Hakkasan – San Francisco, CA

Honestly, my knowledge of restaurants around the world or even the ones around the Bay Area would be very limited if it was not for the ladies that I hang out it. I lucked out on the friend pool and ended up meeting individuals that love food as much as I do and are always down for trying out new spots. CP mentioned that this restaurant recently opened in December 2012 and A pulled the trigger and made reservations for us.

I thought we were dining at a upscale Japanese restaurant but was obviously wrong. Hakkasan originally opened in London back in 2001 and has slowly expanded to the States (New York, Miami, one coming up in Vegas), India and the Middle East. Easy to miss as it is on the second floor of what looks like an office building.

The moment we walked in, we were greeted by a lady and a nice gentleman. He took our coats and shopping bags and she directed us tot he top floor. Greeted by another lady, then seated by a thiurd. This is like some crazy assembly line.

The restaurant is very dimly lit, with a dining lounge and a massive oval bar. We were then led to the more private dining “rooms”.

Menu is fairly extensive, there is a section for appetizers, vegetables, rice & noodles, poultry, meat, seafood & fish.

Note: We were informed when A made reservations that for parties of 8 or more, the only option is the tasting menu for $68, $68 or $138 each.

The dessert menu:

Drinks menu was very extensive, lots of cocktails, wines and aperitif.
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We ordered a good number of dishes:

Crispy Duck Salad $28

w pomegranate, pine nut and shallot

Highly recommended by our server. We all loved it! One of the best dishes of the night – Complex and exciting way to start our meal with chunks of shredded duck, crunchy pine nuts, tangy pomegranate and crispy fried shallots mixed in with some microgreens and tossed in a light sweet sesame vinaigrette. Loved every bite of it.
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Jasmine tea smoked beef short rib $21

Another dish recommended that we quite enjoyed. It was not perfect as the meat was a tad stringy and tough but the flavour was a home run. The jasmine tea was too subtle and we didn’t note it at all. The meat was covered in a sweet salty glaze that was really good!
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Tofu, aubergine and shiitake mushroom claypot in chili black bean sauce $12

One of the best tofu dishes I have ever had. The tofu was deep fried and then tossed in a subtle black bean sauce with eggplant and shiitake mushroom. The tofu was so much like Japanese egg tofu in texture, so delicate and smooth. The egg plant was still a little firm but cooked through and the mushrooms gave the dish a nice woodsy aftertaste. The black bean was not pungent or salty – perfectly balance sweet, salty and a little spicy.
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Four style vegetable stir fry in sweet Szechuan sauce $12

Asparagus, yam bean, tofu and shimeji mushrooms

Very good. I was hoping for more heat from the Szechuan sauce. It is quite hard to distinguish the flavours of this dish and the prior one if not for the black bean. Everything else started tasting similar but they were still tasty. By the way, yam bean is just Jicama (figured that out when I started eating). Nice crunchy jicama, asparagus and tender mushrooms. Nice way to add vegetables to our meal.
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Black truffle roasted duck $48

One of the favourite dishes of the evening. The duck was immersed in truffle essence! Crispy skin and tender deboned duck sitting in a pool of juices that had slivers of black truffle. It had all the traditional spices used in regular roast duck but a lot more subtle and somehow infused and blend nicely with black truffles.
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Braised pork belly$19

with aged vinegar sauce and served with steamed buns

Holy crap! This is a heart attack on the plate. Super succulent melt in your mouth pork belly that is intense. The fat was so close to disintegrated we didn’t even need much pressure to cut into in. The pork is sitting in a pool of sauce that is almost gelatinous from the pork braising in it. The bun was excellent for sopping up the sauce.
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Lamb chop in XO BBQ sauce$39

I can never say no to a lamb dish. The lamb chop was not the least bit gamey – tender with some fat left on the cuts, cooked to a nice medium and coated in a very light XO BBQ sauce. The XO sauce was not seafood-y and complex like I expected. This was more like a  oyster/bbq sauce mix but it was still very tasty.
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Mongolian style venison stir fry $39

This dish was not a hit, with me nor with the other ladies. The texture of the venison was almost mushy. It was soft when I bit into it and then it was mushy and grainy. It was not very good and we did not even finish this small portion among the five of us. The sauce was almost like a spicy satay sauce – sweet, salty, spicy with a nutty finish. Topped with crispy onions and beneath were shredded vegetables and enoki mushrooms and random bits of raw bell peppers.
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Truffle braised noodle with crabmeat and scallop $29

I could die for this dish – the noodles were braised in truffle so unlike the duck dish, the truffle was not as pungent but definitely prominent. The noodle had a nice bite to it, tasted just like scallops with a hint of truffle. The crabment and scallop on top was a little disappointing – scallop was measly pieces that were overdone and it was pretty much two scallops sliced in half. Pfftt..
But that noodles, I can’t describe how good it was..
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Chicken fried rice with salted fish $10

Good but nothing spectacular. The fried rice is a little on the “al dente” side and had nice flavours but was mixing what I expect from fried rice – smokiness from the wok. There was barely any salted fish, so it just tasted like boring seasoned fried rice with bits of chicken. Quite underwhelming after the nice array of dishes that it was served alongside.
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Steamed Jasmine rice $2

Not exaggerating when I say this is one heck of a bowl of jasmine rice. The rice was amazing! I eat jasmine rice at least 3-4 times a week and never had one so well prepared. The rice granules were somehow fluffed so they were nicely separated and airy! Amazing with the sauce from the other dishes.

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Desserts:

Apple tatin $10

Caramelized apple, Granny Smith puree and smoked caramel ice cream

The apples were thin apple slices layered with a thin puff pastry crust at the bottom. A very interesting but tasty way of serving apple tatin with salty caramel ice cream.
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PB&J $10

Peanut butter parfait, Concord grape jelly, banana & passion fruit sorbet

This was a pleasant surprise. I am not a huge peanut butter fan but I actually really enjoyed the dessert. The parfait was like a cold, smooth creamy with hints of peanut butter but not too much. The passion fruit sorbet was so good and tangy! Who knew passion fruit and peanut butter could work?
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Chocolate Orange $10

Citrus Chocolate mousse, blood orange and gianduja ice cream

My favourite dessert, reminds me of an upscale chocolate orange. The mousse was smooth and rich. Everything was melted and all the components were mixed by the time I got to it but we noticed little gold flakes on the top. The blood orange was a nice touch~ There were these nice chunks of what felt like frozen brownies that was so good!
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Macarons $12

Yuzu, Blood Orange, Jasmine Tea, Cassis, Salted Caramel

Favourites were the blood orange and cassis. The others were underwhelming and jasmine tea was lacking in an jasmine essence.

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Drinks:

Plum Sour $12
Bellini $12
Pink Mojito $12
Hakka $12
Coffee $6

The drinks were good. None of the ones we tried blew us away but they were good~ My favourite was the bellini, straightforward and refreshing. The plum sour was potent and the whiskey was all I tasted. I didn’t mind the pink mojito but was partial to the Hakka – creamy sweet coconut milk cocktail. A little too sweet and only tasted like coconut but it was not bad.

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Total Damge: $490.80 or $100 per person (Including a drink each, tax & tip)

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 (Great)

The service at this establishment was impeccable! Our server was patient and great at explaining all the dishes to us. Each rice, noodle and salad dish was brought to the table and served into individual portions. Dishes were promptly cleared. We were given hand towels a couple times throughout the evening.

We also had a couple accidents with the drinks (no, we were not slushed), and he was right there to sop up our mess and replace the drinks. We definitely appreciated it!

Although the food is pricey, the quality of the dishes were excellent. Small portions but prepared so delicately with great flavours. As a whole, lots of a dishes were a tad on the salty side on their own but balances out very nicely with jasmine rice. Everything had the traditional sweet, salty or spicy balance of Chinese dishes and although considered upscale, the base of what the dish was originated from is not lost.

Halfway through our meal, we actually started noticing that although all the dishes still maintained the traditional flavours, they are all taken down a couple notches and a lot of subtle and less pungent.

I would definitely go back when I need to indulge in some truffle noodles and desserts~

(Side Note: As much as I enjoyed my experience at Hakkasan, I found the bathroom situation leaves little to be desired. The bathrooms are unisex, which doesn’t make much sense because of the number of bathrooms they have. Four out of five of us used the bathroom in the three hours that we were there and not only had our own unpleasant experience of :unsightly remnants on toilet seats, papers towels littered all over the floors, lack of toilet seat covers (which probably explains the amount of paper towels around the toilet bowl) and so on. I won’t go into detail as this is still a blog centered around food.

I actually tried looking for an email contact I could get in touch with to just point out our views but couldn’t so I figured I will leave a note here.)

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Hakkasan

1 Kearny St
San Francisco, CA 94104

(415) 829-8148

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon

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