With Buddakan, Tao and Ajna Bar does New York really need another huge and clubby Asian restaurant? I decided to go to the newest midtown restaurant, Hakkasan, to see for myself. Hakkasan is located on a desolate street in Midtown (43th between 8th and 9th avenues to be precise) and the door is only marked by a small sign that reads “HK”. Through the large blue and black door brings you into a long and narrow all marble entrance that leads to the hostess table. The hallway smells faintly of incense which further adds to the slightly mysterious yet elegant nature of this walkway. To your left is the bar area and further forward is the restaurant itself. With restaurants in Miami, Dubai and London we all knew to expect a huge and grand Asian inspired restaurant, but Hakkasan reminded me more of a jewel box. The main room is set up with different compartments as opposed to the large dining rooms featured at Buddakan or Tao for instance. The maze like room is separated by windowless frames featuring carved marble amongst other materials and is much quieter than one might expect.
The menu, like the dining room, is also separated into different components. There is the “Supreme Specials” section which features signature dishes of the chef which also happen to be absurdly overpriced such as the $888 Braised Japanese Abalone with Black Truffle. The other sections are of appetizers, poultry, meat, fish, noodles and rice and are pretty similar to that of most other faux-club Asian restaurants in New York. The key to an excellent meal at Hakkasan is knowing what to order. While the New York Magazine and others may have given it a less than stellar review, I must say I did happen to have one of the best dinners in New York at Hakkasan. To start, we ordered the Steamed Dim Sum Platter for two which consisted of two orders of scallop shumai, prawn and chive dumplings, black pepper duck dumpling and traditional Chinese dumplings (Har Gau). The prawn and chive dumplings and duck dumplings were prepared in a different style and were almost like soup dumplings. Aside from the Edamame Dumplings at Buddakan, these were probably some of the best dumplings I have tasted to date. However the Salt and Pepper Squid (essentially fried calamari) were nothing to write home about. For an entree we ordered the Peking Duck with Black Truffle and the Roasted Silver Cod. As a side we ordered the Singapore Vermicelli Noodle with prawn and squid. The Peking Duck with Black Truffle was hands down the best Peking duck I have had in New York. The dish was innovative by the chef’s decision to include black truffle into the dish, the duck was cooked well and all the flavors were balanced (truffles can tend to be somewhat overbearing in certain dishes). The Silver Cod gave Nobu’s famous Miso Glazed Cod a run for its money. The cod was cooked perfectly and featured a light yet sweet sauce that was able to showcase the delicate features of the cod. However, The Singapore Noodles, to me, were average at best.
The main problem I see people having with Hakkasan is the pricing. A dinner for two can easily hit the $300 mark and you shouldn’t even dare to step foot into the place if you’re not willing to spend at least $100 a person. With that said, the $88 Peking Duck was worth the money as was the $49 Silver Cod. The only misstep was the Salt and Pepper squid, which wasn’t bad per-se but rather simply mediocre (that plate of mediocrity did set us back $18 unfortunately). Another thing to note about Hakkasan was the excellent service. The staff is highly attentive when it comes to food allergies and our servers were always kind and courteous. Though the prices may be high and the strange Midtown location may be a turn off for some, the excellent food, stunning decor and superb staff would make me return to Hakkasan again and again.