Union J

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 June, 2009, 12:00am

1/F California Tower, 30 D'Aguilar Street, Central

Tel: 2537 2368

Open: Mon-Sat noon-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Sat dinner only)

Cuisine: New American.

Ambience: Inky walls, mirrors and a big blackboard of recipes give the restaurant a dark, casual look. The low ceiling, wood floor and sparse furnishings may have something to do with the noise level, which forced my guest and I to shout over our food, even though the restaurant wasn't full. Open bifold windows near the bar were appreciated on a steamy night.

Price: About HK$450 per person, not including drinks or the 10 per cent service charge.

Pros: The restaurant has an enviable location in Lan Kwai Fong that allows diners with window seats to watch models wearing little more than pouts slink around on a video playing outside the Ann Devine lingerie shop. Abbreviated recipes of a few dishes are displayed on the blackboard; we jotted down the ingredients for one of the starters.

Cons: My guest found his 'small' and 'large' dishes (read: starter and main course) disappointing. The fresh squid with sesame dressing, daikon and cucumber (HK$128) would have been given the thumbs up had it not been for the stale, soggy fried noodles sprinkled liberally on top. He also left much of his main course: the free-range chicken with parmesan crust, soft egg, basil broth and asparagus (HK$218) was mobbed by strong, competing flavours. Under the cheese, the chicken was rubbery and lacked moisture. The menu, which our waiter said changes every month, proved too short for our liking, with only six small dishes and six larger dishes. The service was mixed: the bill was plonked on our table by a waiter who was conversing with someone at another table.

Recommended dishes: The marinated hamachi with cucumber and wasabi ice (HK$168) was pricey for a tumbler's worth but a sensory delight: the zingy wasabi ice went straight to the pleasure zone and prompted an ooh; the lovely soft yellowtail capped it with an aah. The seared scallops (Hokkaido) with sweet corn broth and tiny bak choi (HK$245, above) were pillowy soft, full of flavour and not too sweet; we would have liked more. The dessert of chocolate sorbet-cinnamon parfait-coco-nuts (HK$68), which we shared, was a successful combination of sweet and bitter. The cinnamon parfait base was deliciously nutty and the coconut sago sea it swam in begged to be spooned clean.

What else? The 3,600-sq ft interior includes a bar and two private rooms. Chefs Eric Johnson and Jason Casey (the two Js) are formerly from Jean-Georges Shanghai. The restaurant is managed by Elite Concepts.