Star Chef Kyo Hsu Makes Sushi Tong a Must Try at Workers’ Stadium

A gloomy twilight settled down on Sanlitun's sushi scene last year when one of our favorite restaurants, Sun Japanese, was claimed by The Great Brickening. At the time, we wailed and wondered where we'd splurge the next time we craved similarly fancy, refined Japanese eats. Thankfully a new dawn is breaking in that regard, with the recent opening of Sushi Tong at Workers’ Stadium.

Shining like a beacon on the second floor of the glittering gold building that also houses high end eateries like Wutong Plus, Sushi Tong sets itself apart with a lower-key, grey décor. After you climb up the building's rusty bronze stairs, you'll enter the dark, elegant Japanese restaurant. There are five different sets, ranging RMB 1380/1980/2680/3680, all designed by the famous Taiwanese chef Kyo Hsu, who has 20 years of experience in Japanese cuisine, and who recently earned a Michelin star for his Kitcho restaurant in Taipei. At Sushi Tong he treats patrons to omakase-style meals, meaning there are no certain fixed dishes on the menu. That also means the chef uses fresh ingredients to make multiple courses for the kaiseki, or set meal, according to the season.  

Great kaiseki is like an impeccable and elaborate melody that has pitches both high and low, along with an integral keynote. The 10-course tasting set we had featured a tako wasabi (octopus with wasabi) appetizer. From there we tried oysters, a dried stingray fin, a plate of sashimi with tuna, sea urchin from Hokkaido, and horse mackerel. And it didn't stop there: snapper miso soup came after that, along with abalone tempura, grilled snapper, a sushi platter, pickled garlic and vegetables, yet another soup and even some desserts. 

Another highlight was the monaka (crisp wafers, see main image). It came in a plum blossom shape with ankimo (liver of monkfish) filling. This delicate dish was nestled on Japanese rice to absorb the moisture and keep the wafers dry and crisp.

We also loved the oyster, which was topped with apple cider jello, mashed daikon, and chopped scallion. The oyster was fat and bursting with umami flavor. Its apple cider jello, meanwhile, was acidic enough to temper its richness, while the daikon provided some heat, helping it attain an elusive balance. 

The grilled snapper was equally impressive. Its skin was tilting upward so that each shiny scale reached for the heavens. Sushi Tong served it on a heavy grey stone plate, and dusted the snapper with karasumi powder (also known as mullet roe) in yellow, along with tori powder in blackish green. The skin was satisfyingly crispy without succumbing to overt oiliness, while the meat was succulent and flavorful, thanks to Kyo Hsu's process of fast frying and then baking in the oven.  

Then came the sushi, which was some of the best we've had in Beijing. Each piece was endowed with a generous slice of fish, along with a rice base that attained a perfect temperature and level of moisture. All you need to do is pick it up by hand, dip it in the soy sauce, pop it in your mouth and let it tantalize your palate. The secret? Kyo Hsu has fresh fish delivered daily from the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan. He also has his rice seasoned with traditional Japanese red vinegar, which is made with sake that is fermented for more than a year. The Tamagoyaki sushi (literally grilled egg sushi), was a standout, thanks to its smooth and cheesecake-like texture. It also featured savory and subtly sweet flavors courtesy of its mashed flatfish. Hsu said that he added more mashed yam to the recipe to keep it moist for the relatively drier Beijing weather.

We recommend sitting at the sushi bar area to see the chef wizardly execute each dish, and to take the advantage of gulping down the sushi right away, at the most appropriate temperature. There’s also an additional sushi menu for the sushi bar. If you come with a larger party, there are 13 private rooms with tatami seating. The sake dispenser also caught our eye. It looked like a coffee drip, but with ice packed in its glass cylinder. You simply use a cup to push the nozzle upward and release the cold sake.

 

Chef Kyo Hsu will be on hand for three to five days monthly. As one of only two Taiwanese chefs who won the Michelin star for Japanese cuisine, we see Hsu as a true master– working with restraint and precision to let the natural flavors of each ingredient shine, while creating food combinations with eye-popping color contrasts. Yes, it's steeply priced, but if you have a fat wallet, or a guest to impress, splurging on this highly refined meal is more than worth it.

Sushi Tong
Daily 12-2pm, 6-10pm. 2/F, Inside east gate of Workers’ Stadium, Chaoyang District (133 1111 0150)
桐寿司:朝阳区工人体育场东门辅路向南1502

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Photos: Tracy Wang

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