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Located in Central Park Hotel on the quieter end of Hollywood Road, Wagyu Kaiseki Den is entered through a rather elaborate front door. Once inside, however, some may be surprised at the lack of ostentation. A dimly-lit staircase leads you upstairs to the two main dining areas – the sushi bar, where you can sit in front of the team of chefs in the bustling kitchen, or the dining room, which seats about 16 guests. The décor is simple, with a large black piece of modern art painted onto the back wall and a glass window separating the open kitchen from the dining room.
The menu at Wagyu Kaiseki Den is set, though naturally you can always call ahead to specify what you do not like to eat. On the night we visited, our ten-course menu included a surprising number of seafood dishes, considering the name of the restaurant. We loved the first appetiser of abalone with sea urchin and seaweed sauce, as well as the grilled kamasu, a seasonal fish. The chef’s sashimi selection, beautifully presented on a clear plate and garnished with a sprig of purple shiso flowers, held some delights such as a grilled kinki fish and a wonderfully textured lobster sashimi. More disappointing however, was the famous dish of sea urchin truffle rice. It is most impressive when it first arrives, with the aroma of the black truffle hitting you as soon as the lid is lifted, but upon tasting it, it is distinctively under-seasoned, and lovers of raw sea urchin may be less impressed with the drier texture of the hot variety. What is definitely worth going for, however, is the wagyu beef, which is sourced from Kagoshima. We were served a trio, with a tenderloin so marbled it almost looked cartoonish, a deliciously succulent sirloin marinated in a sweet soy, and an ox tongue, which is excellent with a black truffle paste. For dessert, the warabi mochi cake has a delightfully bouncy texture, but it is the coffee pudding with ice cream on top that is the most memorable.
The wine list here is very expensive. It features the big-hitters from Bordeaux in its wine section, while the average bottle of sake hovers around HK$2,000. There is only one house red, one house white and one house champagne available by the glass. On the Japanese side, we enjoyed the HK$85 selection of yuzu lemon sake, especially with some of the heavier dishes.
The service at Wagyu Kaiseki Den is commendable, with staff taking care to help you make sense of the menu, which is written in kanji and Romanised Japanese, neither of which are helpful to non-Japanese readers. The timing of the courses, however, is one aspect that could be improved. While some dishes arrived far too quickly – we were still working on our first appetiser when the second arrived – others took a much longer time to come. Overall however, the staff work hard to make you feel welcome and make sure you are enjoying your kaiseki experience.
A meal for two without alcohol comes to about HK$4,000. While not overly expensive in the world of haute Japanese cuisine, we thought it was rather expensive given the rather average surroundings.