Shanghai: Sushi Oyama

19 Jul

Every once in a while, you eat a meal so sublime that you will remember (almost) every bite and detail. And even though it may cost a pretty penny, you still think it’s worth it, and look forward to a return trip. Omakase (chef’s choice) at Sushi Oyama, one of Shanghai’s finest Japanese restaurants left me with that feeling, which to be honest I haven’t had in a while – a lot of popular higher end restys tend to be overrated and disappoint me.

We were a bit late for our booking because of the rain, and when we arrived the Kimono-clad staff did not waste a second ushering us to our bar counter seats, showing us the fixed multi-course menu printed on a scroll, checking for any dietary restrictions, and bringing us hot tea and our first course. All that accomplished in probably 30 seconds. *Phew*

Our amuse bouche of bonito cauliflower soup with kelp was so amazing, I was sure everything that followed would not be able to match up to it. It was a shot of soup that packed a great punch, and had such a delicious and distinct flavour. I never knew that bonito, cauliflower and kelp complemented each other so well.

Next up, a beautiful plate of assorted sashimi with freshly grated wasabi that included horse mackerel (ma aji), botan shrimp (botan ebi), yellowtail (hamachi), salmon (sake). Though the sashimi were just one bite slices, it was seriously fresh and of good quality. No need to make a trip to Tokyo and wake up early for Tsukiji.

My absolute favourite out of the five was the to die for horse mackerel (ma aji). I’ve always been a fan of mackerel, even though they always tend to be slightly fishy. But this didn’t have that fishiness AT ALL and was great with a smidgen of ginger and spring onions. If I could have this quality of mackerel all the time, ma aji > ootoro for me, and that’s saying a lot!

With sashimi this fresh, all you need is just a little dab of soya sauce to enjoy its unadulterated flavours.

The smoked ivory shell with plum sauce was a pleasant surprise. I’ve never had this shellfish before and it was cooked well – very tender with a nice smoked flavour and went very well with the zingy plum sauce.

Other cold appetisers we had included the fried cutlassfish salad with sesame sauce, and a light salad of daikon, kelp and greens.

For our grilled dish, we were given two options so we each chose one. The Japanese boarfish (tsubodai) was hands down, one of the best grilled fishes I’ve had. It tasted buttery like a codfish, but without the overbearing oiliness.

Also good was the grilled New Zealand king salmon with pickled turnip, but it was a little common compared to the more exciting tsubodai.

Our nigiri sushi featuring the freshest catch of the day came. Everything was really fresh and the sushi rice was perfect. Even the delicately pickled ginger was amazing. Chef Oyama knows exactly how to enhance the flavours of the fish he gets with a light touch of soya sauce, spring onions, ginger, wasabi, sesame seeds etc. To me, making the best out of the ingredients you get is truly a mark of a good chef.

The highlight of the meal for me, was definitely the signature sushi bowl made with sea urchin roe (uni), salmon roe (ikura) and quail egg. If you think this dish looks good, trust me, it tastes even better! The combination of uni and ikura was genius, and I thought the sweetish raw quail egg tied the dish together when mixed in. The uni was so amazing that my friend who normally doesn’t like uni was won over too. SO. FREAKING. GOOD.

Even the staple chawan mushi is elevated to a hairy crab meat, scallop, asparagus and chawan mushi here. This was also very good. It was more like a soupy chawan mushi with an umami broth and generous ingredients.

The very handsome, animated, humble and talented Mr Oyama fanning our sushi rice. *Swoons* Suffice to say, my friend and both developed a crush on him during dinner. LOL.

Though I was quite full at this point of time (shouldn’t have had so many pre-dinner cocktails!), the second half of our nigiri sushi commenced. We were given super fatty tuna (ootoro), sea bream (ishi dai) and a choice of what we like. Of course I asked for sea urchin (uni), especially after the epic sushi bowl. The ootoro was top notch and so melt in my mouth, and I cannot ever get enough of uni.

Our last sushi course, the makimono sushi, was red tuna and shiso leaf. The addition of the minty, spicy shiso made it very interesting compared to the usual negitoro.

I’m not a fan of tamagoyaki, but even their tamagoyaki was a class above everyone else’s. Not too sweet with a discernable dashi taste.

For soup, we were served a clam and miso soup, which I thought was okay but not awesome as there wasn’t enough clams/clam flavour. I also didn’t quite see the point of the curious looking and round fishcake bits.

I usually abstain from panna cotta and at the beginning of the meal, I asked the waitress if I could be served another dessert/fruit instead. At the end they said they don’t have anything else, but asked if I would like to just give a try as theirs is homemade and very good. I’m so glad I did, because their panna cotta with caramel sauce was honestly so damn delicious. It’s probably not the usual Italian recipe from the looks of it, but like an improved Japanese version. Yums! Moral of the story: Don’t be too narrow-minded in terms of trying food!

Other than one or two a-okay dishes, everything that we had was just stellar. There was actually a lot of food even though the portion of each dish wasn’t big – just the way it should be! All the ingredients were top quality and some were seasonal ingredients that I was lucky enough to try for the first time. Our whole experience from the crockery, classy decor, intimate size of the place (~12 pax) and service felt very authentic and exclusive. I thought it was highly worth the 800RMB, since for a similar experience I would probably need to pay at least 50% more in Singapore, and maybe double in Japan. And to be honest I thought the food was much better than what I had in Tsukiji Market. I can’t wait to go back for a different menu (it’s seasonal, but flexible if you’re a regular) or try Chef Oyama’s other restaurant, Kappo Yu which has a more Kaiseki, fusion slant. What a (near) perfect meal. :)

Price: $$$$ (800RMB for omakase)
Location: 2/F, 20 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai Lu
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 530 to 1030 pm. Two sittings.
Tel: +86 21 5404 7705 (Reservations are a MUST)

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