Date of review: March 27, 2013 | Reviewed by: Lynn Fung
Rozan, opened by Lai Sun Group, (also behind Wagyu Kaiseki Den, Otto e Mezzo, Island Tang) is part of a new trio of Japanese restaurants that have opened at the brand new residential complex Oak Hill in Wan Chai. An exclusive 12-seater sushi bar, the setting at Rozan is sleek and modern, with an L-shaped sushi counter and one single booth table that seats four. Mostly done in wood with just a couple of embroidered cloth murals in shades of grays and metallic at décor, it would be a tranquil space apart from the overly bright spotlights and the acoustics, which seem to trap and magnify the noise made by some of the more rambunctious diners.
Rozan only serves an omakase menu, using only the freshest produce of the season. Before your meal starts, a waiter will come to ask for your preference and any dietary restrictions. While most omakase menus we’ve tasted, much like a Western degustation menu, starts off gently in terms of flavour and builds up to a crescendo, Rozan kicks off with a bang. Some of the starters we had, such as the firefly squid (hotaru ika), were deeply flavourful with the almost meaty insides and the sweet miso paste. Similarly, our second course of flounder with sesame, tofu sheets and pickled vegetables, while beautifully presented, were a bit too sour and sharp for so early in the meal. The sashimi course of bonito, conch and flounder, each with its own distinct texture and dipping sauce, then mellows significantly. Moving onto the cooked dishes, the abalone slices with a paste made of abalone liver was a real highlight, and we also enjoyed Rozan’s version of a chawamushi, which was made more in the style of a Cantonese fish slice. The highlights of the sushi courses included a lightly grilled flounder; a wonderful, mildly pickled mackerel; and two types of sea urchin, one of which was served on its own, with just a light sprinkling of the sea water it had been stored in. On the whole, we found the sushi rice to be very modestly seasoned with vinegar, which allowed the fish to shine. Some were disappointing, such as the cooked shrimp and grilled sea eel, both of which we found over-cooked and too firm. One of our favourite dishes of the evening, a raw ebi shrimp served with caviar and minced onion, came at the very end, rounding out the meal. For dessert, a quarter of an albino strawberry with mocha and sweet pumpkin gelee was the perfect light and final touch.
The wine and sake list at Rozan is shared between the three restaurants (Ginsai, Rozan and Wagyu Takumi) and it is impressive. The sake list includes stunners such as a Jyuyondai Ryusen from Yamagata (HK$16,800). For those keen to spend a little less on alcohol, the list also includes some very reasonable sakes priced anywhere from HK$200 to HK$1,000. Unusually for a Japanese restaurant, the wine list is just as varied. There are not only a solid and affordably priced selection of wines by the glass and half bottle, but also full bottles of everything from a 1990 Meursault premier cru from Nicolas Potel to a 1982 Chateau Lafleur from Pomerol.
Everyone on the staff tries hard most of the time but service can be a bit uneven. Our chef was to be commended for being friendly, informative and attentive, even coming out from behind the sushi bar and out onto the street to bow us into a taxi. However, there were a few missteps, such as when the manager’s mobile phone rang and he picked it up, or when the waitress was a bit too enthusiastic, removing plates before we were fully done enjoying a particular course, or reaching over to wipe a bit of soy sauce we had spilled near our plate, which was a strangely maternal and over-familiar touch.
The omakase at Rozan is priced at HK$2,380 per person. While this does not make it the most expensive sushi restaurant in Hong Kong (that dubious honour belongs to Sushi Yoshitake), it is definitely up there. Whether it is worth the price tag is subjective, but for those with deep pockets, this is no doubt an enjoyable place to spend your money.