Hysan Road, Causeway Bay
Dinner on Nov 25, 2004
It is amusing to know that the atmosphere of Japanese restaurants in this neighborhood varies so vastly. At some corners the vibes can best be described as austere, yet at others the ambiance is outright intimating. Harakan, a two-storied upscale Japanese restaurant not far away from the Lee Garden, lies somewhere in between. The décor is modern and lush yet the vibes are comfortable and warm.
The starter I ordered was one of my favorite Japanese food, the ‘natto,’ fermented soybeans. I just love the pungent, smelly note as well as the sticky and stringy texture of this comfort food. I love the fact that I can smell this food ten feet away. But I guess my sentiment for natto was not echoed by most people in Hong Kong since I rarely see any locals order this. Sadly, when it first arrived at the table, it wasn’t served right: there was not raw egg on top of it. It was not authentic. Most Japanese tend to mix natto with raw egg and some chopped onion – in a way the smelly becomes smellier and the sticky becomes stickier – I guess. Unwilling to make do with a lower version, I asked the waitress to come back with a raw egg on my natto. It was better but still not the best. The beans were not seasoned enough to acheive the distinctive burnt flavor of natto should have.
Next dish was the one I came here for: the liver of Monkfish. Monkfish, also known as ‘allmouth, ’ or as ‘angler’ in the West or ‘lantern fish’ by our Chinese. In Japan, the fish is called ‘ankoo fish,’ and its liver is wildly dubbed as the Japanese foie gras (the meat of the fish is usually discarded). It is as highly celebrated as the blowfish in Japan. That said, it was not as plump and meaty as the real foie gras, at least to me. It tasted fresh and milder, with nuanced flavor of mashed greens (surprisingly).
The signature sushi set of Harakan, meanwhile, was in a league of its own. By far the most stylish and eccentric sushi set I’ve seen in Hong Kong. All the eight pieces of sushi in the set were artistically arranged. The cod roe (male cod’s sperm) sushi (pictured right), in particular, was the most intriguing sushi I’ve tasted in a long while. The Japanese are really good at eating sperm! It was airy and, believe it or not, nubile. The blue sprat sushi, on the other hand shown the sushi master was a real deal: a ribbon of sprat slices was delicately constructed on top of the rice roll. The godsend blowfish was also executed in perfection. It was aromatic and creamy.
Albeit the food was excellent, the service of Harakan was moderate. The staff were brainwashed to tell nothing but the stiffest should a patron ask what good the restaurant has to offer. Some foundamental questions about their cuisine made them looking at each other thoughtfully and coming up with answers like this: 'let me check with the chef first and get back to you later.' More trainings are recommended.