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There’s little excuse for being stuck for conversation at Kaika, no matter where you sit in this smart and contemporary 2,500 sq ft space, which is bathed in a warm golden glow at night. Choose from a sushi counter near the entrance, with glistening seafood protected from your greedy gaze behind a glass counter; one teppanyaki hotplate counter that looks out to Kowloon’s high-rises; another that faces vitrines filled with the choicest cuts of meat; and a dining room with tables and chairs next to double-height windows with impressive Hong Kong Island skyline and Victoria Harbour vistas. All offer talking points – if they don’t you might want to ditch your dining companion – whether it’s the views or the food being prepared before your very eyes. Our pick, if you don’t mind cosying up to strangers is at one of the communal teppanyaki counters.
Hong Kong has a number of good high-end Japanese restaurants, and Kaika distinguishes itself from the pack by having access – aided in no small part by being an outpost of the famed Tokyo original – to some of the finest ingredients available, flown in daily from Japan. Diners can opt for set menus or go a la carte, though we recommend one of the teppanyaki sets, since it’s their speciality. Any of these is likely to include some abalone, lobster or the delightfully named kinki fish in season, as well as beef, the quality of which increases the more you spend, naturally. Our set included grilled A4 Japanese wagyu rib eye with Japanese vegetables, in this case some eggplant, pumpkin and courgette, presented alongside a pink-salt brick. The meat was beautifully charred outside, pink and marbled inside, gave easily to the bite and packed with flavour. It’s enough to make a vegetarian salivate. The teppanyaki Japanese red abalone, sliced up then reassembled and served in the shell with shimeji mushroom, uni and salmon roe atop a flaming bed of salt is tender, earthy, salty and made for the Instagram age. Other highlights included an almost mousse-like grilled foie gras with special sauce, and a briny simmered clam with sake in Japanese style. Slightly disappointing to finish was the fried rice, pickles and miso soup, the rice lacking in flavour even with the addition of sea urchin and salmon roe, though this was a quibble in a very good meal.
It’s all about sake at Kaika, with more than 50 bottles available in 300, 720 and 1,800 ml sizes. We sampled a 360ml bottle of Dewatsuru rose sake from Yamagata, which was sweet and easy to drink. Some tasting notes on the sake list, or a sommelier who can explain the different styles on offer would have been most helpful.
Service was well-intentioned but lacking in polish. Dishes were often served without any explanation, and when prodded, staff had difficulty explaining, probably due to language barriers. Likewise, telling us the sake we ordered was pink (we could see that) and sweet, wasn’t terribly helpful.
At more than $1,000 per person, this would be a special occasion restaurant for many, though the quality of the ingredients and the setting make it fair value.