UPDATE: Sakesan is now closed.
Riding the Robatayaki craze that has gripped Hong Kong, is Sakesan, which is quietly nestled off Shelley Street by the Mid-levels escalators. Its unassuming entrance meant that I almost missed my stop and had to do a quick side-step Gene Kelly style off the stairs.
As I strolled in, I was immediately struck by its open plan layout and high ceilings which gave the illusion of a much bigger interior; a nice contrast to the cramped and built up Soho area. The bar is the first section that greets you and the funky large mural lights in red, purple, blue hues create a chilled out ambiance. As with any Robatayaki, the centrepiece is the robata grill which is set at the back and draws you in.
I’m not sure if it’s just me, but these past six months have literally rocketed by and I couldn’t believe that Sakesan opened as far back as December, let alone the fact that it has taken me half a year to get round to checking it out. Having said that, I firmly believe all new restaurants need a few months to settle into their ‘groove’ and iron out any kinks, regardless of whether everything is seemingly smooth from the beginning.
The menu is quite extensive and reflects the experience of their executive Chef Andre L’Herminier. As per usual, I was starving, but as I was lunching with the two media ladies A and C, I didn’t want to ‘unleash the foodie monster’ on them. Luckily they appeared to sense that I’m an unnaturally greedy person and ordered eight dishes for me to try, (not ALL on my own of course!).
To start was the Seared tuna salad, served with a citrus wafu dressing. I loved the presentation – tiny tuna parcels of goodness, the dressing was refreshing and light, with the citrus cutting through the fish to give a delicate texture. One of the highlights of the meal.
There were three seafood dishes up next – the tiger prawn tempura, the lobster dumplings and the scallops with wasabi, apple and sweet soya sauce dressing. The tempura was extremely crispy, the batter thin and most importantly not drenched in oil. The tiger prawn meat, succulent and sweet.
The dumplings were generously packed and the scallops fat and beautifully presented. The scallops’ dressing was moreish and I enjoyed the wasabi kick that tickled my tastebuds.
A and C insisted on me trying the baby back ribs, which are apparently marinated for 30 hours in a Korean spicy paste. While the meat was tender and aromatic, I couldn’t really taste the spice or feel any heat from the ribs, though it might just mean that my internal chilli sensor is busted from all the Sichuan food I’ve eaten since moving to Hong Kong.
I was probably most excited about the pork belly skewers, which were simply prepared with salt and pepper but so scrumptious and FAT. I love fatty pork belly, and when I confessed this to the girls, I thought I noticed a flicker of disgust across their faces. I’m not one to shy away from tasty blubber so I cracked on and scoffed the lot.
The last savoury delight before dessert was the Black Cod wrapped in a hoba leaf and marinated in Saykio miso sauce. This was a solid dish, great flavours and perfectly cooked cod that flaked off and melted in the mouth.
Surprisingly I still had plenty of room for dessert which came in the form of Sake compressed Nashi – a white peach sake sorbet with matcha tea crumble and puffed rice, and the Frozen lemongrass mousse.
The Sake compressed nashi was lovely. The sorbet itself was incredibly subtle in flavour and completely cleansed my palate of all the heavier flavours from the mains. The lemongrass mousse had less of an impact on me than the nashi but was nonetheless an interesting Japanese dessert offering.
After lunch, I was given a tour of Sakesan’s private room which sits up to fourteen people and even has a comfy sofa and karaoke. They also offer a weekend Wagashi, (Japanese confectionery/ afternoon tea set), comprised of eleven pastries created by their pastry chef Tracy Wei which is available every Saturday and Sunday between 2.30-6pm. If A la carte doesn’t take your fancy at lunchtime, you can have their set lunch.
Sakesan is a fun addition to the Soho scene and if you haven’t as yet caught the robata fever, this is a good place to have a Japanese influenced shochu cocktail over dinner before continuing the rest of your night in LKF.
Sakesan Soho 38, 38 Shelley Street, Central, Hong Kong
Prices: $300-400 per person