Though the teppanyaki restaurant - yet another one of the outlets that have opened in the new Cubus Building in Causeway Bay - is small, seating approximately 45 persons, it doesn’t give the feeling of intimacy. Perhaps that has something to do with the massive black cow displayed in the middle of the room - a tribute to the wagyu beef that has made Japan so famous, and impressive only in the fact that it mimics the actual size of the prized beef - or the glaringly harsh lighting. The design elements lean towards the modern with its abundant use of black glass and art nouveau chandeliers. A long teppanyaki counter is, naturally, the seating of choice here, but if the inevitable smoke that comes from sitting here doesn’t appeal to you, the tables are also a good option, as they too have the privilege of their own separate cooking stations so you can still enjoy the show from the distance.
Quality produce in the hands of skilful teppanyaki chefs makes Sessyu worth a nod – despite the alarming amount of grammatical and typographical mistakes on the menu that could indicate a lack of attention to detail. Though the selection covers the gamut of Japanese fare, from shabu-shabu and sukiyaki to udon, it’s best to stick to the house speciality. The teppanyaki set courses offer the best range of choice and value for money. The unimaginatively-named “Main Course” gets off to a flat start, with a selection of seasonal appetisers made up of pickled vegetables, fish cakes and radish that were bland in flavour. Things pick up with the excellent quality sashimi and continue on to the live lobster teppanyaki that comes still moving on the plate. The teppanyaki chef proficiently seasons and grills the crustacean before settling it back into its shells for a rather attractive presentation. Such is the quality of the lobster, though, that it renders the butter-citrus sauce it’s drizzled with unnecessary. Next comes a brandy-cooked Japanese tomato that had no real hint of alcohol and was unpleasantly sour. But the Tochigi beef tenderloin comes to the rescue. In case the large black cow in the middle of the room is too subtle a reminder, premium meats (Hida and Tochigi) are Sessyu’s signatures. The Tochigi beef that comes with our teppanyaki set doesn’t have the same tingling richness as other types of wagyu but is buttery-soft in texture and full-bodied in flavour, complemented by a light peppery crust. The special Japanese garlic rice that came tossed with seaweed strips rounds off the set on a high note. Still feeling peckish? All seafood at Sessyu is flown in fresh from Hokkaido - the fresh tiger prawns teppanyaki had the perfect tinge of ocean saltiness and sweetness, prepared with care and seared to perfection. Live Japanese abalone (HK$780 for 250g) and king crab (HK$2,800) teppanyaki are also available.
The wine list is surprisingly brief with no real depth of choice. There are only two wines by the glass (a house white and a house red with no vintage named), three bottles of white, seven reds (ranging from HK$320-$850) and 6 sakes (ranging from HK$130-$2,000). Japanese beers and shochu are also on offer, such as the wheat beer Super Iichiko (HK$400) and a sweet potato shochu, the Tomi no Houzan (HK$350).
The friendly and attentive staff is a definite highlight. Highly accommodating, they listen to requests and willingly make adjustments to the set menu to follow our preferences. However, it seems only a few of the staff were adept at describing the dishes, and the teppanyaki chef hardly spoke a word about his food. And while the attention to detail of the teppanyaki chef makes for a good show, certain dishes took inexplicably long to prepare.
The quality of the produce comes at a price, with the teppanyaki set menus ranging from HK$980 to HK$1,400. A range of lunch sets on offer is better value for money.