Found in LKF Tower, Silencio is bringing a modern take to the traditional Japanese izakaya, with a sophisticated vibe and plenty of sake.
District: Central, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Japanese modern isakaya
How much: Salads priced between $130 and $280; Delicacies between $120 and $350; Noodles and grain between $50 and $190; Nigiri (two pieces) between $180 and $350; Sashimi between $120 and $180; Tempura between $100 and $250; Speciality rolls between $100 and $250; Sharing plates between $220 and $450; Sweets $80 and Omakase Sashimi or Nigiri Platter $1,200 (average meal cost approx. $800 to $1,200 per head)
Must order: Onsen Egg Salad, Hokkaido scallop, Wagyu Katsu Sando
The best for: An impressive date-night or special occasion group meal
Stepping into Silencio is unlike stepping into any Japanese izakaya I’ve ever been to. The dim lighting, sleek dark panelled walls, gold accents and monochromatic art work by Tokyo-born artist, Tomoo Gokita, makes for a sophisticated setting, and is a far cry from the traditional Japanese drinking dens. Coupled with the restaurant’s nightly live jazz performances, traditionalists may turn their noses up at this high-end interpretation of the beloved izakaya, but although Silencio may be giving Japanese favourites a 2019 upgrade, everything is still being handled with respect and care. And though the interiors may be chic, the vibe is lively and convivial. Open late (daily until 3am), there are touches of the traditional in amongst the modern renditions, right down to the kitchen staff shouting the typical greeting “Irasshaimase!” when new guests arrive.
Sitting at the open face kitchen at Silencio is a must. Not least to enjoy shots of sake with Executive Chef Sean Mell and hear the impressive stories of his culinary journey (working his way through the ranks from his native California, to NYC and Hawaii, before helming the kitchen at Nobu, Intercontinental Hong Kong), but to see the kitchen at work, spy which dishes are coming out and get inspiration of what to order. Aside from the necessary sake, we began our meal with the Tomato Salad ($130), consisting of kumamoto tomato, parmesan dashi and shiso oil. The simple dish allowed Silencio’s use of premium and seasonal ingredients, coupled with modern techniques to shine. Almost like a Japanese take on the classic caprese salad, the tomatoes were quartered and served in the parmesan dashi, topped off with a tomato “cloud”, made by whipping tomato water with gelatin and cooling to a low temperature to achieve the light and crisp flavour pop. We also sampled the Onsen Egg Salad ($130), made with house smoked ikura, onsen egg, creamy yuzu and baby gem lettuce. A stand out dish for us, if the tomato dish was a caprese, this was definitely the caesar. Crisp baby gem paired with the creamy dressing created by the yuzu and onsen egg mixture and topped off with a generous dose of salmon roe to made for a lusciously indulgent salad.
Sticking with its untraditional take on izakaya, Silencio breaks the rules a little when it comes to its lineup of nigiri and specialty rolls. The nigiri offerings take international inspiration with menu items that include the truffle parmigiana rice ball, “Italian”; osetra caviar and gold flakes, “Russian”; and the spiny lobster, butter and citrus, “Australian”, though we sampled the “French” ($180), prepared with akamutsu and foie gras torchon. A local Japanese fish, and a member of the sea bass family, the beautifully soft akamutsu was served atop the classic rice mound, and topped with the creamy butter-like foie gras, creating a mouthful unlike any other I’ve tried. Alongside this dish we sampled the “Fifty Shades of Tuna” ($250) speciality roll. Made using three different parts of the tuna, the otoro, chu toro and akami (fatty belly, medium fatty belly and lean dorsal meat), the dish gets its name from the ombre coloured rolls, which range from deep red to pale pink. Guests are advised to begin with the lean akami and work their way towards the fatty otoro roll to experience the difference in flavour, sweetness and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
A second stand out dish of ours was the Hokkaido Scallop ($180), chargrilled and served with butteryaki, and yuzu soy butter. Artfully presented in the shell, the scallop itself was plump, sweet and full of the flavour of the sea, only enhanced by the heady amount of butter that it had been poached in and complemented by the subtle garnish of chilli and chive.
A must-order for any meat-lover heading to Silencio is the Wagyu Katsu Sando ($350). The price may be on the steep side, but for the combination of A4 wagyu tenderloin, tonkatsu sauce, kewpie mayo and milk bread, we think it’s worth it. It’s not every day you get to enjoy beef this good, and this rendition is a grade A take on the of-the-moment dish. The tangy katsu sauce and smooth kewpie mayo only helped to enhance, and not overshadow the star wagyu tenderloin, all encompassed in the soft and chewy milk bread. Yes, it’s an indulgence and a dish made to be shared (presented neatly cut into digestible portions), but that still wouldn’t have stopped me from enjoying the whole thing myself.
If everything up to this stage had been pleasantly light and fresh, the sando was definitely the heavier dish of our evening, leaving us just enough room to enjoy the dessert of matcha mousse cake, green chocolate and red bean ice cream ($80). Delicately prepared and just sweet enough, this dessert certainly wasn’t an afterthought on Silencio’s already impressive line-up of dishes.
Our verdict: The prices may be on the higher end of the spectrum, but the experience is well worth it for a special night out. Although we didn’t love everything we sampled (the coffee cured Hamachi featured in the “Pablo” sashimi was a little overwhelming), there was plenty to be enjoyed and write home about at Silencio. From indulgent show stoppers such as the Wagyu Katsu Sando, to the humble Onsen Egg Salad, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and plenty on the menu to make a second visit back seem like a whole new experience (we have our eye on the Carbonara Udon). Although the experience may be a little higher end than many izakaya-lovers may be used to, all of the charm and flavours of the original are still present, if displayed in a bit more of a refined setting.
Silencio is open now, Monday to Sunday from 6pm to 3am
Silencio, 6/F LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, www.silencio.hk
Featured image courtesy of Silencio via Instagram. All further images courtesy of Annie Simpson and property of Sassy Media Group.