Hakkasan was amongst one of the top restaurants on my want-to-visit list ever since they opened last year in Shanghai. From day one in Shanghai, the international restaurant chain had been receiving glowing reviews consistently. Needless to say, I was thrilled when one of my best friends gave me a RMB 500 voucher at Hakkasan for my birthday.
My dad happened to be in town, so I decided to bring him and the missus along for a treat.
I decided to go for the brunch set, which was RMB 278 per persons. It came with a choice of starters, a salad, a choice of main course, a choice of dessert, and also a choice of mocktail. So many choices, so little time. Luckily, most of the choices came in threes, so we simply picked one of each in order to have a taste of everything.
Note that this was not an invited tasting.
The decor was very modern with a chinese touch. Colour theme was dark. Almost like a nightclub. A little bit uncomfortable for a restaurant. I thought it was interesting that when we arrived, the hostess asked us if we would like to have a drink at the bar or be seated for brunch immediately.
I suppose it is a place built to impress that girl or business associate. For a light-hearted family affair — not that suitable. The door to the restrooms came in the form of an entire huge door-wall that was quite heavy to push, and very hard to discover.
Other than that, I appreciate the effort in the lighting design to make the dark ambience work. It’s certainly not a simple feat.
Very well trained staff, and helpful in explaining the menu, dishes, and also suggesting that we picked 1 of each selections. Plates were cleared promptly, and dishes were served on point. Yup, this was what I expected from an establishment like Hakkasan. That said, service, while efficient, was abit cold. Maybe it was the decor. Maybe they were trying to ‘be professional’, but I didn’t receive the type of warm welcoming feeling that a sincere service delivers, nor anything that surprised me out of the norm. 8.5/10
We had a pot of Oolong tea which came with the brunch set. It was very nice, dry tasting, delicate flavour. Perfect to warm the body on a chilly Saturday morning, and warm the stomach for an epic meal ahead.
The 3 mocktails that were served looked very pretty.
The red was the obligatory berry mix. Strawberries, raspberries and what-nots. Neither too sweet nor sour. It was actually quite refreshing and pleasant.
The white mocktail was a long’an fruit based concoction. I had a sip, and thought it was quite balanced and drinkable. Loved the long’an flavour, which is a south east asian fruit that literally translates to Dragon’s Eyes, because of the shape of its seed.
Lastly, the green mocktail as you can recognise from the seeds, is a kiwi based concoction with abit of ginger. Also very refreshing, this one was more tart the the other two.
All in all, I thought all the drinks were expertly prepared and garnished. Tasted as good as they looked. 9/10
Crispy duck salad.
This featured pieces of deep-fried duck, pomelo chunks and unknown sprouts tossed in a sesame soy based vinaigrette. The salad was served onto individual plates table side by the waiter. Overall, I thought it was so so. Seasoning on the dressing was spot on, but the entire dish felt like something conceptualised to make use of last night’s leftovers. The duck meat could have passed for any mystery meat deep-fried to a crisp. I was expecting (wishfully) roasted duck pieces with crispy skin. Coming from a well reputed restaurant like Hakkasan, I give this dish a 7.5/10
Fried dim sum platter.
This was the fried dim sum option which consisted of a cheese croquette with macadamia, baked venison puff and grilled shanghai dumpling. I didn’t get a chance to sample this, so my score will exclude this, I’m showing here for reference purposes.
Steamed dim sum platter.
Both the missus and I had the steamed dim sum option, which dim sum excels more at.
The shrimp dumpling was quite normal, nothing special tasting in the filling, quality of shrimp or the skin. I would only say it was an above average shrimp dumpling, but I would easily prefer the ones at Crystal Jade. 7.5/10
The scallop on the menu hooked me. This was beautifully packaged and tasted as good as it looked. The scallop although a halved scallop, was sweet and delicate. The fish roe added abit more umami to the tender pork filling. This would be something that would come back for, and something you don’t find easily elsewhere. 9/10
Steamed dumpling with black truffle.
Yup, the black truffle on the menu hooked me in. Thankfully, it wasn’t a farce. The black truffle flavour was apparent and quite well balanced with the other mixed ingredients of the teochew-style dumpling AKA 潮州粉果。Like the Siew Mai, four of these in a basket would have been nice. 8.5/10
Jasmine tea smoked chicken
Moving on to the main courses. This chicken thigh was deboned, chopped and presented beautifully. The jasmine tea smoked flavour was apparent and quite subtle. I didn’t detect the fragrance of Jasmine tea, but I thought the smokiness was quite nice. The meat was tender and flavourful with the skin just a little bit crisp. 8.5/10
Stir-fry black pepper Angus striploin
The beef came in rather large cubes and presented with a fried vermicelli ‘birds nest’.
Sinking my teeth into the Angus beef striploin cubes was quite interesting.
The beef was delicate and didn’t have a strong beefy taste. As I bit in, I could feel the marbled fats burst in the mouth. Next was the interesting thing — the beef was bouncy to the bite.
As a matter of fact, I have never encountered this texture in this sort of beef cubes before.
Beef cubes stir frys are usually seen in teppanyaki, and very rare elsewhere.
This beef was not tough to chew, but it had bite. You had to chew quite abit. Each chew releasing more fats from the marbling. It was really quite profound. In chinese, we call this 弹牙 which translates roughly to bouncy to the teeth.
While this didn’t really blow me away in terms of flavour or creativity, I felt there was some really profound technique in achieving the interesting texture of the meat, so I give it a 8.5/10
Stir-fry chilean sea bass with sichuan pepper
Unlike what the name suggests, this wasn’t a spicy dish. To put it in layman’s terms, this would be a chilean sea bass done with abit of ‘kung pow’ style seasoning.
While tasty, it was very normal and de rigeur as compared to the preceding dishes and didn’t do much for the restaurant’s namesake. 7.5/10
Poached chinese spinach with superior broth and fried garlic
This was the vegetable course, and very generous in portion. Broth was full bodied and complex, chinese spinach was well cooked and absorbed the broth very well, paired with the fried garlic, all the flavours melded together like a match made in heaven. Often, the simplest of things just work the best. 8.5/10
Almond biscotti, peach sorbet.
This was such a beautiful looking dessert.
It is so beautiful it deserves another shot.
I felt the description didn’t do it justice. The biscotti was alright, with the ever-so-sour raspberries, but balanced with the cream. The main star was the custard at the bottom, topped with a caramelised crust almost like a creme brûlée, and then paired with the peach sorbet. That was a beautiful mix of sweet, sour, soft, crispy, salty, fruity. All 3 of us gobbled this up pretty quickly. 9/10
Lemon curd, lemon mousse and meringue.
Another very interesting and immaculately assembled dessert. Sweet meringue went with the tart lemon curd very well. This is another one of those desserts where you have to try to get every component on one spoonful to see it all work. A lot of variety of components, all following the lemon theme, and pairing with each other very well. 8/10
Five spice caramel apple
Green apple puree, ginger ice cream.
This was quite interesting because the apple was warm and it was paired with a ginger ice cream. While it didn’t taste bad, I didn’t think much of it, maybe because the previous 2 were too good. This paled in comparison, being a little simple in terms of presentation and flavours. 7/10
All in all, I enjoyed the quality of the food, and the quality of the restaurant on the whole.
Most of the food were hits, and met my expectations from the Hakkasan name. What I would really want to try is their caviar on roast duck item (600+RMB), but being the thrifty diner I usually am, it probably wouldn’t be soon.
That said, their brunch set goes for RMB 278 per person, and is excellent value. The dishes while exquisite (small) looking, actually ended up filling me up amply. Note that there is a 10% service charge.