At HaNa Ju-Rin there’s a long glass fridge filled with cuts of fish. When they’re served they’re expertly filleted, skinned and cut. One dish is a thumb-sized wedge of brown rice covered by a pastel-pink slice of alfonsino with a thin line of bright red skin. The chef puts a single drop of lime on it.
The chef is Tomoyuki Matsuya, a second-generation sushi master who was last at Azuma, a fancy Japanese joint – with an acclaimed sushi section – in the CBD. The slice of alfonsino is one dish in a 16-course, several-hour, sushi-only omakase (chef’s special).
Many of the cuts Matsuya uses are cured and aged. Cuttlefish is aged in a package of fresh kombu; tuna belly rests for two weeks on ice; and salmon belly is cured in a soy-based concoction. A single degustation might include bass grouper; yellowtail; latchet; imperador; and homemade karasumi (rich salted mullet roe with a quince-paste-like texture).
Snapper is topped with a pinch of pickled crab, shaved bonito and sesame; white fish are served with a small sheet of shiso (a betel-leaf-like Japanese herb); salmon belly is torched and topped with a tuft of fried leek strands; and other cuts are paired with fresh wasabi leaves, yuzu zest or even truffle oil.
Despite Matsuya’s incredible seafood artistry it’s his rice he’s most proud of. It comes from Emi No Kizuna, a highly acclaimed rice producer from the Niigata Prefecture. What makes it brown is Minosanenzu, a dark, powerful, slightly sweet vinegar that’s been produced in the Gifu Prefecture.