loved that the clean, fresh elements of Japanese cooking were retained but given a naughty, laid-back languidness thanks to the Aussie switch-ups. Japanese purists – this may well not be up your street, but for anyone looking for sunny, happy, scrumptious food with plenty of Japanese flavour and a bit of Australian punch, Sushi O is a definite must.
Sushi O 46 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan
2480 0009 www.casteloconcepts.com/locations/hong-kong/sushio-hong-kong
Check out Natalie’s blog for all things food, fashion and fun, 3 Bad Mice.