A Japanese influenced, fusion-tapas restaurant is how Naked Gurume Gyarari describes itself. Interesting, to say the least! That’s why when I was invited to go for a tasting, I was intrigued to find out just what this new restaurant would serve. Located on Elgin Street, this place is no doubt in amongst the buzz of Soho, but as it’s on the first floor it avoids the increasing noise levels on Friday and Saturday nights. Great for a date or simply for a private meal before you hit the bars of Soho!
Naked keeps it simple with the décor, sticking to black furnishings and a sleek, if a bit minimal, setting. This is perhaps to go with its ‘gallery’ theme, as the name ‘Gurume Gyarari’ actually means ‘Gourmet Gallery’. What’s nice is there isn’t an abundance of tables, so you don’t feel squashed in like you do in many other Hong Kong restaurants. As we got settled in, I started to feel more and more excited to try this unusual-sounding cuisine…
On the recommendation of the very helpful staff, we started off with an oyster, ‘Thai-style’. Personally, I’m not a huge oyster fan (there’s just something about the texture!), but this juicy oyster was full of flavour and really did taste like the sea. Presented in a cute dim sum box on a bed of seaweed, the presentation of this dish is delightful and sets a nice precedent for the rest of the meal. I loved the combination of the fried garlic, sweet chilli paste and strange looking ‘sea-grapes’ added kicks of flavours.
Next up was the raw Hotate with Crystalline Ice Leaves. The Diver scallops with pieces of bacon loin and tofu and cheese vinaigrette were definitely a surprise. The scallops tasted fresh and clean, with the tiny bacon bits really adding to their meaty flavour. What I found most interesting was the crystalline ice leaves, which are beautiful green plants that look as though they’ve been covered in drops of morning dew. In fact, what look like little beads of water, are actually just the skin of the plant. It has a truly unique taste and texture, which adds a fun and fresh element to the whole dish.
I loved the presentation of the next dish as well, which was the Lobster Risotto Bisque. The neatly put together parsley lime risotto decorated with lobster and a smoked turkey cognac reduction was brought to life as our waiter poured a decadent lobster bisque around it. The deep orange colour of the bisque indicated that it would be full of flavour, and it didn’t disappoint, especially with the added heartiness of the turkey reduction. I also liked how the rice was slightly al dente, which meant that it didn’t get too soggy when absorbing the bisque. This was definitely one of my favourite dishes of the night, but I have to say it felt distinctly European over Japanese.
Thankfully the Asian flavours returned in the next little bites we were presented with. Although I was started to get full, I couldn’t resist trying the Toro with 48 Months Iberico Ham wraps. Despite sounding strange, the Iberico ham actually worked really well with the raw tuna belly, making for an indulgent, rich bite. Again, there was a precise attention to detail, proving that the restaurant is staying true to its name by presenting the food as works of art.
We were keen to see what veggies were on offer, and I was pleasantly surprised by the (again) unusual choice. The wrapped up fern leaves was a seasonal dish that certainly packs a punch when it comes to flavour. I’ve definitely not tasted anything like it before, with the acidity and crunch of the curled up fern contrasting against the cheese. If you order this dish, expect a hearty plate of vegetables that you’d struggle to find elsewhere.
I was starting to get very full at this point, but the menu is so interesting that we were recommended to try more. How could I refuse the Tuna Tartar with poached quails egg? These were probably my favourite eats of the night, and I would say it was the dish that most successful fused Asian and European. The crispy wonton skin acted as a brilliant base for the sweet bites of Big Eye tuna with ginger, cilantro and truffle oil, and the perfectly cooked quails eggs really topped it off. These would make perfect starters and would even work well as canapés.
The ‘Sexy Naked’ sushi that we next tried was delicious. Again, the presentation was striking with the dots of black squid-ink espuma foam and the streaks of dark, unagi sauce and spicy mayo over the top of each sushi piece. Apart from adding to the presentation, the sauces also added a sweet and spicy kick to the firm tuna. I really loved the crunch of the special crispy rice too!
Unfortunately there seemed to be a bit of miscommunication between the waiting staff and the kitchen, as we were waiting a long time for a promised pasta dish (although I was so full I was ready to call it a night!). When it did finally arrive, I found it very unusual. The freshly made pasta with uni was the epitome of a ‘fusion’ dish, and I wasn’t sure it was the best end to our meal. If you’re not a sea urchin fan, I have to say that this dish is not for you. Despite the pasta being well cooked and fresh, the pungent flavour of the uni was a little overwhelming and the Parmesan and garlic cream teamed with bursts of salty roe didn’t quite work for me.
Overall our experience at Naked was positive; the staff were very helpful to all the customers with their recommendations and it really was a unique experience. That being said, the idea of fusion is always tricky, and despite using amazing and unusual ingredients, I don’t think every dish was a hit. Expertly cooked though they were, I found some of the flavour combinations a bit confused. However, if Naked continues with the passion and dedication that they showed as a team, I’m sure they can iron out a couple of issues with the menu and make the service a little smoother. Definitely worth a try if you’re looking for something a bit out of the ordinary!
Naked Gurume Gyarari, 1/F, 28 Elgin Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong, www.facebook.com/GurumeGyarari