After lunch, IGT’s man in Hong Kong knew that a dinner assessment was going to be necessary to really get a feel for the restaurant.
Two weeks after our first experience, we headed to Ore-no Kappou for dinner with reasonably high expectations. The seats were, as promised, more spacious and we were seated swiftly. Less hectic than lunch, we had time to appreciate the smart décor with themes of earth, wood and paper. The bar area would be good for solo dining, with some food preparation done there.
Given the otherwise classy setting, one could not help but frown upon the plastic tableware. But the mood was jovial, and we were determined not to be let down by this, so moved on to the dinner menu. It is à la carte only, and has two sections, simply categorised as “cold” and “hot”. New dishes are regularly added according to season.
While studying the menu, the Japanese maître d’, transferred from their Michelin two-starred Tokyo branch, came over to run us through it. His friendliness and overall demeanour were impressive – his fluent Cantonese was even more so. We were informed that most of their signature dishes come straight from their menu in Japan, and have a French influence. The menu was certainly interesting, featuring luxuries like foie gras, wagyu, lobsters, and abalone; it was undeniably diverse, and yet lacking in coherence. Anyway, our party of three settled on three starters and mains to share.
We began with the Monaka Surprise – a foie gras and cream cheese mixture with a crunchy wafer cover – as well as sea urchin and chicken consommé jelly, and a grilled fish dish. All three were beautifully presented; the sea urchin affair was particularly elegant. Since we were sharing all the dishes, we did not mind that the three starters did not come together. The appearance of the Monaka Surprise reminds us of an ice-cream sandwich. The filling was a terrine of miso-marinated cream cheese and foie gras. The miso marinade added sharpness to the cream cheese, which worked very well. Each spoonful was as decadent as one could hope for. The only complaint was that the terrine was just too firm, and could have benefitted from a bit more resting time at room temperature; then it would have really melted in the mouth. The wafer was thin and crunchy, which would have been a perfect complement had the terrine been softer.
The sea urchin jelly looked as luxurious or excessive (according to individual taste) as starters come – gold leaf and caviar. At first glance, I worried that the caviar might overpower the delicate flavor of the sea urchin. I was, unfortunately, prescient. Despite of the hidden bed of carrot purée under the chicken stock jelly (which I suspect the chef had intended to counter the saltiness of the caviar), the umami of the sea urchin did not come through, leaving the whole dish a bit bland. Ore-no’s signature flattered to deceive. It gave the impression that expensive ingredients were used for the sake of it. The final starter was the grilled fish, apparently flown in from Japan that afternoon. It was perfectly grilled, with crispy skin and delicate, moist flesh. It was basic, but let the fresh ingredients and cooking skills shine through, and the result was better than its flashier friends.
Our main dishes were a 250g wagyu steak from Miyazake, a steamed sushi platter, and grilled duck breast with shisho pepper sauce. The wagyu was served piping hot on a slab of what was apparently Fuji volcanic rock. It did the job to keep the steak warm – a job largely redundant as we devoured it in seconds. The beef was amazingly marbled, as one would expect, without being too greasy. The melting texture that no other beef can offer was very much there. Some purists might suggest that the flavour couldn’t compete with dry-aged beef, but at HKD 400 (£35) you just can’t argue with such a bargain. Also on the menu, there was a 200g wagyu tenderloin, served with foie gras and truffle jus – high-grade heart attack on a plate. We were happy with our order, which was simple and well-cooked, letting the steak do the talking.
The steamed sushi came without much surprise. It was basically warm rice in a box with toppings such as abalone, crab, uni and fish roe – a warm chirashi. Presentation was rustic at best, and despite expensive ingredients, the dish failed to do them justice. For the price one might as well just go for the normal sushi or sashimi. Finally, the duck breast, a signature dish, arrived to challenge full stomachs – the main courses came separately. Battling on, though, it turned out to be a stunning finale. Medium-rare, the breast was paired with a slightly sweet shisho pepper sauce, and the numbing sensations of the shisho peppers made for a truly remarkable one experience. And it was a third of the cost of the others.
All-in-all, it was a solid, decent meal with a simiarly decent price tag. Everything was good, but the more complicated dishes lacked finesse. When a menu so strongly emphasises fresh, high-quality ingredients, they really should be prepared with simple techniques and allowed to speak for themselves. The drinks menu offers some interesting sake-based cocktails, and the wine list is brief but very well priced.
Ore-no does deserve the accolade it received, named as one of Hong Kong’s top tables of 2015 by HK Magazine. However, if a Michelin star, like its Japanese counterpart, is the aim, there is still room for improvement. Right now it’s a fun place for friends to share a meal with a relaxed and casual atmosphere – not necessarily for a formal dinner – while the ever-changing menu and fantastic value should keep customers coming back.
6/F, California Tower, Lan Kwai Fong, 32 D'Aguilar St, Central, Hong Kong +852 2328 3302