Shiko – Tasca Japonesa

A year and a half since its opening, Shiko already turned many pages, among blogs, online magazines and newspapers, bringing the expression “Izakaya” (Tasca in Portuguese), to the vocabulary of Porto’s sushilovers.

Ruy Leão, its mastermind, a know name in the city, after leaving Brazil, passing through Guimarães and joining the Chef Pedro Nunes to put the restaurant Quarentae4 in the main sushi places guide in the city. Years passed by, many fishes were cleaned and experiences were made (a street food project – Shika), and Ruy and his wife decided to open a space of their own, to give attention to the ideas the chef dreamt.

And so Shiko – Tasca Japonesa was born, in a less valued area and where you’ll hardly expect to see a good place of Japanese cuisine – Rua do Sol, next to Lusófona University, between S. João’s Theater and the Guindais elevator.

I visit the space since it opened and it’s easy to see that the success the restaurant had is linked to its DNA, with a menu focused in Japanese snacks to which people here were not used to, a cosy environment, comfortable and informal, and of course, the mandatory Sushi.

A success that gave it the nomination and the sequent victory in two of the most interesting categories of the “Flavors & Senses – The Best for 2016″ awards, with Ruy Leão wining the category of “Chef to Watch” and Shiko being chosen as “Revelation Restaurant”. (see)

After several visits, some better than others, but always at an high level, we chose once again to book the Chef’s Table, where the guests put themselves in the hands of the selection and inspiration of the chefs dishes to that occasion (40€ pp, without drinks). And it was here, totally blind, that Ruy Leão surprised us with another level!

shikotj-2Couvert, baby sardines “escabeche”, whelks with kimchi and spinach salad with sesame

And here stars that other level I was talking about, if I already liked the cherry tomato tempura, of the edamame or the seeweed, this sprat made many of our most traditional recipes blush, so was the plight of its seasoning. The whelk with an excellent texture was nicely complemented by the spicy side of the kimchi, without losing its sea flavor, as well as the spinach, nicely prepared with the toasty notes of the sesame. Great start!

shikotj-3Mussels with Japanese curry
In Japan, the curry is usually softer and sweeter than in India, and this one proves just that. Seafood on spot; well tuned and balanced sauce, allowing the mussels to be kings. Positive note also to the freshness given by the chives to the combo.

shikotj-4Wagyu Tartar, rice leaf with quail egg
Despite the flawless seasoning and the rigorous technique (excellent crunchy rice leaf), it was the least interesting dish of the evening, much because of the meat, since being wagyu it should’ve been more tender and unctuous.

shikotj-5Scallops ceviche
Everybody knows Ruy Leão joined Camilo Jaña this summer to open the first cevicheria in the city, Panca, so a nikkei version of the famous Peruvian dish is mandatory in the tasting menu. Here in a version with scallops, seaweed, lime juice, ikura and its coral. Delicate scallops and a tasty broth we drank to the last drop. Very good!

shikotj-6Mussels Gyoza, pak choi and ponzu sauce
I’m an assumed fan of gyozas, with the crunchy layer below and soft on top, but here the chef chose to just cook the gyoza filled with mussel and involve it all in ponzu sauce. Elegant dish of subtle flavors, where the controlled acidity of the sauce balances with the sweetness of the mussels and the light texture of the gyoza finds its crunch in the kale. A great dish!

shikotj-7King Crab, new potatoes with vinegar and dried sardine
Once again a dish I wasn’t expecting, firstly for the main ingredient, king crab, and secondly for the side of boiled potatoes, seasoned with vinegar and sardine powder. The Crab in a thick sauce with dashi and ginger. A sinful dish you can’t stop eating, with the crab and its sauce overwhelming the entire table.

shikotj-8Steamed Razor Clams with sake
If our traditional restaurants have à bolhão pato clams, Ruy brings to the table a steamed razor clam with a citrus sauce and sake with a seaweed salad. Flawless seafood, tasty seaweed and fresh sauce that made the dish not only different but also a great snack.

shikotj-10Eggplant with peanut sauce and sesame
I tasted another version of this dish, and at the time I wasn’t fascinated for it being to sweet of a combination, but here the sauce revealed to be less cloying and more balanced, mixing well with the roasted eggplant, which creamy texture almost melts in the mouth.

shikotj-9Mackerel marinade
Entering the classics field, with another dish that even if Ruy wanted to take off the menu, it’d be impossible: the mackerel marinade with miso and garlic. Firm fish, slightly braised and balanced sauce, the garlic present without excesses. It’s easy to understand why it conquered the Portuguese palates, used to strong and powerful flavors.

shikotj-11Salmon Tataki
It’s hard to come to Shiko and not find at least one of these tatakis in each table, probably its best-seller, not only for the thin and well prepared slices of salmon, but especially for the thick miso sauce and the shichimi togarashi (Japanese seasoning of 7 ingredients), elevating its flavor. It’s a great dish, for sure.

shikotj-12Futomaki, Uramaki “carapau valente” and Uramaki bebi nambam
Despite our already full bellies, we couldn’t miss one or two sushi pieces. Leaving aside my usual niguiris, the choice of the chef went to its light and crunchy futomaki – thick roll with marinated vegetables and fish, the “carapau valente” (“brave horse mackerel”), in an uramaki with horse mackerel, ginger and eggplant marinated in miso, and a classic uramaki with breaded shrimp (with panko). Super high score to the shari (rice), nicely cooked, with the right acidity and to the flavors of the several combinations, in which the horse mackerel stands out for its power, and the futomaki for the subtlety and crunchiness.

shikotj-13Exotic Pavlova
To share, in the end of all the meal, an always flawless Pavlova, the only element of the dinner Ruy Leão doesn’t sign, the creation being in charge of the already famous MissPavlova, Sweet enough, with a nice game of textures and a passion fruit curd that elevates and freshens the combination.

At the chefs table, the service is a bit different, more private, done by both the team and the chef, as expected, joining the guests to explain his creations. Always nice, efficient and uncomplicated as a good Izakaya should be.

Concerning the wines, I feel a constant evolution in the menu, with some out of the box options, like the II Terroir from Quinta da Casa Amarela, a wine that joins alvarinho from Quinta do Regueiro (Melgaço) with the white grapes of Douro (Casa Amarela), resulting in a rare wine, with some aromatic domain of the alvarinho and a structure from Douro, keeping a delicate freshness that accompanies nicely the delicious menu.

Accompanying the meal also an Alvarinho Contacto 2015 of Anselmo Mendes and a Riesling from Alsace, 2014, of the Hugel family. Two beautiful wines brought by one of the guests, harmonizing perfectly not only with the sushi but also with the several snacks of Japanese flavours.

Final Remarks
Shiko is one of those restaurants I recommend to my friends every time they ask me, for a good sushi or to taste a dish with different seasoning and ingredients. But now, Ruy Leão is more secure, has his public and fans, so you can see a quality jump up coming.
After this dinner I have no doubts left, this Tasca is evolving to very interesting paths that seem to be the true desire of the chef, the sushi starts to occupy a smaller place in the menu, with the guests travelling to other flavors, showing Japan is not only technique, fish and shari.

With dinners like this, there will always be success and clients!

Shiko – Tasca Japonesa
22 323 9671
Rua Sol, 238 – Porto

Versão Portuguesa

 Text: João Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses 

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