Pure, fascinating, appealing ….those would be the words I would use to qualify the Hakkasan in London. Above all mysterious. The end of an alley lost in Firotzvia and always those big cars and those security guys… “do what to sneak a peak?
Then the smilling bouncer with her guest list. Here forget it…….not in the list or table booked hence this is hard door. And then this suspicious black front door, like the hole leading to a cavern……very intriguing and chic. Here we are at the Hakkasan.
Also this long dark staircase. Black colour seems to be a “leitmotiv” in Asia. Some alcoves garnished of huge and stunning strong lilac-purple orchids. Then this reception desk which could remind some trendy Hollywood stars clinic directly coming from Troy & McNamara…..also this double glassing door…some movement on the background….you cross some glamorous people once you open the door….what’s happening behind??
Hakkasan, a Japanese nirvana dedicated to the Asian “gastronomy” of the Rising Sun country, in the heart of London. One of the most famous table in the world granted of one star on the Guide Rouge*. You’ll be “lost in translation” in this place!! Noisy…swarming with people…but overall exciting. The walls, daintily decorated of flower shapes could give the impression of being transported to an Asian food market (hawkers) like the Newton Market in Singapore, or maybe a simple bed room in a nice house in Kyoto…..
I’ve to say, among anything else, the Hakkasan is one of the most famous bar in London, and got one of the most uncommon cocktail list in the world. All the cocktails are just divine. I would advise the Pink Mao Mao, refreshing and light, but above-all this stunning mix of Vodka, Watermelon and Sake (genius!).
At this stage you enter into a universe of feelings and flavors. Don’t expect here the standard french level of one star…”duh!!”. All is about forgetting where you are for a moment in your life. People are shouting all around you, the waiters parade like a procession in a street of Tokyo….this is like any market (trendy) in Japan.
To make the long story short, the owner of the Hakkasan is more than well known from Londoners, as he is is not only running this restaurant, but he is managing the vast empire of Wagamama (noddle bar) and Bussaba Eathai and more recently Cha-Cha moon. Mister Alan Yau plays himself as well in the high quality food restaurant as such as the Hakkasan and the Yauatcha, both awarded of one star on the Michelin Guide. Without any doubt there is a reason for that. The restaurant is currently conducted by the chef Tong Chee Hwee*.
On the “a la carte” menu, you can enjoy various nice things. To my attention we tried the Stir fry venison with water chestnuts, Thai celery and black fungus. I was mostly attracted by the “water chestnuts”, I never heard about it before. It’s called water chestnut mainly because of his shape, which I have to confess, once cooked, could look like a proper roast chestnuts. Those ones would remind somehow the flavour of some turnip, i.e. between something particular and very plain at the same time, but the texture of it is totally different, almost crunchy. The association with the venison is a perfect match. The overall is cooked on “sautée” style and added some oyster sauce and reduced with some kind of “lack” style, certainly strong dark honey. The result is somewhat nice and would surprisingly taste like one of our “European stew”. I would not compare it to one of our French wild board “daube”…but I must admit this is not far away. The water chestnut brings some character to the dish, maybe was I appealed by the round vegetable though.
If you’re adventurous and “gourmet” you’ll certainly want to try the Japanese abalone. Those seafood are very prized in Japan and very exclusive. It could be compare to the french delicacy e.g. sweetbread. This very beautiful shells, when they’re alive are commonly serve to really hype clientele in japan. It is along road to prepare the superb animal. You first have to excavate the inside of the shell, i.e. the mollusk. But this ones are very hard, so you have to beat them to tender their muscles. Once all done, you can cook them.Here it was simply stir fried with chili and soy sauce, and some thin morning glory. the texture of the abalone would remind, after a nice cooking time the texture of our european sweetbread indeed, surprising.
Another one was the Jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs. I maybe never said to you how much I’ve got some favourite meat I love on earth, and among any other meat, I’ve to confess, I couldn’t leave without eating pork. Pork is one of my favourite meat for the flavour and the texture of it. And among any cooking of pork (which I like to prepare with beer and, cloves and cauliflower, cooked for ages to juice absorption – I’ll write a recipe section one day – I have to) I really like the BBQ spare ribs. At Hakkasan you can enjoy the pork ribs steamed in a Jasmine vapour and then lightly roasted with soy sauce. This is just superb. You can really appreciate the smell of the jasmine flower surrounding the meat. The meat itself is cooked perfectly to just literally fall into parts into your fork. Over all it’s a divine creation.
To sum up, what can we say about the Hakkasan? Certainly we can confirm that this is a sensational moment in time. We can also justify the score below to be average for the noise. In Fact if you’re looking for something quiet and romantic, pass your way. This Hakkasan is among all a travel in Asia, more than a quiet and romantic dinning room.
But if you fancy some experience in the best Asian food market in the world in the heart of Europe, there is certainly no other place. Some can argue the one star Michelin. I would, but I can understand why we could put one star on an other hand.
One think to mention as well, the Hakkasan was 19 on 2008 World Best Restaurant list, but I don’t even now how to interpret this such this list is random.
For the service, don’t be surprised if you’ve been told that you have the table for 2 hours only, it’s what we had. It’s actually not too bad as your diner will certainly not last more than that time slot…..it’s very good, quick and loud.
In fact, you should just book a table and go, and have your own opinion.
8 Hanway Place, London W1T 1HD
Reservations +44 (0)20 7927 7000
My ratings :
Food = 7/10
Decoration/Ambiance = 8/10
Service = 6/10
Noise = 5/10
Born in 1963, Tong Chee Hwee started his career at the age of 18 at the Happy Valley Chinese restaurant in Singapore before moving to their Kuala Lumpur restaurant. Having returned to Singapore he was discovered by Alan Yau, overseeing the kitchens at the highly regarded Chinese restaurant at the Ritz Carlton hotel. Tong was persuaded to move to London in 2001 to become head chef at the soon to be opened Hakkasan. Within a year of its launch, Hakkasan won a Michelin star, an accolade which it holds today. In March 2005, Tong was given another extraordinary accolade at London’s foremost restaurant ceremony, the Tio Pepe ITV Restaurant Awards when he was awarded the “London Chef of the Year”, the only Chinese chef to have won such an award.