Restaurant review: Tempura Taki, Central – not enough tempura on pricier menu set, for all its tasty dishes
If it’s the tempura you’re going for, don’t make our mistake – choose the right set meal; it’s not that ours was bad, with deliciously tender abalone and a fantastic fried sweet potato dessert, but we would have liked more tempura
Disappointment came early at Tempura Taki. It wasn’t that the tempura was bad – but there wasn’t enough of it.
It’s partly our fault for not checking; we assumed it would be like every other high-end Japanese restaurant we’ve been to, where, if there are different omakase “sets”, then the cheapest one offers a certain number of dishes that are the speciality of the house, while subsequent ones give you those, plus extra.
Here, the tempura omakase (HK$880 plus 10 per cent) consisted of 10 pieces of tempura, in addition to appetiser, rice and dessert, but the taki omakase (HK$1,180) and kiwami omakase (HK$1,480) gave sashimi and hot dish, and sashimi, hot dish and wagyu, respectively, in place of (rather than in addition to) several tempura pieces. We went for the mid-priced omakase.
The meal started with several of our favourite ingredients, all in one dish: sweet, fresh kegani meat (Japanese hairy crab), uni, kani miso (crab guts) and quail egg. Separately they are delicious, together, they’re even better.
The appetiser course sounds like a lot: homemade Japanese tofu with plum sauce, duck breast with miso, seaweed jelly with uni and seaweed in vinegar with mountain yam. But the flavours were cool, light and varied. Matsutake clear soup was lovely, with the subtle but distinctive flavours of the seasonal mushrooms enhanced by finely sliced yuzu zest.
We would have been happy, in retrospect, to give up the sashimi course for more tempura. The yellowtail, alphonsino and two types of toro (chu-toro and o-toro) were good but we’ve had much better at places specialising in raw fish.
We were sitting at the tempura counter, right by the chef, so we watched as he dipped the seafood in the batter, fried it and blotted it briefly, before placing the pieces in front of us, instructing us on what seasonings (which included salt and green tea salt) we should use.
The shrimp, served with its head, and the succulent whiting were delicious, but even better was the half piece of fresh abalone, which was smooth and tender. The batter on these felt light, delicate and not at all oily.
The batter on the akagai was denser and oilier because the flesh of the red clam had been chopped and mixed with other ingredients before being put back into the shell, battered and fried.
The hot course turned out to be a codfish pie, which had flaky pastry and an uninteresting filling. Again, in retrospect, we would have preferred tempura.
Dessert, though, was fantastic. It was a fried sweet potato served with what was described as “brandy sauce” (which turned out to be pure brandy). The chef explained that the sweet potato had been slowly fried for 45 minutes. The skin was crisp and the flesh was hot, sweet and moist.
Tempura Taki, 8/F The Loop, 33 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2881 0033. From HK$880 to HK$1,480, depending on which omakase course you select.