As the weather in Hong Kong drops to a more bearable temperature, our craving for a big bowl of soupy noodles has increased exponentially. Being in a quintessential Asian city, we’re faced with a great amount of choices here as we decide which style of noodle soup we’re looking to feast on today.
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While there are always a good number of Chinese options, our main Japanese options have been limited to the countless ramen shops which have sprung up throughout Hong Kong in the last three years. But if you’re looking for a bowl of thick-cut, springy, udon noodles with a lighter dashi broth, its been difficult to find really any spots in town whose sole purpose is dedicated to this hearty, yet lower-calorie meal. That is, until now.
If you ever tried Sushi To by Harlan Goldstein before it became Shiki Zen, you’ll immediately note that the decor has not changed dramatically, and the restaurant still relies on a classic, yet modern Japanese look with ample booth seating, lighter decorative woods, and metallic gray accents carried throughout.
At the entry, you are greeted by the hostess stand, and as you are being seated, you are brought through the small buffet area, which includes a sushi / sake bar, robatayaki grill, and a teppanyaki station. One thing to look out for before you turn the corner to your table is the small, non-descript udon-making room, in which your scrumptious noodles are made daily using Japanese Kagawa flour, Japanese sea salt and Japanese water, all imported for the restaurant’s use.
While Shiki Zen offers a full range of Japanese cuisine, what we've come here for is their in-house, freshly made udon. This daily made delicacy is a 16-hour process that includes overnight fermentation of the dough, and is finished by machine to cut the noodles into their desired width and thickness. Shiki Zen makes two different types of udon, Sanuki and Kyoto styles. The Sanuki udon noodle is the more traditional thick-style udon we're used to seeing in standard Japanese restaurants (and many Chinese ones as well), and is best served in a hot broth. The Kyoto udon is a thin-style udon noodle that offers a soft texture, and is typically served cold.
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As winter draws upon us, we decided to sample three different hot udon options. While we enjoyed the more traditional Miyazaki chicken and mixed mushrooms ($138) and the snow crab meat in egg soup ($148) options, our favourite was the less traditional seafood in tomato soup ($168) selection which came with squid, shrimp, clam, and a rich, hearty, tomato broth. The homemade udon is standard among the bowls, and was very much to our liking. The noodles were bouncy, firm, and had a very clean-tasting flavour about them. We were instructed not to let the noodles sit in the soup too long, as the prolonged exposure to the hot broth (if you don't eat it quickly) can make the udon noodles lose their fantastic texture.
If you're looking to share plates, and balance your noodles out with some proteins, the choices on their semi-buffet menu are worth a look. We particularly enjoyed the US ribeye steak with teriyaki sauce ($298) and if you're a lover of miso-marinated grilled black cod ($298), like we are, we think this is one of the best offerings in town.
The menus are identical for both lunch and dinner (albeit higher prices in the evening), but the buffet at dinner time offers sashimi, nigiri sushi, and raw oysters, which aren't available at lunch. We couldn't leave without trying dessert, and were very happily satiated with the strawberry & red bean rice roll ($68). This mochi-style dessert was fantastic as it balanced the sweetness of the red beans with the freshness of the strawberries.
With the launch of Shiki Zen, we believe there to only be a few Japanese restaurants dedicated to making udon noodles. We can count at least ten ramen shops just in the area around Causeway Bay. Eating udon noodles in a delicious hearty broth has always been great comfort food for us, and we're excited for the new addition to our dining options. We'd highly recommend going with a few people so that you can sample all the different options Shiki Zen has created. And don't forget to order that delicious, buttery, miso-amazing cod.
Open Hours: Mon-Sun: 12:00pm - 2:30pm, 6:00pm - 10:30pm