When a restaurant runs a social buying deal on sites like Groupon, it is considered not a revenue-generating exercise (though that would be a bonus) but a marketing campaign. At often break-even point, you bring in new customers through the door, for you to impress them with your menu so much so that they are likely to try out more items (such as drinks) and return again in the near future.
That concept, apparently, was lost on Habitat Japanese Restaurant.
Touted as a “Hanging Garden”, Habitate was not unimpressive. With stylish décor, the 3,200sq ft restaurant takes the extraordinary wood texture as its theme, with spacious room and relaxing seating. Its attentive wait staff (though, sometimes can be unnerving with its endless “welcome” and “goodbye”) was a bonus.
During the night when I was there with my better half, the entire (and I do mean entire) restaurant was filled with Groupon customers. At least ten tables. I know because all the food served at every table were the same.
Speaking of the food, let’s see…
Japanese Bean (HK$22)
A personal favorite. Slightly hairy green beans cooked in salty water. The beans here were rather good and fresh, though I wished the portion is a bit bigger since the single bowl was to serve two person.
Organic Tomato Salad (HK$22)
A thoroughly mediocre fare. I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell an organic tomato from one end to the other. The dish was a combination of the usual suspects of a green salad, plus vinegar and sesame oil for taste. Not particularly fresh, either.
Sea Urchin Sashimi (HK$220)
Not exactly a fan of sea urchin; so much so I wasn’t able to tell what dish this was when served. My better half was sufficiently more knowledgeable when it comes to Japanese cuisine and was able to tell me the sashimi, alas, was not fresh. It wasn’t bad – the portion was huge afterall – but you could have better fare elsewhere.
Hand-rolled Onion Toro (HK$196)
Pictured above. Easily one of the better dishes in the dinner set. Dipped in wasabi (which was fierily spicy to my liking) and soy sauce, it was delicious.
Spicy Japanese Cheese Tonikokoman (HK$38)
What exactly is a tonikokoman? I was thinking of some sort of Japanese pancakes, but it wasn’t. It was named spicy, but it wasn’t either. The cheese was there, but it was just that – cheesy, and not in a good way. In the end I can only conclude it was an unfortunate combination of ingredients to cook a Japanese dish which turn out far from expected. I couldn’t imagine this, even by Japanese standard, to be good.
Norwegeian Wild Salmon Head (HK$118)
Healthy portion of salmon cake and white, silky tofu were the highlight of this soup. I kinda like – it reminds me of some sort of kimchi soup, only not as spicy – but my other half didn’t. I could understand why. It was strange to be eating salmon head, even the fleshy kind. An acquired taste, perhaps?
Grilled Minced Chicken Skewer (HK72)
Now I understand why the skewer was named “minced chicken”. Minced it was, but also including soft bones and god knows what else. I did wonder why the chicken meat tasted slightly crunchy. Did they just mix up all bits of leftovers to make this? Even so, the chef could have made it more palatable. Yet another disappointment.
Japanese-Style Seafood Fried Rice (HK$76)
My hope wasn’t high for this one; afterall the Japanese wasn’t well known for fried rice. Verdict: It was okay. Advice: Spice it up a little with more seasoning, perhaps top it up with chunks of grilled chicken. Anything to make this bowl of ordinariness slightly less ordinary.
Ice Cream (HK$76)
I wanted to show a picture of this ice cream not because it was delicious (it was ordinary; at least they could have served green tea ice cream), but to ask: Would you pay HK$38 for a scoop of ice cream like this?
Perhaps I was prejudiced since this dinner was directly after my previous disastrous Groupon experience at Ramada Hotel. But for what it was worth, if its objective is to convert new customers into repeat ones, Habitat’s deal was a spectacular fail.
I hope you have better luck.
Habitat Japanese Restaurant 柊亭料理
28/F, QRE Plaza
202 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai