Kona is relatively new to the game, tucked in a quiet corner behind Second Draft in Tai Hang and offering a rather compact menu that features a variety of small plates from sashimi to grilled dishes and skewers to donburi. A glance at the offerings would be enough to give you a sense of how the head chef attempts to mix and match attention-grabbing, fancy-sounding ingredients, often with its origin named. Say, Kinsanji miso with cucumber, or gun-smoked chicken neck. Truffle, lobster jelly, foie gras, and sea urchin are also spotted… you get the idea. This is a place for a fancy night out to impress your guest.
I wouldn’t say that these ingredients are not tasty. They are fine. But this is unlikely to be the kind of place that someone would become a regular to. Something simpler like a boring but excellent sushiya would be preferred nine times out of ten, given the same price tag. There’s something about this place that lacks authenticity and legitimacy.
Waiting staff makes an effort to be polite and helpful, but certain moves were simply uncalled-for given the earthy setting of the restaurant—the two of us had a total of nine items ordered and a waitress came and changed our serving plates nine times regardless of whether the plates were used. This kind of etiquette would seem to be better suited for a formal meal in a table-clothed restaurant. I also felt that the waiter who took my order tried to move me into ordering those items that were more visually impressive. If I posted a photo on Instagram during the meal, I would get one dish at $298 (rather than $480). There were also numerous typos on the menu. Verdict: Nice food, but the whole affair was rather superficial.
Oyster, $88 each
Today’s oysters were bright colored with edges slightly dark. Mine was rich and plump with a strong aroma and sweet aftertaste. It went just slightly fishy near the end, otherwise perfect.
Threeline grunt (Isaki fish) with ume soy, $138
Isaki is a delicate whitefish that has a lean texture profile and is distinctively sweet. June is the best time for Isaki, and this was definitely a treat. Highly recommended.
Scallop, marinated with salted koji and served with sea grapes, $168
The scallop was pre-marinated and I liked it. It wasn’t top-notch in terms of freshness, but the addition of sea grapes that gave it a crisp kick of freshness made up for it.
Surf clam, seared with herb soy, $368
Having the surf clam seared gave it a texture that was between plump and abalone-like chewy. The herb soy also made it very different from just dipping it in wasabi and sweet soy sauce. But because surf clams are quite subtle in taste, the herb soy was slightly overpowering.
Sea urchin with oba tempura and sea salt, $480 (50g)
The sea urchin was not particularly fresh and had a slightly bitter and metallic taste. You can also see that the urchin is beginning to lose its shape and the bottom layer is in fact a pool of yellowy mud. Serving it with oba tempura is not new, but I was told that sea salt would be a better match for the urchin than soy sauce. I tried it twice but didn’t quite see the point of that.
Australian wagyu with cheese yolk, $98
This was cubed skirt steak. It lacked both the tenderness of wagyu and the intensely beefy flavors of skirt steak. The cheese yolk on top was an interesting addition. No complaints there. Just an ordinary skewer we would say.
Deboned Kona wings with Japanese salt and pepper, $88/2 pcs
The wings had a very thick skin and very little meat. It wasn’t particularly tender and the seasoning was just fine. Not very impressed.
Winter melon with pink salt and yuzu, $48
This was a star. Winter melons have a mild flavor profile and yuzu really brought its sweetness out. And we really liked the texture of grilled winter melon–with a slightly crisp outer shell and a mellow and soft interior it was divine.
G/F, 16 Lin Fa Kung Street West, Tai Hang, Hong Kong