This venue is permanently closed as of March 2013.
Inagiku (稻菊) has only recently ‘officially opened’. Despite mentions in Beijing media as far back as April, it has undergone an unusually long soft-opening period. This is the latest of the global branches operating today in Singapore, Hong Kong and Manila, with more on the way.
The menu is a small, confusing book with too many fixed menus and an entire page dedicated to soup. Another is set aside for boiled/steamed dishes, and there is one for ‘pot’. They mean hotpot. There’s fried rice with wagyu for 98RMB but also wagyu fried rice for 280RMB. There’s the grill and deep-fry page, which is also confusing because nothing fried is listed. There are two different grills: Sumiyaki foods are grilled over special charcoal and are generally Verdict You get what you pay for at Inagiku’s opulent Beijing branch more expensive. The other sounds second-rate because the food is grilled over electric elements that are good but don’t give the flavour of charcoal fire. The menu makes no distinction about what foods are cooked over which grill.
Michael Chin, the gregarious owner, can help when he’s there, but be warned: he’s proud of Inagiku’s decadence along with the high-grade beef, which he pushes with fierce determination. At 650RMB/100g, you’ll decide your own resistance level. You can sip genmaicha, a green tea made nutty by roasted rice, while trying not to winge at the watermarks each dish leaves on the leather table. Chin casually mentions ‘we can just change the leather when it’s time.’
The appetisers form the most exciting par t of the menu and are a fantastic way to build a meal. The black truffle steamed egg (80RMB) is coddled with a surprise smidge of fresh wasabi against the undeniable scent of Italian black truffle paste. The slow-cooked duck breast (88RMB) is tender and meltingly wonder ful. Each small course is presented as much as a gift for the eyes as the stomach in the understated way of beauty mastered by the Japanese.
Grilled eel (88RMB) is rich and sweet, but probably not from that fancy grill given the price. Grilled cod (188RMB) is similar to the sweet miso and sake version served at Nobu. This one is equally good (although Chin boasts his is better).
The ‘meal’ section of the menu involves rice and noodles. A bowl of udon and soup (80RMB) is best when it’s bare and simple, as this one is, using the coveted thin dry noodles from Akita Prefecture. They’re so good we order more, this time a chilled version (88RMB) of silky strands that slip down effortlessly.
Sushi is ordered by the piece and made by a Japanese sushi chef and a few others from Hong Kong. The sea urchin (68RMB) should be firm and sweet, an easy sell from the spiny shells proudly displayed. But they taste metallic enough not to be swallowed. Chin admits they are from Dalian and there is an unspoken understanding that this is not okay at these prices in a restaurant where private rooms are equipped with the latest Japanese toilet technology. The opulence is felt throughout the beautiful interior, designed by Chin’s wife, Josephine Ko. The ceiling above the bar reflects prisms from the Swarovski chandelier, inspired by the one in Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at The Plaza Athénée in Paris.
Chin’s hospitality comes through in a stream of sake poured into a hand-blown glass that you are instructed to choose like a canapé off a tray. Black-clad servers communicate through earphones like the secret service, signalling when a guest needs some attention, and then a recon unit is sent to investigate with a smile. Their mission: your satisfaction. If Chin’s not there, you might find a different approach to service, as we found one lunchtime – a server spreading her purse contents on the bathroom counter and washing her face at the sink, forcing others to move out of the way to wash their hands.
Eating at Inagiku can be confusing, but rest assured staff have had that lengthy soft opening period to figure things out. Under Chin’s watch, anything that isn’t right can be corrected to make you happy. with luxe surroundings and an ambitious effort to accommodate big spenders at Inagiku, a meal here can be special, as long as you are prepared to pay for the experience. Lillian Chou