Article By James Morrow
5F, 20m East, North of Tai Bai Zhuang Yuan, Changan South Rd.
(029) 8955 7997
Average Price per Person /人均消费: 300RMB
I’ve often felt that the term ‘hidden gem’ is a bit overused. Often times it is used to describe places that is both convenient to get to and in plain sight, not the hard to find places that are actually good. However, occasionally you do find a legitimate hidden gem – place that you would not have actually found unless you were guided there. This is the case with Matsukawa Japanese Restaurant.
Located just a 10-minute walk from the HuiZhanZhongXin subway stop, the entrance to this restaurant is not easy to find. When you approach the building that your map points you to, what you find is a furniture mall, with no apparent restaurant in sight. When you walk to the alley just north of the mall however, you might catch a glimpse of a hostess dressed in a kimono standing at small side entrance near the back of the mall. Going through this entrance and up to the fifth floor, you are transported into a completely different world. The main hall is tall and long, braced with dark wooden beams. The floors are done in tatami mats and the walls are made either of glass or paper screens. Decorative artwork tastefully fills the walls and there are fridges full of sake bottles and Japanese beers. A little further down and you arrive at an open kitchen, where chef prepare fish for the various sushi dishes served in the restaurant. If you head instead to the left you are taken into an open air zen garden, with a beautiful glass enclosed hut containing a single 8-10 person table that allows you to look out on the bonsai trees and water. It’s almost like you have travelled to Japan.
Once inside the private dining rooms, which vary in size from 4 person tables to 12 or more, you are seated and offered a choice of barley tea or iced lemon water. Then you can peruse the menu, either selecting your food ala carte, or choosing a set menu. You can also choose from their wide selection of sake and beer. Once you have ordered, it doesn’t take long for the food to begin to arrive.
The first dish that arrived was a salad that was an interest mix of fruit and vegetable. Halved tomatoes, grapes, corn, okra, and cucumber sat atop a hearty serving of potato salad, all on top of a bed of mixed lettuce and covered with Japanese sweet mayo and furikake. Even though it sounds incredibly random, it was one of the most delicious salads we’d ever had. Each vegetable was incredibly fresh and the flavors blended in a very pleasant way.
Next was an appetizer of sashimi, with tuna, salmon, and mackerel. Each piece was sliced thickly, with no fishiness to the meat, only a slight saltiness and clean aftertaste. This was closely followed by a plate of thinly-sliced steamed eel, with a light soy sauce, spring onion, and sesame topping, with rehydrated seaweed as a garnish. The meat of the eel was very different to that of the more common roasted eel, but was still very tender.
After the eel, small individual plate with 4 tiny appetizers in small bowls on ice arrived. One was a shrimp and crab roe salad, another a spicy octopus salad, mixed jellyfish, and a slightly slimy vegetable in a sweet and sour marinade. Each was carefully crafted and presented and the flavors worked surprisingly well alongside each other.
This dish was followed by a very decadent fois gras nigari topped with caviar, which was exactly as rich as it sounds, with a sharp tomato chutney to help cut through the fat. After this was a unique sushi roll that was made inside of squid rings, and coated in a sweet teriyaki sauce. This was a truly unique dish and disappeared quickly from the table. The next thins to arrive at the table was a chafing dish full of chuck of tender beef, stewed in a pepper sauce with spinach, garlic, and gingko seeds. The beef was lean and the gingko seeds melted in you mouth. Soon after, a pair of spring rolls stiffed with crab and potato reached the table, artfully sliced and pile on a small plate with a single fried shiso leaf. These were heavier than expected and served with a sour dipping sauce.
The final course was a seafood soup, served in a teapot with an accompanying sake cup. The seafood soup was very rich and tasted heavily of the shellfish used to make it. It was warm and vitalizing, and sipping it slowly with the sake cup made a fitting end to a pleasant meal.
The food at this restaurant is premium and, despite its location, commands a relatively steep price. The average on 大众点评 is set at 318/person and it would be easy to spend even more than that if you have the appetite and were drinking alcohol. The service is top notch, and if you love Japanese food and don’t mind spending a bit, then this is a good place to go, if for no other reason than to relax in this expertly designed restaurant.
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