It’s a sad fact that although Japanese food is so tasty, it’s near impossible to have a good, filling and varied Japanese meal without paying an arm and a leg. The recently opened Hatsu Japanese Restaurant in the Bank of America Tower is trying to change this, by offering Kaiseki cuisine in a casual setting for affordable prices.
Hatsu’s décor is very simple and relaxed. Executive Chef Toshio Kon, with 40 years’ experience in Japanese cuisine, wanted to move away from the formality of traditional Kaiseki cuisine and focus on simplicity instead, making his restaurant accessible to everyone. A mixture of raw elements such as bare wooden tables, an industrial stone wall and light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, are thus contrasted with colourful Japanese paintings, taking you back to the restaurant’s heritage.
The restaurant is known for its Matsu Gozen Set menu, a $430 multi-course feast only available at dinner. This set offers much more than a Sassy girl could ever eat on her own, so we were advised to share one set between four of us and order a few extra dishes from the a la carte menu.
The set began with a selection of four colourful appetisers: sea urchin-infused tofu (beautifully silky and fresh), cucumbers with miso pickle (a very interesting contrast), pumpkin with edible skin (wonderful texture, yet perhaps served a little too cold, meaning the flavours were a little lost), and last but by no means least, a little platter containing tender duck breast, a fresh prawn, egg, and a delicious grilled fish fin that was somehow reminiscent of beef jerky.
Following this, we were served a plate of grilled dried blowfish (not from the set menu) that I could not get enough of. It again had that jerky-esque texture, but it was its honey-like sweetness, heightened by the sweet Japanese mayonnaise it was served with, that pleasantly surprised me; it was hard to believe we were eating fish!
The simmered fish from the set menu was also delicious, with a sweet smoky flavour. However, I excitedly put a sizeable chunk in my mouth without thinking and was shocked by the amount of small bones I almost choked on, so watch out! The silver cod from the a la carte menu, on the other hand, was absolutely perfect – buttery and flaky flesh contrasted with its wonderfully crisp charred skin.
A range of sashimi from the set menu offered salmon, amberjack, octopus and yellowtail. Apart from the latter (almost too tough to sink my teeth into!), all of the fish was wonderfully fresh and melt-in-the-mouth tender. More impressive was the a la carte sashimi; Hatsu does a special promotion at dinnertime where you can get six types of sashimi for only $200. Considering the regular cost for three kinds is $350, this is a complete bargain!
One of my favourite dishes was the salmon salad from the a la carte menu. Thin slivers of the freshest salmon hid a mound of lightly seasoned crunchy salad leaves and peppers, creating a gorgeously refreshing salad with interesting textures.
The grilled part of the set was a beautifully presented sizzling plate of a tiger prawn and a beef roll. Both of these were utterly delicious, if a little hard to share! The tiger prawn came laden with Japanese mayonnaise, carrots and mushrooms, while the tender beef roll, stuffed with garlic, spring onions and ginger, on a bed of mushrooms and onions was my absolute favourite.
Space on the overfilled table was cleared to make room for a huge box (not from the set) – and lifting its lid revealed a colourful assortment of beautiful sushi! Hatsu is the only restaurant in Hong Kong to use Akita Komachi rice, from the Akita Prefecture of Japan, known as the ‘country of rice and wine.’ Sassy girls will be pleased to hear that girls from Akita who eat and drink its rice and sake, are apparently more beautiful and have more youthful skin, due to the clear pollutant-free water of the region. I’ll have another helping of this plump sticky rice then please!
The dessert, included in the set menu, consists of a mini slice of cake and the ice cream of the day – in our case, lychee. This was delightfully fresh and creamy, without being as overpoweringly sweet as lychee flavoured desserts often can be… and I can’t wait to try Chef Toshio Kon’s rice-flavoured ice cream next time!
Service at Hatsu is very efficient, with knowledgeable staff who ensure plates are frequently changed throughout the multi-course meal. The average spend at dinnertime is $400 per person, while set lunches start from about $130 ($90 on Saturdays!). Hatsu makes delicious Kaiseki cuisine accessible not just to those who can afford fine dining, but to you and me as well – and I think we can all raise a glass of sake to that!
Hatsu Japanese Restaurant Shop G4, G/F, Bank of America Tower, 12 Harcourt Road, Admiralty
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!