As the city becomes more prosperous, more and more upmarket restaurants would come and open shop. Ajisen came from humble beginning in Dongguan! But it would be one of the better Japanese restaurant I have discovered in Shenzhen.
Robatayaki 炉端焼, literally meaning “fireside cooking”, originates from a centuries-old country style of cooking by northern Japanese fishermen around a communal hearth (irori) that serves as a cooking area and a source of heat, found on Hokkaido. Unlike kushiyaki, where ingredients are skewered to equal length and grilled over binchotan in a small satay griller, robata can handle larger raw ingredients like a whole fish or tiger prawns. The constant temperature also makes good cooking of tubers like sweet potato and pumpkin.
It was very rarely you get good Japanese restaurants in Shenzhen. The ones I have been to so far have been average at best. So to see an irori in the middle of the open section was a welcoming surprise. To keep the prices affordable, they offered a mix of local product like sea bream and local tai. But of course, you can splurged on the ¥888 red snapper from Japan.
The amuse bouche was as simmered beef with radish. It was rather bland for a starter, but the rather cold beer compensated for the slight disappointment.
The first course we had was the sashimi – just two a la carte orders orders of akagai (ark shell) and chilled duck foie gras. The foie gras was accompanied by thinly sliced Fuji apple and splash of lime, so the balance was quick good. The akagai was really fresh.
Next up was their signature sashimi, sea bream with black truffles. The waitress will mill some Himalayan salt in-situ. The black truffle paste was from a bottled truffle mix and not the fresh stuff. It has the earthy umami of truffle but not as satisfying as the real thing. Well, it wasn’t that expensive to warrant fresh grated truffle by the table.
The gold flakes were a nice touch in terms of making the food instagrammable. These days, a restaurant has to make their food instagrammable or they will not be able to get the social attention to survive. The taste takes second place, a place will be successful if there’s enough Likes.
Deep fried river shrimp was next. Lightly floured and then deep fried to a crisp, this would be perfect for the beer, but I am restrictedly myself to one beer these days.
Then, the first of the robata course, grilled pumpkin. The charcoal grill made all the difference to the pumpkin. Served with pepper-salt and sansho pickles, the pumpkin was just tender enough and not too dry.
We ordered a local fish called red shirt which is a poor cousin of the red snapper. It was not as fatty as the red snapper hence was not a fantastic candidate for grilling.
And then, grilled fish fins. It was again a beer snack, not so much a main course.
The last of the robata was grilled corn. The corn was really sweet and BBQ only made it better.
It ended with a couple of China produced Kyoho grapes and honeydew. I can only marvel at the progress the China, in particular Shenzhen, has made and it is evident in the standard of their fruit cultivation techniques. Sooner or later we will all be eating Chinese fruits.
Ajisen Robatayaki 味泉炉端烧
Date visited : Nov 2018