Hong Kong is spoilt for choice when it comes to upscale Japanese restaurants. Nagamoto, which has taken over the premises of previous Michelin-starred Kashiwaya, showcases an authentic Japanese “shun” dining experience. The menu, which focuses on fresh seasonal ingredients, changes every month.
A Review of Nagamoto
By nature, Japanese restaurants – especially upscale ones – pride themselves on the fresh ingredients that they serve. And then, there are those who go even further with their focus on Japanese “shun” philosophy.
The word “shun”, which doesn’t have an English equivalent, means serving the ingredients at the very peak times when it is most flavourful. But, it isn’t limited to just the food served but also to the context of its surroundings, right down to the dinnerware and chopsticks.
This is the philosophy that Chef Teruhiko Nagamoto pursues at his eponymous restaurant. A 30-year veteran, Chef Nagamoto served at Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan and Hong Kong, the last being at Kashiwaya. Nagamoto took over Kashiwaya’s premises in On Lan Street.
To stay true to his philosophy, Chef Nagamoto changes his whole chef’s menu (from $2,680) every month. We were there for his Kisaragi (the name for February in ancient Japanese) menu. We got off to a great start with the starter of hamaguri clam with Japanese angelica, and ocellated octopus with butterbur miso sauce and crackers, both fresh and light.
One of the biggest surprises came with the “first flavour” dashi, made from kombu and bonito. The amount of umami in just two spoonfuls of the soup stock was amazing. This was followed by a steamed fish minced with crab and scallop soup; a sashimi platter of sea bream, surf clams and squid; and tuna donburi. Chef Nagamoto also snuck in the seasonal special of super fresh ise ebi (lobster) sashimi (supplement of $1,200 for two).
The seasonal representative came with the Hassun course: a platter of three dishes celebrating the start of spring. The chawanmushi with conger eel was smooth, with a sprinkle of yuzu giving it some zest. The Spanish mackerel was lightly grilled with the perfect balance of juiciness and flavours, and not as oily as expected. This was served with Inarizushi of tofu pockets. Young burdock root with deep fried tofu rounded up the course.
The highlights came after the agemono course of tempura. The Wagyu beef shabu shabu was so perfectly pink that I almost mistook it for maguro at first glance. The meat was buttery and firm, melting in the mouth without being too fatty.
The pot rice, served with picked vegetables, was the ideal end to the savoury courses. The Yamagata rice cooked with clam soup, kombu soup, oil and ginger, and accompanied by clams, absorbed all the full flavours. It was so delicious that we unabashedly asked for another helping! Two desserts and a fresh bowl of matcha tea ended the evening on a high note.
Ocellated octopus with butterbur miso sauce and crackers
Ise ebi sashimi
Wagyu beef shabu shabu
On arrival, the friendly service made me feel very welcome. The staff were attentive and anticipated my needs. The main part of the restaurant comprised only 12 counter seats, as one would expect from a kappo restaurant, with a private room able to seat up to 10. Low lights and low conversation levels on the night we were there made for a comfortable experience. One of the things I appreciated most was our server knowledgeably explaining every course to us, from ingredients to how they were to be cooked. We were allowed to touch and smell the ingredients, making it the evening an experience of all the senses.
Price for two:
8/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central
Tel. 2520 5218
Monday to Friday, 7pm–10.30pm
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holiday: 1pm–3:30pm; 7pm–10.30pm