Calm and collected as he stands behind the hinoki blonde-wood counter slicing fish, it’s hard to imagine Jackie Lin making a mistake when it comes to sushi. But the chef-owner of Shoushin recalls a time when he served a piece of sushi, with some small bones studded in the flesh. It was an incident that left him in tears.
“I cried when I realised I made that mistake,” says Lin. He was working at the renowned Japanese restaurant, Zen, under master sushi chef Seiichi Kashiwabara. The Guangzhou-born chef was younger then, just 19 years of age. He tells Keyyes that he was in a rush to keep up. It was also, he says humbly, of not putting in enough care. Today, despite the wince-worthy recall of the incident, Lin considers it a necessary mistake.
That’s because care is exactly what it taught him. And he applies it to everything. “Now, I always expect the worst. I don’t assume that the (filleted) fish has no bones; I make sure to double and triple check.”
It’s why a meal at Shoushin is one you’ll remember. Only wild-caught seafood — favoured for the deep, complex flavours that come with their natural diet — makes it to the menu here. Lin serves classic Tokyo-style sushi, where slivers of fish are scored, seasoned or lightly smoked. And the key that brings it all together is the bed of rice the fish is draped upon.
The Pleasure Dome
Depending on the fish being served, Lin shapes the rice accordingly. Fatty tuna, for instance, will sit atop a pillow of loosely-packed sushi rice. For chewier fish, Lin packs the rice more tightly. All this, so the sushi comes apart at the same time for maximum pleasure and mouthfeel.
“When customers put the sushi in their mouths, the fish and rice should fall apart in equal proportions,” says Lin. “If the fish has a soft texture and melts in your mouth, but the rice is too hard, it won’t be the best experience.”
It’s no wonder then that the crowd here made up of sharp-suited businessmen and serious sushi lovers. For regulars, Lin tries to craft a different experience for them each time. “If they come within the same month, they’ll usually be having the same seafood, so I try to make it different for them by changing the seasonings,” says Lin.
A piece of barracuda sushi, for instance, would usually be served with grated ginger and a dash of soy. But if you were to come back two weeks later, Lin might use green onion and ponzu sauce instead.
“It’s down to me to make things different from the previous time,” says Lin. It’s why diners will keep coming back for more.