Hakkasan @ Hanway Place

Address: 8 Hanway Pl, London


Phone: 44 20 7927 7000
I like Hakkasan. Never mind that the restaurant has often been classified as "westernized" Chinese restaurant, the food is actually very familiar and yet creative. Quite often, chefs/restauranteurs who tried to create modern Chinese restaurants in the West got it all wrong; trying to create a haute Chinese restaurant without understanding the true origin of the cuisine, and the palate of the Chinese people often resulting in one dimensional and soulless Chinese restaurant. Sadly, New York City seems to have tons of these type of restaurants, for some reasons. But not Hakkasan, it is modern but really authentic at the core. The restaurant is sometimes called the Chinese Nobu of London, but honestly I feel it is better than Nobu (Sorry Robert DeNiro). I've heard about Hakkasan for as long as I can remember. Even though Alan Yau, the founder of the restaurant no longer owns it, head chef Tong Chee Hwee who has been running the kitchen since its inception in 2001 is still there. You can count on Chef Tong to continue serving his Michelin Star world class modern Chinese cuisine.

One word to sum up Hakkasan menu - exciting! I don't think I was able to contain my excitement looking at the menu, as there were so many interesting dishes to choose from. Hakkasan menu is a modern adaptation of traditional Chinese dishes that I am somewhat familiar with, but it sounds more fascinating than the traditional ones. Taste wise, it was even more satisfying. Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and honey is chef Tong's answer to Nobu's famous Miso Cod. I think that Hakkasan's version is much better using Champagne and Honey! How can you go wrong with that combo? It's a lot more subtler than the Nobu version but still gives you the delicate balance between the sweetness of the honey and the tanginess from the champagne. I also really enjoyed the stir fry Venison dish we ordered. I remember growing up eating Venison in some restaurants in my hometown but haven't had it since I left Malaysia. Hakkasan cooked the meat perfectly, so tender and juicy. The dish that really surprised me most was the Japanese tofu with blue swimmer crab toban. A nice touch of vinegar made the tofu dish very appetizing. I could eat this tofu dish with rice anytime! Salt and pepper squid and ostrich wrapped in lotus leaf was really nice as well.

My only complain is that food photography is not permitted at the restaurant and the manager was so serious about it. I'm still puzzled as to why not? Are they not confident of their own dish? Other than that, I would say two thumbs up for Hakkasan! If only there are more modern Chinese restaurant like that in New York City! With that said, Hakkasan should have opened its first shop in the US in New York City instead of Miami. There's such a void in exciting high end, high quality modern Chinese restaurant here. Hopefully Tasameem, the Abu Dhabi-controlled property fund which owns Hakkasan will include New York City in its next expansion plan.
didn't get a chance to snap better photos of the dishes since the manager at the restaurant prohibits it. clockwise from the top: roasted silver cod with champagne and honey, stir fry venison, japanese tofu with blue swimmer crab toban, ostrich wrapped in lotus leaf, and salt and pepper squid.

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon


Address: 15-17 Broadwick Street. Soho, London


Phone: 44 20 7494 8888

Dim Sum is generally good in New York City but lacked options. There is a sufficient supply of good traditional dim sum places in Chinatown, ie Golden Unicorn and Oriental Garden but refined/high quality dim sum restaurants such as award winning Lai Wah Heen in Toronto and Ming Court in Hong Kong is almost non-existence here. Which was why I absolutely have to try the One Michelin Star Yauatcha when we went to London as Chinese food in London is said to be better than those in NYC.

Two dishes that you must not miss in Yauatcha is the restaurants famous Venison puff and Penang fried kway teow (kwetio on Yauatcha menu). In place of pork, the venison gives you a stronger flavor and leaner meat than you will find. It compliments well with the intense black pepper seasoning. We would even venture to say that this is even better than the five spice char siu (roast pork) fillings that we are so familiar with. Yauatcha's Penang fried kway teow is not as good as the actual ones in Penang, but it is darn close, and the kway teow here is famous among Malaysians in London. The refined touch that Yauatcha uses here is the scallops. Ask most Malaysians in London and they can tell you that Yauatcha's fried kway teow is their cure to kway teow cravings. The dim sums from the ala carte menu which we ordered, ie.  Roasted duck pumpkin puff,  Har Gau, Shiu Mai, Prawn and beancurd roll, Prawn and beancurd cheung fun, congee etc were equally memorable as well.

I was told that restaurateur Alan Yau who founded Hakkasan and Yauatcha no longer own both of these restaurants, Abu Dhabi's property investment company is the current owner. But it looks to be that the restaurants are doing just fine without Alan Yau. Hopefully he will open a restaurant in NYC, I think business will be just as good, if not better! 
圍蝦滑燒賣 Prawn shui mai with chicken
筍尖鮮蝦餃 Har gau
黑椒鹿肉酥 Venison puff
黑椒火鴨金瓜酥 Roasted duck pumpkin puff
香煎鮮蝦腐皮卷 Prawn beancurd roll
荷葉珍珠雞 Sticky rice in lotus leaf with chicken and shrimp
馬式炒貴刁 Stir-fry Penang kwetio noodle with prawn and scallop
腐皮蝦腸粉 Prawn and beancurd cheung fun
Yauatcha on Urbanspoon

St. John Bar and Restaurant


Address: 26 St. John Street, London


Phone: 020 3301 8069 

It's fascinating to see how Gan's face lit up and how he behaved giddily like a kid in a candy store responding to the menu he just saw at St John. "Ox heart! Vennison offal! Woodcock! Roast Middlewhite! Hake! Arbroath! I don't know what they are or how they taste like but I want to try them all!" I guess I made the right choice picking this San Pellegrino top 50 restaurant over the rest in London! St John's menu is absolutely worth getting excited with; where else can you get a taste of traditional English dishes that make use of a whole animal, which most people now no longer prepare or eat since they are more affluent and can afford premium cut meats? Offals, animal heads, game birds which used to be staple proteins for the commoners were brought back by chef and owner Fergus Henderson and cooked in the most scrumptious way possible, no wonder the One Michelin star.

For starters we ordered the langoustines and mayonnaise, roast bone marrow and parsley salad, braised squid and salsify, snail and oakleaf to share between the four of us. And for main dish Gan ordered Woodcock and I felt adventurous and went with the Ox Heart with horseradish and beetroot dish. All the starters were actually not terribly impressive, but my ox heart dish, my goodness it was absolutely heavenly. Char grilled to perfection with just enough chewiness and tenderness to make anyone completely in love with the dish. Thank you St John for this wonderful introduction to ox heart! I am now and forever a fan of this "cut" of meat. Gan's woodcock dish was rather interesting, and extremely challenging to eat even for the most open minded eater. The bird's head was cut in half with the brain exposed so it could be eaten with the bird. I couldn't tell if he really liked it. For sweets, we had the traditionally prepared Eccles cake and treacle sponge cake that our English friend recommended. Yummy!

Dinner at St John was perhaps one of the more memorable dining experiences we have had in London. We'll choose this place over Fat Duck or Gordon Ramsay anytime. Would love to meet chef Fergus Henderson and shake his hand for this special dining experience, but was told that chef rarely comes into the restaurant due to his Parkinson disease. But good to see that the restaurant is still doing well despite his absence, with attentive and unfussy kitchen and front of house staffs. St John is doing admirably, trying to preserve ways of cooking which may not be as appreciated by the McDonald's generation. But for each of them, hopefully there's another yaokui out there who is open minded and willing to explore the origins of modern civilization cooking.
Native Oysters
langoustines and mayonnaise
Braised Squid and Salsify
Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad

Ox Heart, Beetroot and Horseradish
Steamed Treacle Sponge and Custard
Eccles Cake and Lancashire Cheese

St John (Farringdon) on Urbanspoon