Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Izakaya With a Bang

It seems like an oxymoron when they decided to name their Japanese Izakaya style restaurant “Silencio” (after a Latin jazz song apparently – just FYI), but then one might argue it’s somewhat appropriate given they do have a jazz band performing live at the dining room every evening. That’s just part of what made this new place in Lan Kwai Fong unique and fun as a place to hang out, eat and drink.

Modern Izakaya was not a new concept around town per se – think Nobu, Zuma, or even Tokio Joe not far away from here that have all been around for a while – but Silencio did stand out as something particularly promising, not only because the owner group is known to spare no expense in creating the best, most special dining experience for customers, but its chef Sean Mell came from the family of Nobu, having rotating through several of its outlets in US and finally Hong Kong over the decade, until he left for this brand new project. Given his background, there’s no surprise there’s the same traits of those modern Japanese cuisine, both in terms of cooking and presentation, but Silencio was definitely on the trendier side, with the well-decorated décor, dimmed lighting, cool art and the long bar counter stretching from front to back of the dining area (which was occupied by Lily & Bloom previously), and a stage for the jazz band.

Food-wise it was enjoyable. A few dishes did stand out to be my favorites of the evening. Our first course of tomato and cheese was a play on the Italian classic combination but with a total twist. Wedges of ripe and sweet kumamoto tomatoes was dressed with cold dashi steeped with Parmesan rind and bits of strawberries for the slight savory sweet flavor, then on top was a little scoop of tomato “cloud” (made of whipped tomato water gelatin mix) and a dash of shiso oil. It’s a refreshing course loaded with umami taste.

The cured Hamachi was beautifully plated, with slices of coffee cured yellowtail fish, served with pickled shallots, pomelo, watercress puree and scallion oil. I love the contrast between the smoky fish and the acidity from the condiments. That’s before the “new-style” Caesar salad, with baby gem lettuce served with a half-boiled onsen egg (taken from the hot waterbath), house-smoked ikura (salmon roes), and creamy yuzu dressing.

A few sushi pieces were served – in the format traditionalist may cry foul. That included an arachini-style nigiri with rice coated in a charcoal-colored batter and deep-fried and served with uni (sea urchin) and gold flakes on top – something not yet on the menu but Chef Sean gave it to us to try, the “Russian nigiri” with caviar on top, and the red prawn tempura roll served with Sichuan aioli sauce.

Among the two seafood dishes served as our main course, I prefer the grilled scallop served on its own shell, with the Hokkaido scallop grilled with butter and served with a yuzu soy butter sauce and garnishes on top. A sprinkle of ponzu toned down the buttery flavor of the dish, but offered some good balance.

We finished with sando – wagyu katsu tenderloin “sandwich” served with mayo and katsu sauce on a soft milk bread, plus a matcha mousse dessert with red-bean icecream. They did have an interesting wine and sake selection – and throughout the evening we just followed the lead of Chef Sean for the right pairing for the dishes. We started with a taru-sake which was straight forward and full-bodied with a hint of smokiness as the wine was aged in cedar cask. And the revived old-school style of bodaimoto Junmai has a distinct sweet flavor balanced by some acidity, making it a perfect glass for many of the rich flavored courses.

I thought Silencio is an interesting addition to the mix of this ever-changing neighborhood and certainly arrived with a bang. Thanks for the kind invitation by the restaurant for this dinner tasting.

When? April 30 2019
Where? Silencio, 6/F LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Pablo - Coffee-cured hamachi, watercress puree and pickled shallots
Yoshinosugino Tarusake - Choryo Shuzo, Nara Prefecture
Machida Tokubetsu Junmai - Machida Shuzo, Gunma Prefecture
Takacho Bodaimoto Nama Junmai Muroka Genshu - Yucho Shuzo, Nara Prefecture
Web: www.silencio.hk

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