In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in March, there has been a lot of concern and panic in Hong Kong and other neighbouring countries over eating Japanese food, especially sashimi and other specialty produce that is normally imported from Japan.
Instead of shying away and avoiding Japanese meals at all cost (which I know is the case for many), I feel it is important that we show our support and continue to visit Japanese establishments. Many restaurants now obtain their produce from other countries, so we can all safely enjoy this wonderful cuisine.
I had the chance to hop over to the newly relocated Kyoto Joe in Lan Kwai Fong recently, and it is one such eatery that has taken the pains to select its supplies from other countries. Their salmon is from Norway, their tuna from Indonesia and their beef from Australia.
Relocating to 1 Lan Kwai Fong in January this year, Kyoto Joe has reinvented itself as a more sophisticated and finer dining establishment to its sister restaurant, Tokio Joe, round the corner on 16 Lan Kwai Fong.
Sprawling over two floors, with a connecting internal staircase, its design is minimalistic and zen. There are five zones, each with its own distinct features, and all creating an intimate atmosphere, such that you feel that you are in one of five smaller restaurants, rather than in one. The staff are friendly and attentive, my tea refilled regularly and with great care, (I tried once on my own without waiting and managed to spill it everywhere! I blame my ineptness on the design of the teapot).
Their menu is new and improved with an injection of a fair number of new dishes. One notable change is the appearance of a set of Australian kobe beef dishes. I was told that Kyoto Joe’s speciality has shifted to more cooked food, in particular beef, and very soon I was sampling three different and amazingly melt-in-your-mouth kobe creations.
I sat in a booth by the sushi bar and had a good view of Lan Kwai Fong below. Before launching straight into the meat, I was served the delicious Kyoto salad to start, with fresh scallops, tuna and salmon on mixed salad with a drizzle of their house sesame dressing. I loved how the salad was topped with crunchy crisp pieces of deep fried wonton skin to create a punchy contrasting texture to the smoothness of the seafood.
Next, I had the Gyu sashimi, impressively presented on a block of ice. This is Prime beef deltoid sashimi with red wine balsamic vinegar sauce. The beautiful marbled meat was impossibly smooth and melted in my mouth. It did have a very rich flavor but the vinegar sauce paired with it, helped to dampen the fattiness slightly.
The Gyu maki was wonderful- more of the marbled beef rolled with asparagus and golden mushrooms accompanied by a lovely seaweed sauce. This is a clever creation as it is cold on outside as you take the first bite, which then diffuses to the warm centre and the crunchiness from the vegetables- extremely satisfying to munch on.
As a palate cleanser, I had the Dobin mushi superior seafood broth quaintly served from a teapot into the world’s smallest teacup. I was probably meant to sip delicately from my teacup, but as I adore soup and my teacup was miniscule, I ended up having what felt like a few hundred servings!
Up next, was the Rock Shrimp Gyoza- dumplings filled with rock shrimp, porkloin and chives and then pan-fried and served with spicy balsamic vinegar. I liked the vinegar immensely, the tinge of spice complimenting the fairly heavily filled dumplings which were nicely pan fried and succulent on inside.
My last dish was the Karubi roasted prime beef spare rib with home-made teriyaki sauce. The presentation was fantastic, with the slices of the spare rib lying on top of hot stones to keep them sizzling hot, which in turn were lying on a bed of mashed potato. After heaving the stones to the side, (they are pretty heavy!), I was able to nosh on the gorgeous tender beef and the buttery mash. Definitely my favourite dish of the night.
To end my evening of meat, I had the trio of crème brulee- three small pots of green tea, coffee and sesame flavoured versions of this popular pudding. I loved the green tea which was moreish and gently infused with green tea. The sesame was heavier and more like a mousse with a very strong sesame flavour, in stark contrast to the green tea.
I hope that my review will encourage those of you who have been fearful of going back to Japanese restaurants, to think again and help in supporting them, and in so doing, carry on supporting the Japanese while they and their culture recover.
Kyoto Joe 2/F, 1 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
2804 6800 www.kyotojoe.com/