Yakiniku Jumbo Hong Kong review: Japanese barbecue precision on show at branch of Tokyo restaurant
In Japanese barbecue, each cut of beef is divided by muscle and treated separately unlike in other cuisines. Try the Noharayaki, a thin piece of A5 wagyu sirloin that has been marinated, grilled and placed in raw egg yolk
When it comes to yakiniku (Japanese-style Korean barbecue) the Japanese are as precise about their cuts of beef as they are about the chicken for yakitori. The animal is divided by muscles, with each part treated separately (unlike cuts in other countries where, for example, the fattier cap portion of a rib-eye steak is not separated from the leaner eye portion before cooking).
When my guest and I visited Yakiniku Jumbo in Central – the Hong Kong branch of the original in Tokyo – the restaurant was so new that the sole offering for dinner was an omakase menu (it now serves an à la carte selection).
The omakase dinner (HK$1,280 plus 10 per cent) didn’t look on paper as if it would be very filling, but it was plenty for us; if you have large appetites, you can order more. The beef served on the omakase dinner changes from day to day, according to what the chef deems the best.
Wagyu yukke was a delicious start to the meal. The raw beef, hand-diced uchimomo (top round cut) dressed with soy sauce and sesame oil, was cool and light. Grilled wagyu nigiri – made with the tomosankaku (tri-tip cut) was a let down because the rice underneath the meat was too large and pressed too firmly.
Zuwai crab salad was dressed with citrus sauce and yuzu kosho, but I think they forgot to put both on mine, because it looked and tasted like naked greens with crabmeat. Still, the bitterness of the greens helped clear the palate between bites of the fatty beef. The kimchi (surprisingly spicy) and banchan – made in Tokyo by the chef’s mother and sent to Hong Kong – also did the same job. Chicken soup, made of birds from Kyushu and boiled for about five hours, was just fantastic, with a deep, clean flavour.
Onto the main event: the grilled beef, which was served from the leanest cut to the most marbled. First up was maki kalbi, which our helpful server (who also grilled all the beef for us) explained was the skirt of the rib-eye. It had a rich flavour but we preferred the more tender rumpu (rump).
With the second round, the uchimomo had a stronger flavour but slightly chewier bite (although none of the pieces we tasted could in any way be considered tough); the misuji (flat iron steak) had just the right balance between richness and tenderness; while the highly marbled zabuton (chuck flap cut) was just a little too fatty, which made it the softest piece.
Noharayaki – a Yakiniku Jumbo Original dish – was served as a separate course. The large, thin piece of A5 wagyu sirloin had been marinated, grilled briefly (as were all the cuts) and placed in a small bowl of raw egg yolk. It was a very fatty piece of meat that became even richer when coated with the yolk. It was a delicious three-bite course, but I couldn’t have managed a second portion.
Shin-rosu (chuck eye steak) was the only piece that wasn’t marinated; instead, it was lightly dressed with salt, pepper and sesame oil, so it tasted even beefier than all the other pieces. It came with salt, fresh wasabi and – our favourite condiment of all – uni.
The beef and uni combination is an inspired Japanese pairing. We also ordered it in an extra course of wagyu sashimi with sea urchin (HK$98 a piece). It’s an indulgent, sumptuous mouthful.
Noodles served in a cool broth and made tart with plenty of vinegar (you add as much as you like) refreshed our palates and stomachs. Black sesame sorbet – dark and intense – was the best I’ve tasted.
Yakiniku Jumbo, Shop 302, 3/F, Man Yee Building, 60-68 Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 2151 3887. About HK$1,300 per person without drinks or the service charge.
If you’re in the area: