Decor that impresses more than the food
There are two things guaranteed to get Hongkongers in a frenzy when it comes to a new restaurant opening. First is the location – a large restaurant taking up plenty of floor space means the establishment can allow diners the luxury of escaping the cramped quarters many here are forced to inhabit. But what gets people really excited is any celebrity involvement. The buzz generated by Jamie’s Italian and Gordon Ramsay’s London House – the mere presense of two celeb chefs generated headlines around town – demonstrates the pull of a big name.
Seafood Room possesses both of the above. Bulldozer Group’s first foray into dining in Hong Kong, the restaurant has been making ripples since its announcement. Taking over the top two floors of the highly anticipated Tower 535, right next to the WTC mall in Causeway Bay, it occupies an impressive 10,000sq ft of space, including a 2,000sq ft rooftop terrace that boasts unobstructed views of Victoria Harbour. The interiors are duly spacious, with high ceilings and huge windows, and the decor is undoubtedly extravagant. Large crystal chandeliers dominate over a range of contemporary art prominent throughout the establishment. And this is where the star factor comes in. With more works of art arriving soon, the dining group has purchased pieces from none other than award-winning actor-slash-artist Adrien Brody. In other parts of the world the attachment of the youngest-ever Best Actor Oscar-winner would elicit shrugs or questions about what difference this makes to the food. But hey, this is Hong Kong, so Mr Brody’s attendance at the opening party is a big deal.
Artwork, celebrities and eye-catching light fixtures aside, we’re here to try the food. Given the name, no surprises what’s on offer. Everything on the menu has at least one oceanic ingredient in it, from the pastas to the salads to its tartare. There’s even a section of Chinese-style fare just for local palates, though we don’t expect anything less from such a specialised concept.
First up, we opt for a langoustine tartare ($215), beautifully plated with wisps of gold flakes and caviar as garnish. The sweet crustacean has a clean bite and the bed of avocado it sits on enlivens the palate. A strong start, but unfortunately the rest of the meal disappoints from here on. Next to arrive is the rainbow trout carpaccio ($175). Presented with nothing more than a rocket and lemon dressing, this needs an extra something to add a little oomph and make the dish more memorable.
For mains, we decide to sample the lobster ($595) in the Chinese section. It carries a hefty price tag, but given the location we hope for something worth all that lolly. The concept of wok hei, or ‘essence of the wok’, is tremendously important in Chinese cooking. It encompasses the lip-searing heat the food is served at and the high temperature sealing in all the flavours and juices. Unfortunately, the lobster reflects none of this. Not only that, the XO sauce added for seasoning isn’t spicy at all. The entire package leaves us unsatisfied and cold. The whole turbot ($420) doesn’t fare much better. Served in a copper pan, the fish is generously garnished with sprigs of rosemary for aesthetics. It’s visually appealing, but too much of the herb is in the mix and our bites are often bitter because of it. Most disappointing of all, the turbot isn’t scaled properly and we’re distracted from appreciating the fish because we’re constantly spitting scales the entire time. Quite unacceptable for such a high end establishment.
Thankfully, things pick up in a big way when the desserts arrive. The baked vanilla cheesecake ($140) may seem simple but the soft, crumbly and light-as-air texture is out of this world and the fresh strawberries and syrup highlight the creamy consistency. We also love the yuzu tart ($130). Topped with a soft Italian-style meringue, the green tea ice cream on the side enhances the aromatic citrus curd and provokes a delightful taste sensation.
We can’t deny the food falls a little short at the Seafood Room, though they’ve probably opened with enough hype to keep patrons curious. It’s a gorgeous restaurant, and with its swank location, sweeping vistas and upscale vibe, we’d come back to bask in the atmosphere alone. The recipes need tweaking but it’s not all bad. We’re confident Seafood Room can turn the tide soon.
|Venue name:||Seafood Room||Contact:|
535 Jaffe Rd