Hong Kong’s restaurant scene is notoriously head-spinning in its vicissitudes, with the number of restaurant closings nearly on par with the number of openings every year. This is particularly true in the case of F&B groups that cycle through one concept after another within the same space, in the hopes of salvaging a flailing restaurant by delivering a more attractive concept, or simply taking advantage of the newness factor to draw in the crowds.
One such example is Yannick Alleno’s Terroir Parisien, which after just a little over a year in operation was completely gutted to be transformed into new Ginza-style teppanyaki and sushi restaurant, Kakure. Hoping to tap into a wider audience — not a bad bet given Hongkongers’ proven demand for Japanese cuisine — Epicurean Group recently revealed the newly refitted space over the summer.
It’s perhaps worth noting that the restaurant is already fighting an uphill battle: The windowless basement venue in Landmark Prince’s has always been oddly positioned, extremely hard-to-locate (apt, considering Kakure translates to “present in form but absent from sight”) and difficult to draw in casual foot traffic. Once you seek out the restaurant, you’ll make your way down a flight of stairs and through a dark cave-like passageway suffused with the glow from rows of floor lanterns leading the way to the dining room. On one side, museum-like spotlights shine on odd rock formations, emphasising the natural beauty intrinsic to Japanese culture and cuisine.
The restaurant itself is both spacious and intimate, with several private rooms, and distinct dining areas ranging from the sushi counter to the teppanyaki grill and the main dining room constituting the 3,000-sq.-ft. venue. Before you sit down for dinner, you may wish to stop by the stylish long bar decked out in marble and stone, with cosy nooks for private pre-prandial drinks and plush teal bar stools facing the bartenders, who whip up theatrical concoctions that pack a neat punch. The Ginza-style bar is similar in aesthetic to Gishiki Lounge, which opened this summer as a bar annex to Sushi Zo, although we have to say we found the drinks here more compelling, from an excellently made classic martini to a smoked sesame oil negroni (HK$155) made with fat-washed gin and infused with cherry blossom smoke.
Food & Drink
Kakure’s lengthy menu is a showcase for myriad methods and strains of Japanese cuisine: Those dining à la carte will be able to pick from hot and cold appetisers, “Nibbles” that could be labelled as bar snacks, ranging from fried chicken to marinated firefly squid; sushi and sashimi platters; tempura, donburi bowls, hot pot/shabu shabu and rice/noodle dishes, and temaki rolls (we even spot a California Roll, emphasising Kakure’s global catch-all mentality). That’s all before even reaching the teppanyaki pages, where premium ingredients from Australian abalone to Hokkaido Taraba crab await a sizzling turn on the grill.
We opt for the tasting menu to sample the signature highlights. While Japanese degustations usually commence with a slight rev of the engine to kick-start the palate, the first course is more like a head-on collision: a boulder-sized oyster arrives wrapped in Wagyu beef, encased in a thickly fried batter and anointed with uni and caviar for an added level of decadence. While the oyster itself is delicious — the briny lobe of uni acting as a cooling counterpart to the fried batter — the dish is overpowering as a first course, and served alongside a ponzu jelly that’s exceedingly salty.
The tasting menu progresses with a series of punchy flavours and doesn’t let up until the last rich bite of black sesame pudding. (On a related note: the lack of subtle compositions also means you can power through either the cocktail or the lengthy sake and spirits menu (including a 120-deep rare & vintage whiskies collection), without risking overwhelming the flavours on the plate, or worse, offending your sushi chef with an improper choice of libation).
Propped up at the sushi counter for an early tasting, we’re also the only two people in the restaurant for a good hour before other diners trickle in, and perhaps due to sheer boredom, our chefs end up preparing our first few plates in rapid succession, making the first half of the meal feel exceedingly rushed. This culminates in our nigiri platter arriving cold, as we’re still savouring the last pieces of sashimi minutes after the chef have already blow-torched the piece of kinmedai, or golden-eye snapper — not a minor offence for a high-end sushi counter.
From there, the meal progresses to hit some high notes, starting with a flower-shaped ceramic dish of thinly sliced South African abalone tempura served with a saucer of crab miso that we could eat by the spoonful. After the abalone, we’re invited to stretch our legs and make our way to the teppanyaki counter — taking a welcome hiatus to sip our drinks as we watch the theatrical tricks and flips of the teppanyaki chef. Moments later, we’re presented with the ‘US Beef Fillet vs Hida Wagyu Tenderloin’ (no points for guessing which is the winner) both well-seared and seasoned, served with pink salt, a daub of wasabi and a sprinkle of concentrated umami in the form of dried seaweed.
Surprisingly, a vegetable dish ends up being one of our favourite dishes of the night. A tuff of crispy kale is decorated with a snowfall of grated parm and a tangle of fried burdock — the ingredients served fresh and cool to function as a sort of pseudo-palate cleanser after the buttery beef. The Japanese component is in a pool of shiso pine nut dressing — a creamy and nutty emulsion that fuses with the yolk of a wobbly onsen egg to tip the dish into comfort food territory. This is followed with a choice of fried rice or sea bream ‘ramen’ — the latter a soothing elixir with two slabs of white-fleshed fish crowned with sliced ginger and snappy green chives. Finally, dessert is another unexpected highlight, with a smooth-set sesame pudding hidden underneath a ‘soil’ of smashed Oreo cookie crumbs, stuck with a few edible flowers to complete the quaint visual of a potted plant.
Hong Kong’s Japanese temples are more vast than varied, and it’s becoming increasingly harder to stand out amongst the cacophony of establishments serving the same fish or dutiful renditions of the same dish from across the same single-carved ‘Hinoki’ wood counter. At Kakure, we appreciated the creative tweaks that alluded to a covert playfulness in the kitchen — a rarer find amongst the city’s more cerebrally-minded sushi counters. The more novel dishes that balk traditional Japanese culinary norms are where Kakure shines (that, and the sheer scope of the menu), but a few mishaps reveal chinks in the restaurant’s shiny new armour. Kakure no doubt caters to a wider audience than its predecessor and is already a popular lunch spot with the suited Landmark crowd; with a few tweaks, it’ll be well worth it for those outside of the corporate bubble to seek out this hidden basement destination.
Opening Hours: Restaurant open Mon–Sat 11:30am–2:30pm for lunch, 6–10pm for dinner (Bar open 4–11pm with Happy Hour from 4–7pm); closed Sundays.
Recommended Dishes: Oyster wrapped in Wagyu beef, South African abalone tempura, Hida Wagyu tenderloin beef, onsen egg & kale salad with shiso pine nut dressing, sea bream ramen, soil and sesame pudding.
Price: HK$800–1,000 per person for dinner with drinks.
Noise Level: Hushed.
Service: Attentive, but rushed at times.