Naozen isn't one of those places that calls out to you if you want a Japanese meal in Hong Kong. Given its location on busy Wellington Street in Central, it isn't bad at all, except that it gets over-shadowed by Yung Kee for roast goose (across the road) and Tsui Wah (possibly Hong Kong's most famous Cha Chan Teng just right next door). It wasn't until the recently published Hong Kong Michelin guide that reminded us to visit again and we weren't disappointed. Despite its tired traditional decor, we felt as if we could have been in an old but time-tested joint in old Kyoto where the food speaks loudest.
Known for its beef, we decided to share a Sukiyaki set and order extras to give ourselves variety. And boy, was that wise, since the Sukiyaki set was by itself ample for 2 especially if you're not hungry.
The set started off with one of my favourite vegetables - chilled blanched rape blossom with a light dressing.
Followed by seasonal monk fish liver in a ponzu dressing - decadent yet light.
Sashimi of ark shell, yellowtail and chutoro were good quality cuts and generous as part of the set.
Dobinmushi or tea pot soup was competent but not spectacular.
The grand finale of Sukiyaki did not disappoint. Tender thin pieces of Wagyu grade beef in a sweetened stock of vegetables and tofu served in a heated pot were great for the chilly weather in Hong Kong. And eaten during the Chinese New Year season, as comforting and homely as the Chinese Hot Pot.
Our extras of deep fried tuna cheek were done Tonkatsu style and tasted like the tenderest of Kurobuta pork. Very good especially with the thicked Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard.
The minced tuna belly on rice was also surprisingly good and not overpowered by the spring onion, which looked to be overly abundant when served. But mixed well into the tuna and premium grade rice, drizzled with a little wasabi-laced soya sauce, made for a rewarding dish for the senses.
Dessert of sliced mandarins were boring, but given the portions of food we had, that's about all we could stomach.
A hearty yums!
21-25 Wellington Street Central
+852 2877 6668