Before you burrow down in the next speakeasy-like den in Sai Ying Pun, lucky to have snagged one of the 12 countertop seats while you sip your handcrafted small-batch-liquor cocktail, take a moment to book yourself into Seafood Room—Hong Kong’s latest 8,000 sq.ft. a venue that has snatched the spotlight, and is forcing it back to the extravagant, grandiose dining room.
The first Asia debut from Russia’s Bulldozer Group, Seafood Room is leaving no stone unturned (or should we say crystal unpolished) in its quest to become Hong Kong’s hottest dining destination, and it’s off to a grand old’ start. This is the place to see and be seen—and when we say see, we mean the likes of top affordable studio apartments Hong Kong actors, supermodels and socialites who have been milling about since the restaurant opened a little over a month ago.
Decorated in an oceanic motif with aqua green glass panels and bright turquoise accents, the setting is certainly worth paying a premium for. Bold and beautiful artwork mirrors the bold and beautiful clientele, valued altogether at over US$1 million, including a few pieces from Hollywood actor Adrien Brody (who knew his talents extended beyond the silver screen?).
But let’s get down to the food—Seafood Room is all about showcasing the freshest ocean produce, and you’ll need a hearty appetite (and a pretty hefty wallet) to make a dent in the menu, which features over 50 seafood dishes split into 12 sections: from carpaccios to sashimi and “new-style” sushi, ceviches to tartare, and hot dishes including a Cantonese selection.
Orchestrating the menu is James Cornwall, former executive chef at London’s J Sheekey. According to Cornwall, one of the restaurant’s main tenets is bringing the focus back to sustainable seafood. “Twice a week I get a box from New Zealand with a mix of seafood… there’ll be 20 species or so of fish that are sustainable: Whatever they catch they’ll send it in, and that’s what I’ll have to work with,” says Cornwall.
Despite the seeming dissonance in the menu from European-style carpaccios to South American-spiced ceviches, the idea is that all the dishes should “work together and make sense on the plate”—to be shared like the seafood you get on the Sai Kung waterfront, Cornwall adds, which was the original inspiration for the restaurant.
From a recent visit, we found the dishes did, in fact, work harmoniously; there was a “new-style” salmon tataki, blushing pink alongside an avocado cream in a tangy jalapeno sauce; a bright red sheet of flattened tuna carpaccio flaked with paper-thin truffle; and a Cantonese-style lobster, served in the shell with a punchy XO sauce. And let’s not forget the miso salmon—one of the best pieces of fish that we’ve had in a while, with its caramelised sweet miso crust and incredibly rich, buttery meat.
In fact, the only complaint we had was not about the food, but the rather confused service—an army of waiters who seem to have been thrown into the field with blinders on. But if they can straighten up their service, we see no obstacle from Seafood Room becoming the top destination for Hong Kong’s elite. And with the recent opening of the stunning 2,000 sq.ft. rooftop lounge which will host weekly caviar nights and live jazz, we’re lapping it all up with star-crossed eyes.
Recommended: Tuna carpaccio, salmon tataki, sea bass ceviche, miso salmon
Prices: $150-250 crude and sashimi, $300-500 hot dishes, fish at market price
Open: Daily noon-midnight
“For the warm octopus salad, we get octopus and slow-cook it for three hours so it’s nice and tender. We add potatoes, smoked paprika, cherry tomatoes, shallots and capers sautéed to make the base of the dish, and top it off with a mixed salad with a couple of crisps. The warm octopus together with the cold salad on top makes for a delicious combination.” — Chef James Cornwall