Kotatsu Robata Bistro
Shop 2A, Fashion Walk, 9 Kingston Street, Causeway Bay
Tel: 3184 0525
Open: noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm
Price: about HK$250 without drinks or the service charge.
Ambience: the large, u-shaped space seemed rather bleak for a while because we were the only customers for at least 30 minutes before a few more groups arrived. Still, it seemed the staff far outnumbered the customers. The restaurant is dark, but the tables have spotlighting, so we were able to read the menu and see what we were eating.
Pros: the servers were attentive, although they didn't serve one of our orders. Some of the dishes were very creative.
Cons: the dishes were oddly priced. The oyster on the half shell with spring onions and spicy radish, for instance, was HK$38 for one, but HK$88 for two. The oyster was mushy and not the freshest tasting. The chicken meatball with egg yolk (HK$58 for two sticks) was too dry and too smooth, while the beef tongue (HK$28) was tough.
Recommended dishes: we were intrigued by the vegetarian-style eel lotus root kabayaki (HK$58). It looked just like the traditional grilled unagi, but the "skin" was made of seaweed, while the "meat" had the crunch of lotus root. It didn't taste like eel, but we liked it anyway.
My favourite dish was the wagyu with wasabi soy (HK$288) - lightly seared, rare pieces of fatty and tender meat that were so rich and flavourful that they didn't need the dipping sauce (although the freshly grated wasabi served with it was a nice touch). Also good was the Kurobuta pork loin with miso (HK$88). The meat, which seemed more like pork neck, was seared, sliced and topped with finely minced shiso leaf and spring onions, and served with a lightly flavoured miso sauce.
Initially disappointing was the fried chicken with black vinegar sauce (HK$68). We wondered what the point was of deep-frying it if you're going to make it soggy by drenching it in sauce. Once we got over that, however, we appreciated the dish's homey qualities and plentiful vegetables.
What else? The address is on Kingston Street, but the entrance to the restaurant is on Cleveland Street.