Town, Hong Kong: Review date, November 20
Overall score: 7.8/10
The Cubus building in Causeway Bay is odd. It feels Japanese with its multiple floors of restaurants that I can never quite keep track of, despite only living 300 yards away. Most of all though it’s the bassline. Stand outside the building at street level and you’ll hear it, on loop, playing 24/7. It’s not even close to being a song, barely a few chords. It must drive the people working there freaking nuts. I’d love to know who decided a building needed a riff, how they chose it and who was the lucky session musician chosen to play it.
One of its most recent tenants is ‘Town’ on the 10th floor, the new baby of chef Bryan Nagao. The surfing Hawaiian native with Japanese roots is no stranger to Hong Kong, having spent six years at Felix at The Peninsula before running Japanese joint Kokage, one of the first restaurants to open on Star Street in 2002.
Back in the Fragrant Harbour, he calls his cuisine at Town ‘urban and casual’. He doesn’t need to spin it though when he delivers really well-executed, thoughtful dishes which speak volumes for his upbringing and global exposure.
We walked in late (9.50pm) with no reservation to be given a table by the window overlooking the high rises and light pollution of Lee Gardens. The dining room was pretty dimly lit, but as I recall ticked the boxes of exposed brickwork, bare walls and industrial minimalism. Within a couple minutes of sitting down, a basket of great warm bread was offered and immediately threw down a marker.
French onion soup can either lift the soul or destroy it. So often a watery, insipid molten mess that removes the roof of your mouth in a second. It’s a simple dish but still needs care and time and a close eye to be prepared and served properly. At Town they absolutely nail it, the perfect marriage of onions cooked down for an eternity and elasticated gruyere: (7.5/10)
I contemplated but ultimately passed up on mains including black ink udon with Spanish prawn, Colorado lamb T-bone with lamb tongue and a guinea fowl roulade with buckwheat and fennel. I’m glad I did, only because my spaghettini with uni, pata negra and lardo was an outstanding dish. Nagao is pretty brave to mix up such strong (and expensive) flavours over a simple pasta, but his Japanese roots and international exposure means he knows fusion better than most. The seriously generous portion of uni crowned the dish, meaning it was tasted throughout and avoided being overpowered by the silky lardo and thin strips of pata negra. (8.5/10) I took a photo of my dish at dinner but one on their website does it much more justice:
We passed on dessert, but on a subsequent lunchtime visit to try their good value set-lunch, things rounded off with a very passable deconstructed tiramisu.
Service was efficient and friendly, especially as a late walk in, while the price point was very fare: (7.5/10 for experience)
Nagao has tried a number of venues in Hong Kong over the years, but with the quality of these dishes at this price point, he could be in for a long run. That surfboard may need to stay in storage a while yet.
10f, 1 Hoi Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong: 2568 8708