Sunday, December 2, 2018

Going Back to Haku

When our friends C and M asked us for recommendations of casual fine-dining place on the Kowloon side, we told them about Haku and Chef Agustin’s creative cooking. And we were just as happy to tag along when they made a booking to eat there one weekend evening.

It’s my first time sitting at the table at the side of the restaurant instead of the counter seats in front of the open kitchen. That gave me a different perspective in observing all the actions from the kitchen at a distance. And I was happy to see Chef Agustin and his team working hard to a full-house, with every seats at the counter plus almost all tables taken on a busy Saturday evening - I trust this has become a common scene these days, with the team goes from strength to strength.

Before the dinner I was curious whether the Haku team was able to deliver something totally different and above my heightened expectation this time, given I have eaten at the restaurant a few times in quick succession in the past few months. At the end they certainly did with the new seasonal menu that just came out the week we were there.

Just like how it’s done previously, the restaurant serves a single omakase menu with only a map and brief description showing the source of some of the key ingredients in each dish. We began with an impressive array of simple bites said to be inspired by classic Japanese street eats, starting with the quail eggs with black garlic done kushikatsu style (deep-fried and served on a skewer stick), then the mini “okonomiyaki” with shaven bonito flakes on top, a beautiful monaka sandwich with ikura and lastly, a small cup of mushroom consommé with ginseng. They were beautifully presented and I did particularly like the combination of quail egg and black garlic coulis for that touch of sweetness. The consomme was interesting too, pairing something classic Japanese (mushrooms) with something more typical of Chinese or Korean cuisine (ginseng) in a porcelain teacup.

We quickly moved on to another platter of appetizers, a few types of sashimi dishes served in different ceramics bowls. Some were more traditional – like a sayori (needlefish) served with a dash of soy with julienne radish on top – but some were more innovative, like the aka-ebi (red prawn) given a Mediterranean touch with sudachi-infused olive oil. By now I was pretty used to Chef Agustin’s signature dish of open-faced uni sandwich, but this time, the uni (sea urchin) was served on top of pumpkin puree giving it a slightly sweet flavor. I thought the brioche bun may stay exposed for a little longer than it should (it’s a bit dry), but overall it’s delicious.

More seafood was served, and this time, it was the lobster with a light and airy cauliflower foam and topped with Kristal caviar. The lobster tail was barely cooked, giving it a nice soft texture and umami flavor, and contrasted well with the rich caviar taste. Strangely, the next dish of tai (sea bream) served with a sauce made with soy beans, chorizo and kombu reminded me of Mediterranean flavor too, though most of the ingredients were typical Japanese. It’s a well-executed dish as well.

Main course of the evening was beef. Tenderloin from Nozaki Wagyu of Kagoshima was used, and was grilled on charcoal and served in thick slices. On top was a thick slice of seasonal Matsutake mushrooms (courtesy of the house) and a generous dollop of moromi miso with its intense flavor. Then we finished with more mushrooms with a mixture of different types served in a rice casserole with a raw egg yolk. It had a deep earthy flavor with a hint of aroma from the baby kinome leaves on top.

Three desserts were served, with two drinks paired, which by themselves felt like a whole new meal. We began with mikan (Japanese mandarin) served 3 ways – sorbet, candied jam, and grated ice – along with dots of soft meringues; then it’s the beautiful satsuma-imo (sweet potato) ice-cream served with honey-miso syrup. To finish, a chocolate meringue and mousse, which matched very well with the special Armagnac and Fernet-Branca digestif cocktails prepared for us at the table.

It’s a fun night to hang out over some outstanding dishes and drinks. Something worth crossing the harbor for.

When? November 3 2018
Where? Haku, Shop OT G04B, Ground Floor Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Grilled Nozaki Wagyu with Matsutake Mushrooms
Kudoki Jozu Junmai Daiginjo, Kamenoi Shuzo, Yamagata Prefecture
くどき上手 播州山田錦 純米大吟醸 - 山形県 亀の井酒造
2012 Girolama Russo "Fendo" Etna Rosso

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