Hanabi is a new omakase restaurant by the group who have brought you the likes of NUR, Amakaze and Bungalow, Prive Group. Head chef Michael Chan (previously of Café Kool and NOBU Intercontinental Hong Kong) brings his signature subtle Japanese cuisine to Knutsford Terrace, a location that until this point, had been spared the over-saturation of Japanese cuisine the rest of the Special Administrative Region has been overcome by.
There are two menus on offer at Hanabi; The Mankai menu (満開), which stands for “in full bloom,” costing $1,200 and the Tsubomi menu (つぼみ), which stands for “flower bud,” costing $800. Both have appetisers and sashimi, but the more expensive will treat diners to grilled selections of seafood, whilst the more gentle on the wallet offers a tempura selection.
With the great expectations of Hong Kong diner’s when it comes to Japanese food, we thought Hanabi did a great job at being what it sets out to be; mostly traditional omakase with a few special tricks of chef Michael thrown in. He is certainly skilled, and holds a passion for the trade distinctly necessary to garner any level of success in this industry. The first few dishes were gentle and very fresh, with bite sized starters like pumpkin, spinach with sesame and freshly made tofu (outstanding).
An inventive double layered appetiser came next, the bowl on top featuring an oyster in a tart and umami dressing of ponzu which burst with sea juices. Seductive fumes seep from the bottom globe, which holds tuna surrounded by swirling apple wood smoke. This is not just for dramatic effect, as the smoke gently cooks the tuna and infuses it with the heady forest flavour. This was our favourite course.
The sashimi is fresh and during its preparation is when one notes the exceptional knife skills of Chef Michael, who skilfully weilds the blade to form precise measures of the raw mackeral, tuna, scallop, clam and white fish. Each day Chef Michael will use whatever is best quality from Tokyo, so the varieties are ever-changing.
The uni was fragrant and served atop rice, and the toro tuna rippled with fat, meaning both made for indulgent mouthfuls. Another favourite was the black cod in miso grilled seafood course, which remains one of the better things one can order in a Japanese restaurant in our opinion. Though a common dish in Japanese cuisine, this one was flawlessly executed with the most buttery tender finish to the umami laden meal.
Dessert was a clean and straightforward duo of iced quenelles, yuzu sorbet and red bean ice cream. We found all the meals very enjoyable, and loved the little touches, from the wide compendium of sakes to choose from to the extraordinarily potent fresh wasabi. Our only mild woe came from the rice, which we felt needed more vinegar.
Verdict: Great price point, given the intimacy of the 18 seater dining experience, jet-fresh quality of the fish and pleasant, enaging staff. Intricate Japanese flavours are accented with a modern flair here and there, but still pay homage to the founding land, which is a difficult balance to strike. In Hanabi’s case, it is done most gracefully.