I don’t visit Richmond often, so when I do it is typically for a good restaurant, and today my guest brought me down to Aberdeen Centre to try one of their newer ones. Whereas Western malls are not known for their quality restaurants within, it differs greatly when it comes to Chinese malls; such is the case for Aberdeen. The ends of this three storey mall is home to several restaurants in a row. And I must admit, it is hard to choose between them all.
“Mr. Black” is a fusion restaurant, offering Japanese cuisine prepared using Chinese ingredients with a twist. It stays true to its name with a predominantly black decor and its feature dishes all covered in black. The chefs prepared plates behind a black island counter, guests were able to watch them on black stools, posted up against the black bar. We ordered off of blackened menus, as sat at black tables outfitted with black dish ware, eaten out of using black chopsticks. It was edgy, moody, and really drew you in.
I allowed my guest to order, with her familiarity of the cuisine. She made sure to pick out the more unique and interactive dishes for my sake and the sake of my writing.
We started with a dish of edamame beans. But these green pods were hiding a secret. They were dusted in Szechwan pepper that is often referred to as “numbing pepper”. The result is a tingle of the tongue and the increase of salivation in your mouth. My guest liked the flavour, whereas I found it grew slower on me. The more you eat it the better it tastes. It was a weird sensation, one worth trying, your tongue doesn’t know what to make of it.
I was most excited to see and try the “Mr. Black chicken wings”. They were coated in a crispy black breading, and the menu was vague in describing from where the “black” came from. What I thought would be soya sauce, which actually liquorice. I have never had anything seasoned like this before. And although I liked the novelty of colouring meat like this, I wasn’t completely sold, given my dislike of the root with its medicinal tone. Although, the creamy side sauce did help to mask most of this flavouring for me, as well as offering a nice creaminess to the solid crispy finish of each wing and drumlet. This was a fish roe based sauce, where the fishy flavour was prominent.
There is also a wagyu version of this available, but we decided not to chance it, in case we didn’t like the flavour, plus didn’t want to pay more for the premium beef. And now in hindsight, I am happy for our decision. Instead, we had our wagyu, as is, over a grill. We found this the best way to highlight the meat.
This was the Wagyu beef set for $28.99. Although good, given what little we got and how fatty the meat was, we didn’t feel it was worth the price asked. Especially as the menu mislead with a much larger serving in their high quality image. The meat was unseasoned and bland on its own, it needed a heavy dip in the mentiko yuzu sauce for flavour, thus forcing us to mask the natural flavours of the beef.
I did like the presentation and the interactive portion of this meal though. Battered and flashed fried, each slice of wagyu is served slightly raw. You further cook it to your preference, table side; doing so on the heated cast iron slab that is mounted on a pedestal. This was their speciality coal heating apparatus, that was flown in from japan.
With rice, soup, and salad as sides, they helped to make this a more fulsome meal. Each offered ways to brighten up bites and change textures, thus elongating the serving. I was surprised by how much I liked the salad. Wonderful mushrooms, blueberry, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and yellow pickled radish. The refreshing lemon custard cream that topped it really made it something special. Imagine the flavour of a lemon square as a dressing. The side of raw and shredded cabbage also came with a sauce, but sadly the luscious peanut sauce arrived too late for us to fully enjoy the food together.
I wasn’t a big fan of the “Salmon and mentaiko korokke”. Within these breaded and deep fried balls resembled a potato salad, and they ate like whipped mash. Another interesting idea, but the salmon was too dominating of a flavour. The house made spicy miso sauce was mild in spice. Good on its own, but I didn’t find that it complimented the fried ball all that much. Instead a tangy plum sauce would have been a better compliment. Regardless, I really didn’t want more than one of them anyways.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Everything was deep fried, but it didn’t feel like it, all that we had wasn’t greasy, and we didn’t leave feeling heavy with weight. Overall, lunch was more of an experience, than that a satisfying meal. It was great to be able to sample all these creative concoctions, and I enjoyed trying all their fun, in house made sauce creations. However, I won’t necessarily crave for any of it nor would I want to order any of it again. Don’t deny your cravings.