Date of review: September 24, 2015 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
Wan Chai’s QRE Plaza features restaurants almost on every floor, and out of the many tenants Momojein stands out with its fresh and stylish décor, which is like a mix of Scandi-chic (so many clean geometric lines!) with Muji minimalism and a smattering of Kinfolk-friendly design details. There are some cosy booths for small groups as well as bar seats for lone diners or couples, and the wood and concrete surfaces contribute to a lively din during a busy service.
Anyone can see that Korean food is a perpetual hot topic in Hong Kong, and there are an increasing number of restaurants seeking to put a contemporary spin on tradition. Momojein is certainly far removed from the usual barbecue format or tried-and-trusted fried chicken ‘n’ beer joint, and refreshingly so.
It’s good to see chef Lim Hee Won putting confident but well thought out renditions of Korean dishes that are intriguing, innovative and, most importantly, enjoyable to eat. Don’t come expecting dishes that are straightforwardly Korean, though the ingredients used are certainly from the genre. The kalbi hotteok is one such example; chef Lee takes this classic street food, usually a sweet glutinous bun with sugar and cinnamon, and makes it savoury with a juicy chargrilled beef filling and a rich dip made with teriyaki sauce-tinged ranch dressing. We relished the mains, from the supple sous vide pork belly served with slow-roasted garlic and pickled accoutrements such as radish, sesame leaf and coriander roots to the signature whole kalbi with a verdant coriander and carrot salad. Spicy chicken noodles features a springy tangle of homemade noodles in a soothing, chilli-spiked broth with fresh beansprouts; the chicken is slow-cooked and shredded into the soup, making for an entirely satisfying bowlful.
For dessert, the hotteok makes another appearance, this time encasing five types of nuts and served with caramelised bananas, and a simple vanilla ice cream. The yuzu cheesecake is delicious, but is curiously devoid of a biscuit base, which would have added a crucial textural contrast to the smooth yuzu-scented cream cheese.
Where Momojein needs more work is the drinks list. Currently, there are only two wines by the glass – one red, one white – and a modest amount by the bottle. The restaurant has also chosen to eschew Korean lagers, offering Asahi and Stella on draught only. The cocktail selection offers only three: gin and tonic, vodka and tonic, or Jack Daniels and Coke. Our tip? Go for the half litre of makgeolli, which at HK$98 is very affordable and went well with most of our food.
We found the service to be warm, and our waitress was quite apologetic when informing us that several items were sold out. However a better explanation of dishes would be helpful, particularly as quite a few dishes would be unfamiliar to most diners.
A meal for two with drinks and service will come to around HK$800, which we find to be fair for the quality and setting.