[Preview Dinner] HAKU, a Gorgeous New Modern Japanese Concept in Harbour City by Chef Agustin Balbi
As one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2017, I was excited to try the tasting menu prepared by Executive Chef Agustin Balbi (previously The Ocean). Chef Agustin has joined forces with the legendary chef Hideaki Matsuo of 3 Michelin-starred Kashiwaya in Osaka to unveil Haku in Harbour City. Sourcing only the highest quality ingredients from Japan as advised by the seasoned Chef Matsuo, Haku focuses on drawing out the unique flavours of these rare seasonal produce with Chef Agustin's modern twists. The interior of Haku resembles that of a traditional Japanese sushi establishment, with a smooth, hinoki counter at the centre of the intimate setting. Chef Agustin stands behind it with his Japanese sous chef, and welcomes me as I walk in to take my seat along the counter. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he also speaks Japanese! The dinner to follow would prove that Haku is a strong new contender to arrive on Hong Kong's competitive dining scene, and I can't wait to see how the menu changes with the seasons.
The Amuse Bouche consisted of skewered dried kibinago (herring), clam with dashi cream in seaweed cone, and not pictured is the delicious green bean tart with the most sumptuously buttery pastry!
This reminded me of the dessert I had at Quique Dacosta in Denia. Except instead of rolled up beetroot-marinated apple for dessert, this was Chef Agustin's special take on tsukemono, which translates to 'pickled thing' in Japanese. Tsukemono are commonly enjoyed as a side dish to rice in Japan, and this was a pickled beetroot - a less common vegetable ingredient in Japan.
After an appetising round of succulent Fukuoka oysters with yuzu kosho (yuzu pepper) and apple, we were served this Kyushu Tomato with kamasu (Japanese barracuda), konbu and Bellota ham. It was presented with an understated elegance and was one of my favourite dishes from the evening.
This epic next dish was the Hokkaido Purple Sea Urchin with eggplant miso on the flakiest, fluffiest brioche. The uni is of course as high quality as it gets - and since even the highest quality uni is somehow so easily accessible in Hong Kong, that wasn't even the wow factor for me. It was the incredible brioche that it was sitting on! Really complemented the smooth, creamy sweetness of the uni and made the dish something special.
This was the chutoro (medium fatty tuna) with Kristal caviar and the ever-elusive Polmard Blonde D'Aquitane beef. Blonde D'Aquitane are a rare brand of cattle reared in northeastern France by the Polmard family, and interestingly, only 4 are slaughtered every week in order to keep stress levels as low as possible. All of this contributes to how the meat ultimately tastes when served. Once again, the highest quality ingredients showcased in their purest form. Aesthetically stunning and a flavour explosion on the palate. The beef was so soft it melted with the chutoro, creating an exquisite and totally unique flavour profile. Obviously no seasoning needed with the decadent topping of briny, amber-hued Kaviari caviar. According to the chef, this is the dish that represents Haku's culinary philosophy in its entirety - no bullshit, great ingredients.
Next came the unmistakable smoky scent of burning binchoutan coals. A Japanese grilling method dating back to the Edo period, the coals famously produce no flames, just a blazing heat optimal for searing meat. The carefully chosen A4 grade Kagoshima Wagyu is grilled over the coals before being sliced and served with eringi mushroom, baby kabu (radish) and a scattering of wild asparagus. So divine.
Finally, the desserts! This was the Amanatsu Orange (literal translation: sweet summer orange) with Yoghurt and Granita. Starting to see yoghurt incorporated into a lot of fine dining desserts, and we enjoyed this as a palate cleanser to our meal. It was refreshing with just the right amounts of sweetness & acidity.
Wild Strawberries with tofu and meringue. The strawberries were naturally extra sweet, so added a nice flavour punch. Interesting textures from the tofu / strawberry / meringue throughout. We couldn't stop picking at it!
Haku is currently in its pre-opening stage, and is slated to open on July 14, 2017.
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Tel - 2115 9965
Address - Shop OT G04B, Ground Floor, Ocean Terminal, Habour City, Tsim Sha Tsui
Instagram - @hakuhongkong
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