Date of review: June 26, 2014 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
With a view like this, you can almost hear the reservations stacking up for fireworks nights in the near and distant future. The rather unwieldy-sounding Soundwill Plaza II – Midtown development looms over the spread of Causeway Bay, lending diners a sweet perspective of Victoria Harbour, and it’s for certain that any review of a restaurant located here will make obligatory mention of the pleasing vista. Inside, the venue plays with a mix of ascetic Japanese aesthetics, with light wood and champagne-hued fabrics, and typical Goldstein-style pizzazz; a golden crane motif crops up occasionally, and there are rich textured carpets in the private room, plus bold striped banquets. We’re not fans of the background music, a jarring mix of R&B and hip hop, which seems at odds with the more elegant setting.
The menu here is extensive, covering typical grounds in Japanese cuisine from sushi through to teppanyaki. The pros? Come here with a group and you can build a diverse meal and try everything from BLT maki rolls to panko crusted Hiroshima oysters with black truffle miso sauce; there is, as the adage goes, something for everyone. The cons? Don’t visit if you suffer from decision fatigue. We skip the various omakase menus (which focus either on sushi or teppanyaki) and freewheel through, dipping into each section. Of all we ordered, the sushi is reliable – konbu marinated sea bream is packed with umami and requires no brush with soy sauce, and the smoky aroma of grilled sea eel hits the senses before the morsel even touches our tongues. However, we’re disappointed to see that a third of the opening page of the menu is dedicated to promoting endangered blue fin tuna. Our waiter insists we try one of “Harlan G.’s Funky Maki Rolls” – the Dragon Fire with soft shell crab, mango, frying fish (sic) roe and spicy jalapeno aioli is fine, but with less fireworks than expected. Malt salted sweet shrimp (listed under the section “Let’s Get Party Started”) is anything but a celebration of flavour and texture – the shrimp are at once slimy and crunchy, with an unpleasant fishiness. It remains untouched for the rest of the meal. From the teppan, we try a 60-day aged US beef roll with spring onion, oba leaf and sea urchin; each mouthful comes in at nearly HK$50 a pop, and while we love the freshness of the greens and the sweet sea urchin, we’re not sure the rough and dry texture of the meat enveloping it all is worth our while, or our dollars. The best dish of the evening is a simple bowl of Kagoshima wagyu beef udon with an onsen egg, which delights with slippery, al dente noodles and a refreshingly chilled soy-based broth.
The wine list leads with sake, which are available in 300ml and 720ml bottles; the quality is high, but we’re disappointed that the tasting notes and food pairings (despite being rather basic by listing only ‘sushi’ or ‘sashimi’ as suggestions) are only available in Chinese. You can also opt for glasses of fruit liqueur and shochu, and a few of the cocktails sound intriguing: Takumi, for example, with Buffalo Trace Whisky, bitters, ginger, and black tea syrup.
Staff are well meaning but vary in their ability to successfully sell the menu. A mix-up during the meal (a wrong order) is dealt with promptly and with apologies. On the drinks front, they tried their best to recommend a bottle for our meal, but were unable to tell us much about the flavour profiles of the listed sakes.
A meal for two with a half bottle of sake averages around HK$1,400 – more if you opt for the pricier Kagoshima wagyu dishes. Whether this is good value will depend on whether or not you’ve managed to hit on the star items in the rather extensive menu.