This is the last review in our series about the three restaurants at Seven Villas. Man Shu, the Japanese restaurant, offers kaiseki – a traditional multi-course meal that is an art form balancing taste, texture and appearance of the food. It is food that is as beautiful to look at as it is to taste.
After you enter through the parted curtains, you will be greeted by kneeling kimono-clad servers, asked to take off your shoes and then led to a choice of two Chinese style rooms with tables and chairs or four Japanese tatami rooms with sunken spaces to comfortably place your legs. Large windows provide views of a peaceful Japanese garden outside while paper screen walls and the lilting tones of Japanese instrumental music set the atmosphere. The elegant manager, Ms. Chikako Terao, and head chef, Hirokazu Inoue, ensure the highest attention to detail and authenticity with ingredients mostly air flown from Japan.
The 1st course was a sweet clean sake to whet your appetite, and the 2nd course was a gorgeous plate of intricately made appetizers. The 3rd course noodle soup with Alaskan crab tofu demonstrated simplicity while also presenting a depth of flavour in the broth.
The 4th course was sashimi and the 5th course was a lovely steamed egg chawanmushi with rich foie gras and sweet uni (sea urchin).
6th course was A5 wagyu beef from Miyazaki, the highest grade of wagyu cooked on hot stone. The beef has a very high fat content and you can admire the marbled web in the raw meat. As soon as the beef was placed on the hot stone, a tantalizing sizzling sound and a billow of smoke emanated. Putting the small piece of beef in your mouth, the plump square bursts and melts. It was the best beef I have ever had the privilege of eating. Even the dipping sauce for the beef has a story, taking two weeks to prepare and made from soy sauce, sake, a Japanese citrus juice, kombu kelp and dried bonito fish flakes.
7th course was tempura. The batter was light, crispy and not greasy at all. The tempura shrimp toast had a unique taste (almost like cheese but wasn’t) that I’ve never encountered before and was very interesting.
8th course was ikura chirashi (salmon roe topped rice) with pickles, and the 9th course was red bean paste mochi (sticky rice cake) with matcha green tea.
In the end, there are so many new flavours and ingredients that it’s hard to describe them all, and it’s not necessary to dissect every dish: Just appreciate the kaiseiki experience in its entirety. It is excellent and perfect – from the elaborate preparations required for every course and quality of the ingredients to the beautiful presentation and the serene environment.
The nine course lunch costs 988RMB and usually lasts one and a half hours. The eleven course dinner costs 1588RMB. Don’t worry about the money. It’s just some numbers in your bank account, some coloured paper in your wallet. The adjectives I would use to describe the kaiseki meal at Man Shu are: joy, happiness, satisfaction, appreciation and even bittersweet sorrow – because you will wish you could eat this well for the rest of your life. Try to experience it at least once.
Reservations are necessary one day in advance. For Chinese speaking, call 8886-7888, Japanese 8796-6542. There’s also higher priced kaiseki for 2588RMB requiring three days advance reservation and 3588RMB requiring seven days advance.
Some lower priced lunch sets are also offered. Unagi Rice (188RMB), Tempura Rice (188RMB) and Man Shu Set Lunch (258RMB).