When it comes to Japanese cuisine, we are pretty spoilt for choice here in Hong Kong, with restaurants all over the city specialising in each and every kind of Japanese dish you can imagine. Until the recent opening of Shiki Zen, however, I couldn’t name a single restaurant that specialised in udon noodles. Shiki Zen, which replaced Harlan Goldstein’s Sushi To in Causeway Bay, is offering a fresh approach to Japanese dining, with a strong focus on these hearty, traditional Japanese noodles.
I don’t think a great deal has changed with regards to the décor since its Sushi To days; the space is still very bright and clean with a lot of light wood and a gorgeous view over the city. As you enter the restaurant, you’ll pass a sushi bar, a sake bar and of course the udon-making room, complete with a special machine imported from Japan, where the noodles are made from scratch throughout the day.
Although the highlight of the menu is the udon noodles, the restaurant also offers a wide range of other Japanese dishes for a complete Washoku experience. At both lunch and dinnertime, diners can choose from the a la carte menu, or opt for a semi-buffet set menu.
The buffet includes a selection of sushi, tempura, salads, teppanyaki and other interesting options. I wasn’t blown away by the buffet, but we particularly enjoyed the octopus balls and the eel and cream cheese sushi, which were both surprisingly satisfying.
There are two types of udon noodles offered at Shiki Zen: Sanuki Udon, a thick, chewy noodle from the Shikoku region; and Kyoto Udon, a thinner style noodle with a softer texture. The former is recommended for hot udon dishes, whilst the latter is recommended for cold. The broth, made with sardines, tuna, mackerel, rausu kombu (seaweed) and premium Japanese pork, is simmered for 24 hours, resulting in an intense, perfect flavour.
We tried three different varieties of hot udon, each of which was utterly delicious. The udon with snow crab in egg soup was wholesome and comforting, with an unusually thick soup base.
The udon with US beef was a little more traditional and perhaps a safer bet for those less adventurous diners, yet it was equally lovely and warming to the core.
My absolute favourite was the udon with seafood in tomato soup. The soup was packed full of the freshest clams, squid and prawns, alongside chunks of fresh tomato that the perfectly chewy, delicious noodles carried beautifully.
From the other set lunch menu, the US ribeye steak with teriyaki sauce was incredibly tender and moreish, dipped in the sweet teriyaki sauce.
I was also very impressed by the grilled black cod, which was perfectly flaky and carried a subtle yet lovely miso flavour that didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the fish itself.
The premium sashimi platter (not from the set lunch menu), consisted of an assortment of sea urchin, Hamachi, toro, jumbo prawns, Hokkaido scallops and sea bream that were all quite clearly of the highest quality, flown in each day from Japan.
The set menu also includes a dessert buffet, which was somewhat disappointing in comparison to the starters, so we opted instead for a couple of desserts from the a la carte menu. I am rarely that excited by red bean desserts, yet the red bean rice rolls were actually pleasantly surprisingly, with a lovely texture and just enough sweetness.
Even better, however, was the plum wine jelly with Japanese yuzu sorbet, which had a delightful balance of sweet and sour that kept me going back for yet another mouthful.
Shiki Zen is not exactly a cheap restaurant, with set lunch menus starting at $268 and set dinner menus starting at $480, but you know at least that the quality of ingredients and execution of dishes is excellent, and you certainly won’t leave hungry! I admittedly didn’t know a great deal about udon before my meal at Shiki Zen, yet I know now that, as we edge closer towards winter, I will crave this hearty, delicious dish quite frequently.
29/F, Soundwill Plaza II Midtown
1-29 Tang Lun Street
Tel: +852 2970 3218