Chef Bryan Nagao is no stranger to Hong Kong. The Hawaiian native brought The Peninsula’s Felix many accolades in his six-year stretch there. He then struck out on his own in the critically acclaimed Kokage in Wan Chai before finding success back in the States with ventures like Mao Asian. Heralded time and again for his innovative take on East-meets-West cuisine, he launches Town in Causeway Bay around the theme of, well, himself. It’s all about Nagao’s international influences and techniques here.
Floor-to-ceiling windows highlight the lofty industrial chic interiors at Town. There are cement board walls and bare light bulb fixtures adorning the middle of the dining room, preparing you for the contemporary fare to come. We begin with a beef tartare ($168), which comes served on top of some crunchy green beans, with a wedge of aromatic sudachi alongside. It’s the most fresh and tangy tartare we’ve ever had and we appreciate Nagao’s innovative take on this dish as the citrus tones combine expertly with the raw meat. Next up we plump for the sanma – or pacific saury – ceviche ($188). Sanma is a tricky fish with its slightly bitter flavour. In Japan, it’s traditionally eaten grilled and lemon juice is garnished to hedge the richness. But here, as part of a ceviche, it doesn’t really work. Lovers of sanma’s pungent taste should appreciate it but the uninitiated may be put off by the way-too-strong flavours.
For mains we go for the shiso-crusted codfish ($268). The meaty cod is superbly done but the flavour of the shiso leaf gets lost in the crust and the ingredient becomes superfluous. But the game is back on with the uni spaghetti ($228). The sea urchin is paired with cured ham and a translucent piece of lard, forming a sweet meaty pasta that tastes like – in the best possible way – Spam. In fact, we’re chuffed that such sophisticated ingredients can recreate a taboo food item like this. This could be Nagao’s tongue-in-cheek throwback to his roots in Hawaii, who are said to be the second largest consumers of Spam in the world.
We end with a yuzu soufflé ($98) and this again demonstrates chef Nagao’s daring. The dessert is fluffy with flowery citrus notes, but we can taste a slight grittiness from the chemical reaction between the citric acid and egg white, almost curdling the batter. It’s because the chef has opted to use fresh ingredients rather than a flavouring. It almost doesn’t pay off, sadly.
Creativity comes in oodles at Town but it seems that although some dishes are stellar, others seem to be contemporary for the sake of it. But we’re confident that Town will shape up to be an amazing experience in time. Some of chef Nagao’s concepts are way out there but he’ll soon refine his ideas and create a solid menu. Then he’ll really be the talk of the Town. Lisa Cam
Town 10/F, The Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Rd, Causeway Bay, 2568 8708; townrestauranthk.com. Dinner for two: $800.
10/F, The Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Rd, Causeway Bay