Tsim Sha Tsui
Shop OT G04B, G/F, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City
T: +852 2115 9965
Lunch HoursMon to Sun, 12:00 noon - 3:00 pm; Mon to Mon, 12:00 midnight - 12:00 midnight
Dinner HoursMon to Sun, 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Accept Credit CardYes
Date of review: September 8, 2017 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
If you’re the sort to turn a nose up at shopping mall restaurants, then more fool you—a place like Haku, which is nestled into one of Hong Kong’s busiest retail monoliths and across from a branch of Mak’s Noodles, is right up there with the best of the city’s fine dining destinations. Make your way past the iconic noren at the entrance, marked with a singular triangle, and you’ll find yourself in a dim corridor—the figurative tunnel to another world far removed from the noise of tour groups and frenzied shoppers. Haku is a vision rendered in beautiful, pale wood and bamboo, with subtle accents of colour by way of the lacquer-red chopstick rests and brightly patterned ceramics. But make no mistake for this is not a quiet, reverential temple of gastronomy; expect animated chatter between guests and chefs. The food is taken seriously, but the atmosphere is far more fun than would be expected.
Chef Agustin Balbi—Argentinian-born and Japanese-trained—caught our eye several years back when he arrived on the scene as the executive chef of The Ocean, and we named him our Best New Chef awardee in 2015. Leaving the shores of Repulse Bay to arrive in Tsim Sha Tsui has also meant a shift in the culinary style that we had associated with Balbi previously. At Haku, the focus is solidly trained on the best of Japanese produce and while many of the dishes feature seafood, it is a joy to experience the chef’s interpretation of fine ingredients from the land such as Kagoshima A4 wagyu—here finished off in front of the guest over billowing charcoal smoke before being cut into neat, medium-rare triangles with accompaniments including ribbons of the sweetest baby courgette, meaty eringi mushrooms and doll-sized kabu (turnips).
But rewinding just a little—the meal, should you opt for the omakase (and we highly recommend doing so), begins with a flurry of tiny treats ranging from corn chawanmushi to vinegary beetroot tsukemono. The former is probably our least favourite of the night, if only because we had expected a softer, silkier effect from a dish named after the traditional Japanese steamed egg custard; the amuse bouche had a far stodgier texture and felt a little heavy for an opening act.
But the procession of courses that followed built and kept up the momentum: a generous serving of tomatoes from Kyushu and Hokkaido matched with a riveting combination of umami-packed accoutrements including Bellota ham, shiokombu (strands of salted seaweed) and cheese-like, golden sprinkles of toasted sake lees; a light, crisp tranche of brioche topped with the unexpected combination of creamy aubergine and an almost obscene amount of cool, briny Hokkaido sea urchin, prettily anointed with violet shiso flowers.
We also enjoyed a course of sweet, grilled scallops over a bed of corn puree and garnishes of salty samphire, anchovy and shiso leaf—it’s offered as a substitution for the restaurant’s Bluefin tuna dish, which we do not order for environmental reasons. There are, after all, many dishes on Balbi’s menu that are just as, if not more, worthy of both the palate and the Instagram feed.
Dessert is no meek finish—highly seasonal fruits are a Japanese forte and the kosui pear with its light russet exterior and refreshing taste makes for a terrific end to the meal. The pear juice is used for a tangy granite as well as a light panna cotta in the base, which enrobes pieces of crisp fruit throughout.
Haku is the kind of place where patrons can feel just as comfortable ordering a glass of Hitachino white ale as they would a top-end Burgundy, and staff are helpful and knowledgeable when it comes to their beverage offerings. A dozen wines by the glass feature the opportunity to try three of Haku’s own private labels, from a fresh 2014 sauvignon blanc to a soft, fruity merlot.
We recommend sitting at the counter as the interaction between chef and customer is part of the experience. Balbi is a true people person, and is highly invested in ensuring each guest walks away satisfied. We think certain things can be further polished—staff could show greater initiative in offering tasters of wine when guests are unable to make a clear decision, for example—but there is already a precision to the dining experience on the whole.
Guests opting for the omakase with a glass of wine each can expect to pay between HK$3,000-$3,500 for two, which is not unreasonable given the quality of the produce and technical artistry of the dishes. Ordering a la carte may appear less expensive but it’s worth upgrading to the omakase to get the fuller experience.