The Hungry Lawyer: Kakure, beautiful Japanese food in the heart of Central

Kakure’s sushi bar is built from Japanese hinoki cypress wood, which imparts a distinct aroma. <i>Photo: Kakure / FB</i>
Kakure’s sushi bar is built from Japanese hinoki cypress wood, which imparts a distinct aroma. Photo: Kakure / FB

Back in 2017, I wrote a piece on Terroir Parisien and its occupation of the windowless space in the Prince’s Building formerly home to Maxim’s cavernous Canteen. Though I tend to be generous and like to write about places that I like, it was a decidedly middling review.

Thus, when Terroir closed, I was curious to check out its replacement, the “Ginza-style” Japanese restaurant called Kakure. Press materials from the Epicurean Group translate kakure as “present in form but absent from sight.” Google Translate just says it means “hidden.” It is indeed, down a flight of stairs that may not be that obvious to those unfamiliar with the various levels of the building.

Whatever your translation preferences, Kakure has done a much better job with the space. It is now more cozy than cave-like, and pleasantly designed, with the dining room segmented into general dining along with teppanyaki and sushi counters. Complementing the open space are several private rooms and a chicly designed bar off to the right after you walk in through the lantern-lit hall. The theme is what you might call classic, contemporary Japanese – blond woods and slate tiles. The lunch hour setting was quite high-energy, while dinner was a more sedate affair.

The menu is a mix of traditional Edomae-style sushi and grilled teppanyaki sets, combined with a la carte dishes and snacks, plus a number of lunch sets and bowls. An omakase course is also available at the sushi bar in the evening. Over three recent visits, I had the opportunity to sample the cuisine focusing more on the sushi.

Sea Urchin & Salmon Roe Donburi. Photo: Marc Rubinstein for Coconuts Media

At lunch, I am a sucker for the chirashi — “scattered” sushi bowls. On Kakure’s lunch menu, they are listed under the “Donburi Set” category. I love sea urchin, uni in Japanese, and I was tempted to go for the pricey Hokkaido Natural Sea Urchin on Salt Water on Sushi Rice for HKD880 but, it being lunch, I opted for the somewhat more reasonably priced Sea Urchin & Salmon Roe on Sushi Rice (HKD480).

I wasn’t disappointed. The uni was fresh and creamy, the salmon eggs salty and poppy, and the rice in particular was well-prepared, noticeably vinegared with a dusting of sesame seeds on top. The well-presented bowl was finished with a dollop of grated fresh wasabi, a shisho leaf, and four slices of crisp cucumber. The price point is similar to what you would find at other high-end sushi joints around Central – like Sushi Sei in IFC or Sushi Kuu on Wellington Street – but I found the environment at Kakure to be less like a high-end cafeteria, and the rice a notch better.

Photo: Marc Rubinstein for Coconuts Media
The Kakure Shokado Bento. Photo: Marc Rubinstein for Coconuts Media

On my second lunch visit, I opted for the Kakure Shokado Bento (HKD660), the fanciest of the bento sets. It was beautifully presented. Following a small fresh salad in a ceramic bowl, a wooden bento arrived with six sections containing, clockwise from top left, butter-grilled prawn and scallop, sliced braised abalone, two cubes of tender prime US beef, two thick slices of medium fatty tuna belly, delicious grilled fish and, much to my delight, a mini uni rice bowl containing a generous portion of the succulent sea urchin.

Miso soup, creamy egg custard and crunchy Japanese pickles accompanied the box. It was a decadent weekday lunch that, while not ground-breaking in its composition, is delicious to eat and, while filling, not overly heavy.

Photo: Marc Rubinstein for Coconuts Media
The deluxe sashimi platter. Photo: Marc Rubinstein for Coconuts Media

When I made the dinner reservation, I was not informed of the existence of an omakase set at the sushi bar and thus created my own course at a table for two. This consisted of one order of the deluxe sashimi platter with two pieces each of three kinds of fish (HKD420), two orders of the deluxe Edomae nigiri sushi with eight pieces each (HKD450 per order), the minced tuna belly and spring onion roll (HKD250), appetizers of tasty vinegared eel with cucumber (HKD120) and a side of delicious and quite pretty assorted pickles (HKD98).

The staff were concerned that we had over-ordered, and so when I requested an additional two pieces of fatty tuna belly, or otoro, it was generously arranged that the otoro would come in lieu of the medium fatty tuna that was already included on the platter.

Kakure's pickles. Photo: Marc Rubinstein for Coconuts Media
Kakure’s pickles. Photo: Marc Rubinstein for Coconuts Media

The selection and quality of fish in the platters were both excellent. The sashimi in particular was attractively presented and included rich pieces of medium fatty tuna along with delicate-flavored amberjack and a richer, pink snapper. The deluxe sushi platter also had a premium selection of salmon eggs, sea urchin, shrimp, scallop, flounder, mackerel, two kinds of white fish and the aforementioned fatty tuna. The fish is flown in daily and the quality was on par with the best sushi restaurants in Hong Kong.

The minced tuna belly and spring onion roll, or negi-toro maki, was also delicious, with the classic combination of the rich fatty tuna gently rolled in the seaweed with sweet and piquant Japanese leeks. My only complaint was that the roll was served first even before the appetizer and sashimi, while in classic Edo style, this type of roll should come towards the end of the meal.

Kakure's uni (sea urchin) & medium-fatty tuna sushi.
Kakure’s uni (sea urchin) & chutoro (medium-fatty tuna) sushi. Photo: Marc Rubinstein for Coconuts Media

After having consumed all of the above items, contrary to the staff’s expectations, we felt good but not overly full and so, in lieu of dessert, opted for an additional piece each of the marbled medium fatty tuna (HKD110 per piece) and rich uni nigiri sushi (HKD110 per piece). These were delightful to consume.

Kakure isn’t breaking new ground in Japanese cuisine in Hong Kong. And, although the quality is very high — it also isn’t cheap. The staff were kind, if not as knowledgeable as one might expect at this price point, though presumably this can be corrected over time. The strengths are location, design, food quality, and lovely presentation, and with these strengths, I expect Kakure to, at a minimum, outlast the previous inhabitant of its somewhat obscure location.

Kakure is at 20-24, M/F, Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Rd, Central
Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm (lunch), 6pm-10pm (dinner)
Reservations +852 2522 9990
MTR: Central

About the Hungry Lawyer: Marc Rubinstein, born in Baltimore, USA, has been in Asia for 22 years, 16 of those in Hong Kong. He has split his career between banks and law firms, and is currently the general counsel of an Asia-based real estate and alternative energy investor. Marc is a co-founder and co-chair of the Hong Kong Gay & Lesbian Attorneys Network. In addition to being a hungry lawyer, he has run three marathons, nine half-marathons, completed the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker and won the U.S. National Debate Tournament way back in 1991.

Other reviews by Coconuts’ Hungry Lawyer:

The Hungry Lawyer: Seorae, a mid-range alternative for Korean barbecue in Hong Kong

The Hungry Lawyer: Guo Fu Lou, upscale Cantonese food at The Murray

The Hungry Lawyer: Birdie at H Code does great yakitori, but you’ve got to order selectively

The Hungry Lawyer: Hotal Colombo is the chic new addition to Hong Kong’s Sri Lankan food scene

The Hungry Lawyer: Quirks, kitsch, and great Ukrainian food at Ivan the Kozak

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