Category Archives: Japanese

The One With Hal’s Fusion Japanese – Great Usuyaki Beef

So I was at Hal’s Japanese Restaurant which was relocated from Central to Causeway Bay due to 2x increase in rent (according to Jason). Seems like many of the foodies know of and frequent this place, so I marked it onto my foodie to-do list for Causeway Bay area. Moon was in town, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to try out the restaurant.

Hal's Japanese Restaurant

Making a reservation was a breeze, and I realised why. Although I was some fifteen minutes late for my booking, the restaurant was empty. It felt like I booked the entire restaurant for our catch-up dinner; in fact, ours is the only table occupied for the entire night. It was a shame, really. The service by the entirely Japanese crew was stellar, though it would be nice if the two Japanese chefs smiled a little more. As for the food, well, Moon and I were about to find out.

Read More →

The One With Teppanyaki Sessyu – Japanese Fare At Cubus Causeway Bay

So it was Christmas and I was at Teppanyaki Sessyu, one of the many restaurants located with the Cubus building. Cubus is gastronomy heaven, evident from the range of high-end restaurants cooking and brewing from within. Last time I counted there were at least three Japanese restaurants at Cubus, and Sessyu is one of them.

Japanese Teppanyaki At Sessyu

It was my second feast at Sessyu, both time with the same boss. I love Sessyu for the exquisite decoration (check out the wagyu cow statue right smack in the middle of the restaurant) and personalised cooking. You get to witness how your food is cooked, by the chefs themselves right at your table. The set lunches are of exceptional value: for some $250-ish you get a whole range of high quality food, from silky soft chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg custard) to char-grilled tenderloin steak.

Japanese Teppanyaki At Sessyu

US Angus tenderloin.

Of course, with a set meal there bound to be hits and misses. However I am happy to report that most of the dishes included in Sessyu’s set meal have always been stellar. Of high recommendation is the fried garlic rice. This simple dish is made great by a sprinkling of burnt rice cooked specifically to be crusted on top of the rice, along with generous helping of garlic and anchovies, which gave it a delicious fragrant smell.

Read More →

The One With Dai Mon Yokocho – Localised Japanese Fare

Restaurant owners in Hong Kong are well known to be exceptionally skilled in transforming foreign cuisine to the local taste buds. This is not to say local diners are not a discerning bunch; but the vast majority of Hong Kongers are more than happy to settle for food and drinks which have been, well, watered down, or tampered with to make it taste less foreign.

That is also not to say such localised food is not great. My experience at Dai Mon Yokocho was a testament that despite the interfering hands of the local chefs, the Japanese food served was delicious through strayed far from the real land-of-the-rising-sun’s food. The diners were decidedly local, so were the kitchen staff. I was there one rainy night and was “lucky” to be seated in plain view of the Cantonese-speaking chefs and cooks.

Dai Mon Yokocho

The food? Well! Let’s get down to business.

Hand-made Udon In Spicy Satay Soup With Premium Beef & Pork Cartilage (HK$69)

Dai Mon Yokocho

My choice, and definitely a good one. There was a page of udon in satay broth, another set of options in tomato broth, and yet another page for “spicy” broth… in satay and tomato variety. I reckoned all they did was to sprinkle some liberal amount of sliced cili padi (bird’s eye chilli), and it worked. The satay broth was fragrant with a strong peanut taste, the way I like it, and the udon were smooth and chewy. I can’t comment much about the beef and pork, except that when served with the whole combination plus spring onions and corns, it worked like a charm. My friend took a couple mouthfuls and reckoned it was better than his choice!

Read More →

The One With Sake Bar GINN – Hong Kong Dedicated Sake Bar

Founder Ayuchi Momose was proud to inform us that Sake Bar GINN is the first genuine bar in Hong Kong dedicated only to the fermented rice wine.

Sake Bar GINN

The sake selection available, mind boggling to the novice and da God-sent for diehard fans, were imported directly from Japanese breweries and not available elsewhere in Hong Kong.

Sake Bar GINN

Sake Bar GINN is more like a bar than a restaurant, so be prepared to be overwhelmed by its selection of about 100 different kinds of sakes, rather than its tapa style menu to go with the sake.

Read More →

The One With 33 Rooms – Japanese Private Kitchen in Taipei

What makes a private kitchen? I pondered over this question as I took in the scene that was 33 Rooms for an elaborate new year celebration dinner in Taipei recently.

Colours of Taiwan

If a private kitchen is defined by its interior design and ambiance, then 33 Rooms do seem to fit the bill. Housed in a nondescript shop lot in Ximending area, the authentically Japanese exterior (complete with a confusing sliding door and obligatory lanterns) give way to a cozy restaurant which has been in existence for more than thirty years.

Colours of Taiwan

The restaurant were sectioned into the way you would like to be seated; be it tatami, stools, benches, or private rooms. Each layout was characterised differently; our tatami seat were comfortable – i.e. never once I complained of backache sitting through the almost 3-hour meal – and appropriately decked with warm lighting, which made me hunker down contentedly to ponder over what food would be ahead of me.

Read More →

The One With Hakata Ippudo Ramen – Japanese Spirit Overload

Hong Kong people do tend to overdo things sometimes.

You know how they always greet you when you enter a pharmacy store (oh yes, hi), ask you to feel free to look around (no, I will only sneakily do so), and do you want to try this lip balm for $20 more (why, my chaffed lips thank you). The relentless, automated chatters annoy me to no end, and it was the same when I visited Hakata Ippudo Ramen recently.

Hakata Ippudo Ramen

But IPPUDO took it to another level. The staff, already decked out in full force Japanese (ramen operator) gear, were shouting to each other in nonsensical Japanese throughout dinner. One new customer walk in and then the whole chorus begin, from one end of the restaurant to the other, right into the kitchen.

Read More →

The One With Tokoro Robatayaki- A Feast For The Eyes & More

Have you heard? For the first time my food review was published in print! It was the winter edition of Good Eating by South China Morning Post, the company I work for. I joined the group of contributors of the custom publishing team and was assigned to review Tokoro Robatayaki, a contemporary Japanese restaurant located in Mongkok.

(The following review is reproduction of what I have wrote originally, unedited and not as printed in the magazine, with my own photos added on)

Tokoro Robatayaki

Elegant and laid back, with soft lighting for a relaxed dining experience. The robatayaki-style theatre allows you to witness its star chef in action, while the birdcage-like designer pods are perfect for group dining.

Tokoro Robatayaki

The star of the night was undoubtedly the US Angus beef. The tenderloins were grilled to the right degree of medium rare tenderness, served on a hot plate. Each cut was bursting with that distinctive flavour of good-grade beef, rendering the accompanying selection of salts and sauces rather unnecessary.

Read More →

The One With Ying Vegetarian – Innovative Vegetarian Gourmet

It may come as a surprise to you, but not many Hong Kong-ers fancy vegetarian food. At least, not in my circle of friends. When I floated the idea of having a vegetarian meal, I met with an array of ridicule, from the polite to the downright rude.

“Well, what else do you feel like having?”

“Oh, is that in Causeway Bay? I just know this neat little hot pot place nearby…”

“Why the f*ck do you want to spend your money on rubbery fake meat? Get a life”.

Of course, I am exaggerating. But only just. Vegetarian meat – fake meat, faux meat, whatever you want to call it – is not to everyone’s taste. Though after my experience at Ying Vegetarian, I couldn’t understand why not.

Ying Vegetarian @ Yau Ma Tei

My partner-in-crime for the night was Adaline, whom enlightened me on the story behind vegetarian meat. It was told that in ancient times, Chinese emperors visiting Buddhist temples were welcomed by the monks with such meat, effectively fusing vegetarian practices with the taste of the meat-eating royalty.

Counterfeiting meat? Perhaps. Ying Vegetarian did it with such perfection, it was impossible not to be dazzled by such gastronomical wizardry. Throughout the meal, often I had to take a pause and remind myself that hey, I was NOT eating meat. This piece of delicious looking sashimi in between my chopsticks is not of piece of salmon; it was a piece of non-meat sashimi expertly made from soy, tofu and similar ingredients.

Read More →

The One With Habitat Japanese Restaurant – A Deplorable Experience

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 d├ęcor, 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)

Habitat Japanese Restaurant

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.

Read More →

The One With Robata Zawazawa – Inspiring Japanese Dessert & Cocktails

When you first walk into Robata Zawazawa, you will almost be certainly distracted with its astounding decoration.

Robata Zawazawa

The attention to details were all-consuming. From the Japanese lanterns, to the exquisite menu, right to the open kitchen/bar. I seldom get excited about the design of a restaurant, but Robata certainly got my camera snapping.

Robata Zawazawa

But I was at Robata that night to have a go at authentic Japanese dessert and drinks. Prepared by (what else) real Japanese kitchen crew.

Read More →