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Hong Kong restaurant reviews

Restaurant review: Kaiseki Den by Saotome in Wan Chai – so good we didn’t want it to end

Eleven courses of delicious perfection served up by chef Hiroyuki Saotome: sashimi, hairy crab, beef, truffled rice, tempura and each one was a winner

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 8:00pm

We knew from the very first bite that dinner at Kaiseki Den by Saotome was going to be fantastic. “This is a meal that I don’t want to end,” my guest said, already feeling sad that the delicious dishes we were being fed would eventually stop coming, even though the end w as still 11 courses away (we had an optional extra course).

We sat at the six-seat counter (there are two private rooms, one for four and another for 12), directly in front of Hiroyuki Saotome, who was also the chef in the restaurant’s previous incarnation of Wagyu Kaiseki Den, which was in Central.

The meal started with a beautiful, refreshing dish that woke up our palates: taro stem with sea urchin, lobster, peas, wasabi and hanaho (shiso flowers) in a lightly jellied dashi stock.

Hairy crabmeat served in the shell with a rich egg yolk sauce was so delicious that I wished for more.

Top blade with fig and green beans in sesame ponzu had wonderfully tender, fatty meat, as you’d expect, but the sweet, skinned fig was just as good. Grilled alfonsino fish with fragrant, seasonal matsutake mushrooms, winter melon and water shield, an intriguingly gelatinous vegetable, was served in a clear broth whose flavour was lifted with yuzu zest.

The chef’s selection of sashimi included soft anago (eel), sticky karuma ebi (shrimp) with caviar, rich and fatty toro (tuna), refreshing vinegared seaweed, and a piece of abalone that was slightly watery.

The waitress asked if we wanted an optional course of tempura abalone which we saw the chef preparing for another group of diners. We said yes and didn’t regret it, even though it had a HK$500 supplement. The batter was light, the abalone was tender, and one piece came topped with caviar (good), the other with uni (better). We liked the abalone liver sauce so much the waitress gave us spoons so we wouldn’t waste it.

Cold tomato – one of the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted – came topped with myoga (ginger flower) and was as refreshing as a sorbet. We also enjoyed the mixed course, the highlights of which were the lotus root mochi, flounder with kinome, and sweetcorn kernels; and the grilled aubergine with miso, shrimp and ginkgo.

As we remembered from Wagyu Kaiseki Den, beef is a highlight here. There was choice of two, so we had one of each. Chef Saotome’s sukiyaki showcased beef that was delicate and very rare; while the charcoal-grilled A5 Naozaki chateaubriand was heartier, served with grated radish and intense, spicy yuzu kosho. The final savoury course – sea urchin with truffle rice – was so fragrant and flavourful that we each ate two bowls, although we were getting full. Thankfully, the desserts of coffee pudding and warabi mochi were light.

Kaiseki Den by Saotome, 28 Wood Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2851 2820. HK$2,480 for the kaiseki dinner, without drinks or the service charge.

While you’re in the area

Restaurant review: Pici in Wan Chai – delicious pasta, flavourful starters

Restaurant review: Sushi Masataka in Wan Chai – succulent, decadent, perfectly seasoned courses

Hong Kong’s top restaurants: Fook Lam Moon in Wan Chai – upscale home-style Cantonese, and doggy bags for leftovers