Shunsen Kaihou: A Little Gem (8.3)

If you can’t wait to travel to Japan again mainly to eat and to feel like you’re in Japan, you might consider paying a visit to Shunsen Kaihou, a small and little known Japanese izakaya in the heart of Causeway Bay. Many diners who frequent the place are Japanese, and the people who run the place are also Japan natives. Kaihou was only open for dinner during the two years it had been in operation, but when dinner was banned altogether at some point over the summer, they finally decided to open during lunch hours as well. We went a couple times for dinner in the first half of the year (followed by a series of online deliveries), and went once for lunch. While food and drinks in the evenings are pretty amazing, there was practically nothing from the à la carte that was available in the day (and I wasn’t keen to have their lunch sets at all), so if you do pay the place a visit, I’d highly recommend going at night.

The star of the restaurant is no doubt the simmered seasonal fish (the fish type varies literally every time we’re there) that has an excellent reputation both in Japan and in Hong Kong. I can almost assure you that it would be one of the—if not the best—Japanese-style simmered fish you could have in Hong Kong. But sashimi is also superb, and pretty much all seafood they serve are carefully sourced depending on the season. Then there are quite a handful of little dishes here and there that are good with some beer or wine, mainly featuring seafood but also all kinds of fresh produce, meat or vegetable. Deep-fried, grilled, cooked and steamed–you name it, they have it. It’s an izakaya. You eat and drink and have a good night out.

What I quite like about the place is its homeliness. The restaurant isn’t part of a big F&B chain (although it is a family business and related to the restaurant with the same name in Tokai in Aichi) and the Japanese host Keiko-san (who was there on all of my visits and picked up every time I called) runs the place tirelessly. Keiko-san has been in Hong Kong for over a decade and speaks quite a bit of Cantonese to get by. She’s new to managing a restaurant but it’s inspiring to see how she gives her all to make the place great. You see the hardworking and positive spirit that is very much a prominent feature of Japanese culture. I hope the restaurant manages to survive the economic downturn.

You must book in advance for dinner as seating is limited and they are usually very busy. Do ask for the private rooms (more than half of the restaurant’s diners will be seated in one of the four private rooms) or else you’d have to sit by the counter which would feel a little less ideal. They’re closed on Sundays. Service is OK if a little amateurish and hectic, but the restaurant has warned it’s understaffed and trying its best, and I’m willing to be just a little bit understanding this time.

Food Rundown

Six-kinds sashimi, $428

Live oysters, $98 each
We had several of these. They were super fresh and each a big and satisfying mouthful.

Fresh sashimi, <$300

Marinated Chinese Yam, $38
Highly recommended. Very mildly seasoned but the texture is awesome.

Marinated hotaru squid, $58
This was in season and it was quite good.

Sharkfish bones with prunes, $48
Very cool as the bones are edible and the prunes give it a super refreshing and tangy kick.

Salt-grilled squid, $78
Good, but not extraordinary.

Simmered fish (small), $148
Merokama (メロカマ) refers to the collar of white-fleshed fish in general—the bony triangle of semi-fatty meat that’s between the fish’s gills and the rest of its body. It’s a different fish every time we come, but it’s always moreish with incredible tenderness and a sauce that captures so much umami.

Omakase 6-piece sushi, seasonal price
Good. Not quite the quality of the best sushiyas but izakaya sushi were never meant to be.

Tofu salad, $98
Amazing with fresh tomatoes, crunchy nori, bonito flakes and so much shirasu! Loved it.

Daily dessert, $38
Pretty nice and simple ice cream with dusty bean powder and black sugar syrup.

Koshu Hikari white, $75/glass
This really held up and was totally unexpected for a Japanese white wine. There was body and sweet florish flavors, and not much acidity—a great match with our sashimi and oysters.

Shunsen Kaihou 旬鮮 海宝
8/F, Circle Plaza, 499 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay
$$$, Japanese

Tel: 27880522
Mon-Sat 18:30-24:00 (23:00 last order)
Closed on Sundays