Date of review: July 30, 2015 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
The Wellington building on the eponymous Central street is host to several new restaurants, from the new flagship location of Frites to casual restaurant-slash-café Kettle Black. Ura is an attractive restaurant titled after the Japanese word for ‘hidden’, and upon arriving on the 2nd floor we did feel impressed by the world that unfurled before us – a sultry bar welcomes diners, with an impressive display of Japanese whiskies and comfortable nooks to knock back some pre- or post-prandial drinks. The main dining room is hidden behind a discreet doorway, and it’s a lengthy space with banquette seating a sushi bar in the back. The design is a mix of high-end brasserie-esque leather, brass and marble accents and distinctly urban touches: from the contrasting black and white images of tattooed Japanese men to manga wall decals.
Ura models its menu on “Japanese soul food”, with dishes that name-check ingredients and specialties from all over Japan, from Nagasaki chicken used in the charcoal-grilled meats section to Kyoto green peppers and Hokkaido crab. Sections include small dishes (or “Japas”), charcoal grilled dishes, “made in Osaka” specialties, and various sushi and sashimi offerings. One of the first dishes billed is a homemade tofu credited to Mie Prefecture, served three different ways. There’s one with black truffle oil and cured ham; soy sauce with spring onion; and sesame sauce. Homemade tofu is difficult to get right, and Ura’s version fell in terms of its consistency – unpleasantly gloopy curds that felt sticky on the palate. We fared better with the charcoal-grilled Nagasaki chicken neck, which has a decent salty-sweet soy glaze. Like the “fried tulip Kyushu chicken wings” however, the meat itself is oddly bland in flavour. Our favourite dish is the simple tororo udon, a heaping serving of chilled noodles with an accompanying bowl of grated mountain yam, sliced okra, and edamame. The pleasing slippery texture (referred to in Japanese as neba neba) of the noodles and yam is a combination that may not be to everyone’s taste, but it was an excellent dish for a hot and humid evening.
Apart from the pricy whisky collection, it’s ice-cold beers, Asian-inspired cocktails, and sake that take centre stage here, rather than wine. There’s Suntory whisky highballs on tap, and the restaurant’s own private label sake.
Servers were friendly, giving a warm welcome and goodbye, and we would only say that they seemed a bit green on some aspects on the menu. We had no problems flagging down staff when needed.
A light meal for two with drinks and service comes to around HK$900.