Review: Ukiyo's Teppanyaki Excels In Form But Lacks The Theatrics
Location is everything when it comes to opening a restaurant in Hong Kong, and particularly in Causeway Bay. It gives you the first competitive edge. While some establishments rely on heavy-duty marketing and neon signs to catch your attention, some choose to lay low and depend on word of mouth instead. It’s the latter for Ukiyo, a new teppanyaki restaurant that quietly opened two months ago within an unseemly building at the centre of the shopping district.
Ukiyo resides at Oliv, a building that also houses establishments such as Francesco and Eighteen Sharp. The restaurant is small, seating only 12 at the main dining area with barely any elbow room between guests; there is a private room at the other end of the space. Dark wood flooring and floor-to-ceiling wooden panels of the same tone offer a more understated but comforting ambience. Soft spot lights set along the teppan kitchen bar are well placed to light up the restaurant, setting an intimate mood.
Labelled as ‘teppanyaki steakhouse’, Ukiyo has set high standards on seafood and steaks, the latter dry-aged in-house between 20 to 45 days. Guests entering the restaurant will pass the dry-aging fridge displaying various cuts of beef. The restaurant serves two set menus, as well as a handful of a la carte options. We began with a starter of lobster and avocado salad chilled edamame soup and green salad with figs and tomato vinaigrette. The lobster and avocado salad, lightly dressed with mayonnaise, was well-seasoned and lobster chunks were cooked just right. The edamame soup was a bit on the thick side.
A single abalone was quickly seared on the griddle, deshelled and stir-fried, and seasoned with a mixture of soy sauce, sake, and salt. Served back on its shell, the abalone was tender, but a tad over-seasoned. The scallops were prepared in a similar fashion, with a touch of butter. The mollusc was tender and cooked just right. Escargots were tossed quickly with browned button mushrooms and flavoured with herb butter. While the butter gave the dish a lift, especially mopped up with small slices of toasts, the small snails were slightly overcooked.
Cod fish was prepared with a Westernised execution. The meaty fish was seared on both sides before being steamed in a brandy-laced onion broth. Served within a petite copper pot, the fish itself was perfectly cooked, and the broth lent sweetness from the caramelised onions and a touch of brandy in the aftertaste.
Ukiyo offers Japanese A4 wagyu or 21-day dry aged USDA prime steak from their set menus. We opted for the latter, a thick-cut slab that was quickly seared, cubed, and served medium rare. The meat was tender with just the right doneness as we ordered. We would, however, prefer a lighter hand on the seasoning for a better meaty flavour from the meat.
The establishment offers a “grilled cheese” from the a la carte menu. Unlike a griddled cheese toastie as you might expect, guests were presented with a pancake made with shredded mozzarella cheese and Japanese egg, melted and toasted on both sides and served hot. The cheesy pancake had a thin crunch on both sides, however the cheese proved to be a rather heavy treat even when it was served between two guests. The set teppanyaki menu include stir-fried mixed vegetables, miso soup, and a fried rice prepared with steak trimmings, offering crunchy texture to the rice.
Ukiyo’s options for drinks are minimal, with only two half-bottle sized sakes and no options for wines by the glass; both wines and sakes are reasonably priced though. Staff were keen to recommend bottles that were on the higher end of the scale, but guests could always skip the booze and have tea with their griddled offerings.
Service at Ukiyo is friendly and personable, although they were rather keen on suggesting higher price point food and drink options, which at times seemed a bit of a hard sell. Attentiveness could improve as we spent a better part of the evening pouring our own sakes and requesting a change of clean plates before the next course arrived, but overall the service was rather quick and the bill arrived in a jiffy.
While the execution part was on point, we felt that the theatrics that came with great teppanyaki was missing during our visit at Ukiyo. Most seafood dishes tasted rather similar from the same seasoning used, and in many cases, a bit on the excessive side. The restaurant is picking up momentum with some updates on the menu and we are in hopes the changes will warrant better returns for both the establishment and its guests.
Ukiyo, 18/F Oliv, 15 Sharp Street East, Causeway Bay, +852 2152 8880
A meal for two with one beverage and service: around HK$1,000
How we rate
Each of our reviewers score restaurants based on four main criteria: setting, food, service, and drinks, taking into account more than 35 different points of reference including manners of staff, usefulness of the wine list, and whether or not the restaurant makes an effort to be environmentally aware. 5/5 indicates an exceptional experience; 4-4.5/5 is excellent; 3-3.5/5 is good to very good; and 2.5/5 or lower is average to below average. Before visiting a restaurant, the reviewers will book using a pseudonym and do not make themselves known to restaurant staff, in order to experience the venue as a regular guest—if this is not possible, or if we are recognised, we will indicate this in the review.