The tasting menu, a seven part experience, was presented in three shifts, forcing us to focus on and discuss each dish. The first three courses came one by one, accompanied by small serving plates. Next came the entree segment. After being instructed to choose between two options for the main entree, this course was then served with two sizable sides. Lastly, an individual dessert plate was delivered to each of us.
The first dish was a fried tofu with a fish and soy sauce glaze. Having only been the second time I’ve tasted this combination of flavors, I was more than pleased. With the overall bounce of a marshmallow, my teeth broke through the crispy outer layer to be met by a soft interior. When it comes to frying, temperature is key, otherwise too much cooking fat will be absorbed into the food. In the case of this tofu, the chefs created a perfect product, bursting with flavor upon every bite, but not soggy and weighed down.
Dish two: Sea Urchin Cheong Fun. The rumors are true, I had never tasted sea urchin before this meal. I’m a little hesitant to try new things on the menu if it means agreeing to drop a good sum of money on something I might hate. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case at all with this dish. The Cheong Fun noodles were rolled around a chopstick reminding me of the fruit by the foot tattoo sheets that I used to barter off my friends in elementary school. But unlike the sugary snacks of my past, these noodles were topped with globs of uni and doused in sesame oil. The uni nearly dissolved in my mouth untouched and the noodles paired magically, cooked to retain a nice bite.
Dish three: Dutch Crunch Pork Buns: Pork buns are one of those foods that I would never seek out on my own. There is something about super sweet pork that just doesn’t play well in my head. I am also not a fan of the surprise factor that comes with biting into something that I can’t see inside. But apart from my strange dispositions, this pork bun was pretty fantastic. The pork, although sweet, was not overdone and the bun had a Dutch crunch topping that added a unique textural component. More than anything, I loved watching the look on the faces of my friends (both pork bun lovers) who were having a completely new experience.
Dish 4: The entrees. Our two options were either a sizzled black cod or a roasted quail stuffed with sticky rice and figs. As a fish lover, I chose the cod. The skin was left on and crisped just the way I like it and the fish itself was extremely tender. I am convinced that it was basted right before hitting the plate because not only was it moist (not sorry) but the oil rounded out the fish’s flavor beautifully. Even better, the fish didn’t come alone. It was served alongside julienned ginger, carrots, and taro root.
As we worked on our entrees, two other family style dishes made their way over. The first was a wagyu and pork belly fried rice with a few chicken livers thrown in for good measure and the second was steamed bok choy with a mysterious black paste ( it tasted good, I don’t question things that taste good). The bok choy certainly didn’t stand out, but generally, those are my universal feelings towards the vegetable. The fried rice, on the other hand, truly hit the spot. It had a slight chew, the beef was fabulous, and the pork was somehow both fatty and lean. Once we were all stuffed, one of my friends started picking off the beef and popping it into her mouth, sacrificing the equally delicious rice but strategically saving room for dessert. Normally, I would have angrily called out this type of behavior, but I had already given up my rights to the leftovers and appreciated her commitment, so I let continue unbothered.
Last course, dessert: Black sesame sponge cake. I am weak when it comes to a well executed sweet and savory mashup, but this sponge cake just wasn’t my thing. In all honesty, the flavors didn’t stand out enough from one another, leaving the dish a bit muted. If anything, it had a very tea-like earthy tone (not my idea of a memorable dessert).
All together, I would rate Mister Jui’s with a solid 8. I really enjoyed the experience and definitely noticed the staff’s creative efforts in action. Would I go here on a regular basis? No. Instead, I think it is a valuable restaurant to keep on one’s radar when a moment of curiosity and exploration arises. However, I do think the new-school bar lends itself to a fun date venue and the food would provide a topic for discussion to cure the awkwardness of meeting up with someone for the first time.