Food Review: Ronin in Central
Hidden behind an unmarked door, Ronin is a hip and sociable eatery, whose frequently changed menu lives up to expectations
You have to be in the right mood to eat at Ronin. Don't go there if you're feeling unsociable. It's impossible to ignore your neighbours when you're sitting next to them at the bar, and there's no way to avoid interacting with the friendly staff, who give advice about what you're ordering.
We dismissed some of the staff's comments, as when one of them told us we had ordered too much, but we listened to other nuggets of wisdom, like when a staff member told us his favourite dishes.
The atmosphere is cool to the point of being intimidating. The name of the restaurant isn't on the blue door, which slides open to reveal a long, dark space. The staff are young, hip, and enthusiastic, rather like their counterparts at sister restaurant, Yardbird.
The menu is marked with the date because it changes frequently, and has dishes categorised as "raw", "smaller" (which aren't that small) and "bigger". It's a very tempting selection - we had a difficult time narrowing down what to order. In the end, there wasn't anything we disliked.
There were some small quibbles: the briny, creamy uni with fresh nori and aonori panko (HK$200) had a little too much of the latter two ingredients, so we were glad we didn't take the advice of the server and mix it all up.
The chunks of lightly fried Spanish mackerel (HK$140), with a white ponzu dressing, were a little difficult to eat with the other ingredients (tomato, mizuna sprouts and sliced red onion). But that was more down to the fact that we had only been given chopsticks to use.
The thinly sliced bamboo with pistachios, kinome (fresh sansho leaves) and chunks of orange and grapefruit (HK$110) was absolutely beautiful, delicious and refreshing. Razor clam with spring onion, ginger and chunks of crisp rice (HK$140) had bright, fresh flavours and nice textural contrasts. Flower crab with mitsuba and uni (HK$290) was pure indulgence - a shell piled high with two of my favourite ingredients, crab and sea urchin. But even better was our last dish: the Kagoshima beef with maitake mushrooms, fried garlic chips and egg yolk (HK$380).
Anyone who's eaten sukiyaki will find the flavour combination familiar. But this was better than usual, as the fatty pieces of thinly-sliced beef were made even richer by the egg yolk, along with the crunch of the mushrooms, crisp garlic chips and the finely shredded negi (Japanese leeks) on top.
If you want a seat at the counter, you need to e-mail a reservation request; but standing room places are available to walk-in customers. There's no service charge.
Ronin, 8 On Wo Lane, Central. Tel: 2547 5263; e-mail reservations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Open: Monday-Saturday 6pm-midnight. About HK$900 without drinks.