Chef Ken Kwok, formerly working the kitchens at Michelin-starred Takumi by Daisuke Mori, CIAK and La Petite Maison, has opened J POT hotpot restaurant in Causeway Bay, one of three restaurants by GOSANGO on the same floor that focus on bringing Wagyu from one of the oldest suppliers in Japan, Hiyama, to Hong Kong. More casual Sensu showcases dishes like Wagyu tacos and Wagyu pie, while high-end Wagyu Vanne is all about yakiniku.
The design of J POT is inspired by music and performance, and we can thank Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou for quirky touches like the adorable guitar teaspoons, chopsticks designed like drumsticks and the deep (perhaps too deep – we had to stand to cook, which wasn’t exactly comfortable) and hollow red drums in the centre of each table into which the pot of bubbling broth is placed. Black-and-white leather banquettes, backlit multicoloured tiled walls and a glass-encased kitchen displaying trays of handmade pasta add to the cool, contemporary feel.
Although à-la-carte ordering is available, the tasting menu ($498/person) is what sets J POT apart from the rest of the hotpot pack – that and the seven creative MSG-free soup bases that include fish maw, Wagyu consommé, sea urchin miso and Sichuan Thai-style boat noodle.
Clockwise from top left: Earl Grey tea with agar and brown sugar jelly, geoduck carpaccio, Wagyu and cheese spring rolls, deep-fried codfish skin
The tasting menu begins with a seafood carpaccio of the day. In our case, we unfortunately weren’t enamoured with the strong fishy flavour of the geoduck carpaccio.
Next up is a snack platter. The deep-fried homemade codfish skin proved to be more rice paper than fish skin, of which we could detect mere flecks of cod skin. The indulgent Wagyu and cheese spring rolls fared better.
Sea urchin miso broth
Condiments for creating your own hotpot dipping sauce, using J POT’s homemade soy sauce as the base. The wholegrain mustard was a new one for us!
The choice of soup base is an all-important one. With the tasting menu, diners can opt for the standard Wagyu consommé or bouillabaisse or can choose to upgrade for an additional $198 for a premium soup base. With our eyes on the prize, we opted for the sea urchin miso broth because it sounded so decadently different. And indeed the bright orange soup was rich and creamy, with an intense umami-laden scent.
For dipping, diners are given a platter filled with dumplings, beef, pork and fish balls and fresh, leafy vegetables, with the balls supplied by local specialist Tai Po Chun Hing. The meaty, peppery Wagyu dumplings were the clear favourite. The beef balls divided the table – these juicy, bouncy balls were stuffed with a gingery filling that was overpowering for some.
The daily market seafood platter played runner-up to the star of this hotpot show, the Hiyama A5 Wagyu platter. The beef was buttery and well marbled, with a pronounced savoury flavour. Go for the fattiest slices for the most tender texture.
To finish, diners are given a plate of homemade pasta. While the cold, thick noodles with soba sauce and beef carpaccio were delicious and chewy, the concept of serving a prepared pasta dish post-hotpot seems disjointed to us. We would have preferred to cook the noodles ourselves in the broth or have forgone the pasta course altogether. We mentioned this to the waitstaff, and we found out that DIY pasta is indeed an option if you’re so inclined.
Clockwise from top: coconut taro mousse, green tea cake, salted egg mochi
A trio of Asian-inspired petits fours rounded off our meal. The salted egg mochi was our pick of the three – we loved the addictively chewy texture and the sweet and creamy custard filling, which reminded us of a mooncake.
Open only for a few days on the evening we visited, J POT was already fully booked on the night in question. Perhaps it was owing to the Jay Chou association, perhaps it was because of the big-name chef leading the kitchen or perhaps it was simply because Hong Kongers are hotpot mad and are always on the lookout for a unique fix. For us, hotpot is synonymous with crazy indulgence, ordering a slew of dippers and feasting to our heart’s content – the atmosphere doesn’t matter so much. At J POT, the decor is a lot more upscale and the hotpot tasting menu experience is a lot more refined. The choice is yours.
1/F, Tower 535, 535 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, 2885 0533
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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