Friday, April 21, 2017

Teppanyaki Omakase

Sans the Japanese dessert stall at the street corner, I have never set foot on Haven Street, a little cul-de-sac at the tip of Causeway Bay. Once filled with filthy car repair shops and garages, it has slowly transformed into a corner lined with hip cafes, bars, small restaurants and at the end of the street, a Japanese restaurant called Kyoku specializing in sushi and teppanyaki. And that's where I was a couple of weeks ago trying out their new omakase menu in front of the teppanyaki counter.

Most decent Japanese restaurants were small and cozy with only a handful of seats, but Kyoku is grand and spacious. One side of the dining area near to the entrance was the huge sushi counter that looked more like a performing stage for the sushi chefs, and teppenyaki counter was on the side. Both counters can seat a dozen or so each. There were also private rooms with their own sushi counter for more intimate seating or functions.

We were welcomed by Chef Ken as we settled at the counter, sharing the long horseshoe-shaped table with another group of customers served by another chef. Our omakase menu consists of a few items prepared on the grill in front of us, as well as a few appetizer dishes delivered from the kitchen at the back. We began with a pair of cold starters – the salad and sashimi platter, in addition to the small spoonful of sea urchin and crabmeat tofu as our amuse-bouche. The thick slice of hiramasa was the most interesting one, as part of the sashimi platter. The young yellowtail has well-balanced fat and slightly smoked right before serving, leaving it with good aroma.

I also liked a few hot cooked dishes. The seasonal Aoyagi (surf clams) was grilled inside its shell, and has a clean umami flavor with plump meat. The best part was of course the clam juice kept inside. Just as we were finishing the appetizer dishes, Chef Ken began preparing the ingredients for the Teppanyaki “show”. I don’t do Teppanyaki often but coincidentally this was my second Teppanyaki meal in two weeks, but this time, we went for some unusual ingredients, starting with the abalones.

It’s quite spectacular when chef brought out the live abalones all laid out neatly on a plate – each of them were bigger than my fist! Not a lot of seasonings were done to them prior to cooking and Chef Ken paired them with an interesting sauce made with seaweed and dashi reduction. I thought that added to the richness in taste. The abalone itself was perfectly cooked and has a good bouncy bite – it’s outstanding.

The next course was a surprising choice of quail, something I couldn’t recall having before in a Teppanyaki restaurant. This time Chef Ken opted for a plum sauce with sautéed vegetables served on the side. The quail was done medium-rare leaving it a bit of a chewy texture. Finally it was the wagyu. It’s not of the most marbled one I have had but still very tender, plus I loved the side-dish of garlic crisp. That was addictive.

Yakisoba may be something you see more often in the food court, but here this was an upgraded version with the sunny side-up egg fried with crispy edge, and topped with a dab of black truffle paste along with all the fatty bits of the wagyu we had right before, and we ended our meal with a bowl of the comforting fish soup and the super creamy matcha panna cotta with red beans, both outstanding.

During the dinner we couldn't help but taking a peek at what others were eating at the other side of the Teppanyaki counter, and their prawns and eels looked extremely enticing cooked sizzling hot. That plus the great things I heard about their sushi from multiple sources, I guess repeat visits are definitely in order.

(Dinner was by invitation and courtesy of the restaurant)

When? April 12 2017
Where? Kyoku, Shop 2, 38 Haven Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Grilled French Quail on Teppanyaki

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