Date of review: April 17, 2013 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
Wagyu Takumi is earmarked as the charcoal grill sibling of sushi bar Rozan (its immediate neighbour) and flagship restaurant Gin Sai, all three of which are located in the brand new Oak Hill complex in Wan Chai. The space seats 12 around an L-shaped bar, from which patrons can watch the manoeuvres of chef Mitsuru Konishi and his assistants as they meticulously cook and plate up. The atmosphere of the place is generally dictated by your fellow guests, as the chefs themselves are a picture of quiet restraint – on our visit, a particularly rowdy group of monied businessmen and a chatty group of girls raised the noise level, which reverberates off the hard surfaces gilded from marble, mirror and steel. The surroundings are smart, if a tad boring in its shades of bronze, gold and grey.
Chef Konishi’s calling is in French-Japanese culinary arts, so while the setting may hint at a teppanyaki restaurant, that is not the entire picture. In fact, the majority of the omakase menu is based on highly conceptualised fusion fare that flirts heavily with luxurious ingredients such as abalone, sea urchin, lobster and wagyu, the last of which does not appear until the seventh course. Presentation is beautiful and thoughtful, with crockery and garnishes sustaining our interest throughout the nine-course meal. We started with a sea urchin dish with seafood jelly and fennel cream, which was delicate and not overly heavy. After a few more courses, the French influence in chef Konishi’s cooking is blindingly apparent – namely, the tendency for richer, creamier flavours, such as in a deceivingly tiny cupful of celeriac soup with lobster and green apple. Even the tart cubes of sour apple were not enough to balance the overwhelmingly buttery flavour of the soup and richness of the sweet shellfish. A welcome respite came in the form of a 20-ingredient salad of raw, cooked, and puréed vegetables and herbs, before an even heavier dish of deeply caramelised Gillardeau oyster on a creamy bed of spring cabbage and wheat risotto with shiso. Unfortunately, we found the tasting menu to lack cohesiveness, as we then moved to a Greek-influenced dish of kataifi pastry-wrapped king crabmeat with a non sequitur of baby firefly squid drowned in gloopy yuzu miso sauce. Then, finally, the charcoal grilled goods start arriving. First, fresh and savoury-sweet abalone, then the star of the show, which was not, as we had anticipated, the marbled saga wagyu steak that we had been eyeing since we sat down at the counter, but the surprisingly tender and juicy roast Kagoshima pork that is finished off with a rich viennoise of parsley. With that said, the beef was also perfectly done and needed little else apart from a sprinkle of sea salt and the tiniest smudge of freshly grated wasabi. The last of the savoury courses, a bowl of slippery udon with tempura sakura shrimp, mellows the palate after a succession of high-octane courses, settling us nicely for the summery dessert of strawberries and lemon cream in a pastry tube, accompanied by a light rose ice cream.
The restaurant shares its master wine list with its siblings which, as we have already noted in their respective dining_reviews, is a tome that will please all manner of wine connoisseurs. Surprisingly, the mark-ups are not overly greedy, though there is far more in the upper reaches of the scale than in the HK$300 mark (you can also order by the glass or half bottle, though the latter is limited to premium labels). Our Kiwi Churton 2008 pinot noir was not as supple as we’d hoped at first sip, but proved to be a decent charge against the heavy, creamy dishes that dominate the menu.
Service is polite, if overly cautious, with a few flashes of conviviality. But, like the dining experience, it feels a little on the safe side. In the beginning, much was made of the bar seating to encourage diner-chef interaction, but the chefs remain rather aloof and dishes are passed to the waiters rather than directly to customers, which adds to the feeling of distance.
This is a "if you have to ask, you can’t afford it" type of establishment. On our visit, no prices were shown on the omakase menu, which cost HK$2,380 per person for nine courses, and wines adding much to the final bill.