Saturday, July 4, 2020

Putting on a Dinner Show

With the name and decor resembling more of a Vegas casino VIP room than a restaurant, honestly I don't know what to expect when we went for dinner at Crown Super Deluxe at Lan Kwai Fong on a Sunday evening. 

You may wonder why, especially the restaurant was in business only for the second week the time we went. Well, I had a thing about old-school teppanyaki/hibachi where chef put on a show in front of customers (think Benihana in the US where chef would pour oil over rings of onions and ignite to simulate a volcano during the meal) and I thought that's what the restaurant is about given its funky name. And the more practical reason is we went out of ideas trying to get a table anywhere on the Father's Day weekend. 

The restaurant sat on top of Lan Kwai Fong, taking up the space which used to be a casual eatery bearing the name of a celebrity chef (Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen). The space went through total overhaul, now with a rather theatrical entrance with three huge counters with seats surrounding them, with the center one which can accommodate up to a dozen customers over 2 separate "stations". Completing the flashy interior was the velvet purple carpet and recessed lighting and the plush high chairs. 

Three set menus were offered, varied by the number of dishes and the type of meat or seafood items served. The staff gave us a quick rundown of the history of teppanyaki cuisine and the concept of this restaurant, but she seems fazed when I half-jokingly confessed I was there for the "onion volcano". ("Unfortunately we don't do that here" was her response - damn) They did provide a fancy little bib for every customer - don't know if there's any practical use of it to be honest. 

We were served by Chef Ami, wife of their executive chef Toru Takano, sharing the table with 4 other customers who arrived slightly before we did. We began with a couple cold appetizers - the sashimi platter was what you expect from a high street chain, with 3 different types of seafood (shimaji, masu and amaebi), and the Japanese candy tomato was served sliced into chunks with sea salt on the side. It's sweet and refreshing. Meanwhile Chef Ami began her preparation, crisping up sliced garlic to be used later and getting her mise-en-place ready.

The rest of the meal went through the usual drill at a Teppanyaki restaurant, where chef prepared the dishes in front of us at the sizzling iron plate. First was the seafood course, which we were given a choice of either scallops or prawns, both coming from Hokkaido. My prawn came in nice size, with the shells carefully removed and meat slightly charred with the head and tail kept intact. I actually like the crispy head with rich flavor. Three types of sauces were available for our grilled dishes - ponzu, sesame sauce and sweet soy sauce - all of them were nice though for most of the dishes they were hardly needed as they arrived seasoned. 

Three types of vegetables were then served - nothing wrong with the onions and bean sprouts (except no volcano show) but I wasn't a fan of the slightly bitter after-taste with the spinach. Even the sesame sauce didn't help to hide that unwanted flavor. I personally thought cabbage would have been a better choice. Our menu came with the Australian wagyu rib-eye, with each of us getting around 6 oz of meat. It's perfectly seared, with the firm and charred crust and pinkish center. I thought they went well with a dab of wasabi and a light dip on the soy sauce. On the side was the sliced garlic crisp that Chef Ami prepared in the beginning of the meal - I thought it could do with slightly longer cooking but they were flavorful with nice crispy texture as is. The fatty bits of the steak were left off on the grill as Chef Ami went on to mix those into our final course of fried rice, mixed with chopped green scallions and garlic (but no egg for this version) The small bowl was loaded with flavor and it's served with a small plate of pickles and miso soup. 

They offered a decent wine menu with good variety of choices. We went with a bottle of rustic junmai sake as I thought it's more versatile to go with a number of courses. Rich and dry and slightly acidic. We were offered to finish our bottle plus dessert at the lounge right behind the dining room, which we did. The cozy space was nice and comfortable and came with a full whisky menu which any whisky lover may appreciate. Desserts were said to be presented in classic style completed with old-school tableware - our cherry dacquoise was fine, with sweet cherries and cream sandwiched between the spongy cake, except I thought it's slightly pricier than it should. 

Overall, the dinner turned out to be better than I expected. The food wasn't out of this world but nonetheless decent, and the dining experience - while not as theatrical as I imagined - was perfect for a fun night out when we wanted something slightly different than the usuals.

When? June 21 2020
Where? Crown Super Deluxe, Mezzanine, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central
Menu Highlights? Grilled Australian Wagyu Ribeye
Drink? Fukuju "Green Label" Junmai Mikagego - Kobe Shushinkan Brewery, Nara Prefecture

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