Feb 5 2013

HKK

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I love Hakassan so when I heard that they opened a new Chinese restaurant HKK and Fay Maschler, the restaurant critic, said it served the best dim sum outside of Hong Kong, I was super keen to go. I actually managed to go twice during the same week (by coincidence) for dinner and for lunch (see all pictures below) so I feel like I have truly experienced HKK. HKK is like a more upscale Hakassan, and the dim sum and the duck dishes I think are better, but the problem (for some and also for me) is that during dinner they only serve a 15 course tasting menu (during lunch you can have smaller and different tasting menus as well as order a la carte). I personally don’t like to be forced to eat tasting menus and whilst I sometimes have them, I don’t like the fact that I don’t have a choice and I must have it when going to a restaurant. Having said that I thought HKK executed their tasting menu brilliantly as it took us less than 2 hours to eat all 15 courses, as they literally brought one dish after the other (I have been stuck in restaurants for 4 hours eating a tasting menu and getting super bored) so that element was great, but yes I did overeat and felt full by the time I had finished my first main course. For me there is just no reason and upside to eating so much as I stop enjoying food when I have to eat so much.

HKK is located in between Liverpool Street, Old Street and Shoreditch High Street stations and is very close to L’Anima and Chrysan (the latter one also part of the Hakassan group) so this area is turning into a mini posh restaurant haven. Just like with Hakassan there is no sign at the door that indicates HKK is there and unless you know where you are going it could be easily missed from the outside. Once inside of HKK there is a main dining area with tables around the edges of the room and a large table in the middle which is used by waiters and cooks and where some of the food is plated up (it is quite cool to watch a chef cut your duck there), and there are about 6 places by the bar which is close to the entrance where you can eat as well as a private dining area. The restaurant is small, and not like Hakassan and also there is no table turning policy, which emphasises that this is a higher end place, but it still has that dark atmosphere which Hakassan also has. The 15 course set menu (only option in the evening as I said) costs £95, which standalone looks expensive but is actually quite competitive in London for a good quality 15 course set menu and also is much less than what another Chinese Bo London charges you (£138 for 14 courses).

When my boyfriend and I arrived we ordered some cocktails and as I was scared we would be stuck here for hours we asked to have the food very shortly after we were seated. The first dish that arrived was the “Four treasure Iberico ham wrap”, which had 4 different vegetables including pickled mooli, cucumber, nameko mushroom, tofu wrapped in some ham, it had nice and subtle Chinese flavours and tasted ok, adequate for a first small course. Next came “20 years Gu-yue-long drunken chicken”. I like drunken chicken and I have ordered this before in Chinese restaurants and this drunken chicken had the same amount of flavour that others I have had, so whilst I was expecting this to be a supreme and more flavoursome drunken chicken, it was not, nevertheless it was very good, and also interesting how it was not just chicken fillet which you usually get but made into a roulade shape. Next came one of my most favourite dishes of the whole meal, the “Cherry wood roasted Peking duck”, and I have always thought the best duck in London was at Min Jiang, and I now think HKK does a better duck, and this duck was roasted in a wood-fired Beech oven. The duck was served in 3 ways, duck skin which you should have dipped into sugar, an acquired taste as despite having no fat on it, feels fattening to eat, but I do like to have it (1 piece, not more), the 2nd duck variation was just a piece of roasted duck with skin that you could eat with hoisin sauce and the flesh was extremely tender and moist and soft and without any trace of fat and the 3rd thing was duck in a traditional pancake. All the things were absolutely superb, and I do want to find a way how I can come to HKK and eat a lot more of the duck, but yes due to the fact this is a tasting menu it is not possible. Our next dish was “Poulet de Bresse and dried Scallop Soup”, they gave you a lovely flavoured broth and a spoon with dried scallops and four goji berries, five petals of Chinese chrysanthemum, a scoop from the inside of a spaghetti squash that you had to dip into the soup. I love these type of soups so I am very biased, and I did enjoy this one, nice to mix up the heavier duck dish and the soup dish after it. Next came the “dim sum trilogy” and it was some of the best dim sum I have had, so I do agree with Fay Maschler on this one. The dim sum was lovely presented with a flower in between the dim sum and a brush and some soy sauce on the side, so you could apply the soy sauce to dim sum (I did not do it as I thought the taste of the dim sum was so superb it did not need anything) and you got a prawn dumpling with black truffle, Szechuan dumpling – prawns, chicken and mushroom –steamed and pan-fried and a delicate mooli puff. I think the skill of the dim sum can really be seen in the mooli puff as it was the softest and tenderest that type of dim sum I have had and literally melted in your mouth. Usually these type of dim sum are harder. If I could I would just want to come to HKK for dinner and have unlimited amounts of duck and dim sum. After dim sum we got “Gai-lan, shimeji mushrooms and lily bulb in XO sauce”, and Gai-lan if you don’t speak Chinese is a Chinese cabbage. This salad was very similar to a lily bulb salad you can also order in Hakassan and that I have most times when I go there as I really like. The HKK version was full of flavour and was so nice to have a nice light vegetable dish among the 15 courses. Our last starter was “wok fried lobster with pan-mee”, pan mee is a flat thin noodle which was at the bottom of the plate in a broth and the lobster was on top. The noodles were lovely, soft and flavoursome and the lobster went super well with this. Lobster and noodles is a dish you can find in many Chinese restaurants and HKK executed this perfectly. In between the starters and main courses we got a funny tea type of dish, which I am sure is based on the British afternoon tea traditional and we were served “osmanthus flower jelly, water chestnut cake served with Da-Hong-Pao”, and Da-Hong-Pao is a premium oolong tea. It was a bit strange to have a sweetish course in between the savoury starters and main courses but the jelly was delicious, as was the soft cake, and it was a lovely take on British tea using Chinese ingredients.

Our first main course was “Fillet of monkfish, Louis Roederer Sauce” (Louis Roederer is champagne). The monkfish was lovely and it went well with the thick champagne based sauce which had vegetables and rice in it. I thought it was a good not an excellent main course. The second main course was “Torban of homemade pumpkin tofu” and it came in a little covered pot and once you removed the top of the pot you could see tofu in a rich thickish vegetable sauce. It felt very Chinese and the tofu (which I don’t usually order but which I really enjoyed here) was lovely and tender and the broth was also very flavoursome and very Chinese tasting.  Next came the meat course, “Jasmine tea smoked wagye beef” and the beef was so extremely tender and melted in your mouth I actually thought I was eating pork and only after the meal I found out it was wagye beef. Wagye beef is very very tender but here with the smoking technique made it even softer and as I said it resembled pork, absolutely delicious. And it was served with a water chestnut and a crispy sweet potatoe crisp that went so extremely well with the sauce I was surprised myself. In a very interesting manner the last main course was fish, and was “steamed razor clam with chilli, mui choi and glutinous rice”. The razor clam was spicy (the waiters at the end even asked us if it was not too spicy for us, but for me it was perfect) and I loved the glutinous rice ball that came with it. In Chinese restaurants you can order these type of sticky rice usually served in a pandan or a banana leaf, but HKK naturally offered a much much better version of this sticky rice. I also found it so interesting how they started the main courses with fish and ended with fish and in between gave you a vegetarian and a meat dish. HKK gave you the best of the Chinese flavours executed much better than in traditional Chinese restaurants.

After the main courses we got 3 deserts, and the first one was “lychee tapioca, passion chiboust, passion jam”, and tapioca a starch extracted from cassava, white colour and it was at the bottom of the plate and the chiboust (pastry cream) with passion fruit flavour was made into a little cake on top of the tapioca. Lovely and refreshing and sweet desert, but as I was almost bursting by now from the 12 courses I had already eaten I could only manage a tiny bit. The second desert was “pineapple fritter, salted lime jelly, vanilla ice cream” was not as nice as the previous desert, but still very good. The last thing we got were a selection of petits fours, and I was deeply impressed how they made the petits fours which is a French classic, taste so Chinese and the macaroon had ginger and pumpkin in it and the rest of the petits fours had some sort of Chinese flavour in there.

I really enjoyed HKK. My boyfriend usually hates tasting menus and even he did not complain too much about the fact we had a tasting menu (he did complain we had this meal on a Tuesday which I do agree is not the best day to enjoy such food). I was extremely full by the end but I loved the mix of dishes, the soup the salad dishes as starters, as well as the classics like the dim sum and duck, and in HKK you get a wide range of traditional Chinese dishes, executed brilliantly. When I went back for lunch the same week with my friend Ed, I had the same dim sum and duck dishes (the dim sum gave you 4 pieces as opposed to the evening meal when I had 3) and we also ordered soft shell crab which was served with almonds (the almonds were very hard to eat with chopsticks) and whilst it was nice it was not the best soft shell crab as it had too many legs and not enough other parts of the body of the crab, so not enough crab meat in my view. We also had a lotus root and lily bulb salad with mushrooms and it was not as nice as the evening lily bulb salad and also scallops. But I did love the fact I could chose my food a la carte, so I prefer going here during lunch and ordering what I want, but having said that all the courses in the evening meal were excellent, it was just too much. But HKK is a serious contender for the best Chinese food in London

Date: 05/02/13

Price for 2 with alcohol and service charge: £270.30

Location: Liverpool street

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Maija rated: 

5.00

Location: 

HKK
Broadgate West Worship Street EC2A 2DQ
London
United Kingdom
GB
HKK Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 5