Saturday 23 October 2004
If sexiness was tangible, it would look and feel like the star-spangled - in terms of both Michelin and celebrities - Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan.
If sexiness was tangible, it would look and feel like the star-spangled - in terms of both Michelin and celebrities - Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan. A jade green staircase snakes down to the cavernous basement, which resembles an atmospheric New York nightclub crossed with a decadent movie set.
Ostentatious floral displays mark the entrance, and a combination of subtly-spiced incense aroma, dimmed lighting and chilled music entice the senses. Inside, black wooden frames separate the dining area from a seductive bar, crammed with beautiful people from the international fashion and film worlds.Carved lattice screens, reminiscent of ancient Chinese houses, frame the dining area with black wooden furniture on black tiles, while the shadows of the chefs dance on the frosted glass on one side of the restaurant.Small eats are always popular with fashionistas - who don't eat much anyway - and the dim sum, served only at lunchtime, fits the bill perfectly. Traditional Chinese flavours are married with Japanese, Thai, Indian, Malaysian and European ingredients, and the choice is mind-boggling: tender Alaskan snow crab wrapped in crisp fried vermicelli and xo sauce; asparagus cheung fun with meaty bamboo pith and mushrooms; emerald-hued dumplings stuffed with prawns and Chinese chives; crispy duck and water chestnut, puff-spiced with cardamom and fennel seed; mooli spring roll with bean curd puff and yam roll; and feather-soft shredded turnip paste studded with char sui pork, to name but a few. The evening menu offers such delights as jasmine, tea-smoked chicken; soft-shell crab fried with garlic and curry leaves; braised aubergine and Morinaga tofu clay pot in an intense chilli and black bean sauce; roasted silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey; an asparagus stir fry, lily bulb and lotus stem; watercress tossed with savoury century eggs; organic sweet and sour pork with pomegranate; and live lobster noodles with ginger and spring onion. For the all important dessert, don't miss the praline ice cream and Mandarin sorbet encased in a tall tower of baked Alaska. This restaurant is not for purists though. Its modern Chinese cooking will not appeal to those looking for authenticity. Moreover, service can be variable, and, like many restaurants with the serious "wow" factor, it can be expensive and a nightmare to reserve a table. However, proprietor Alan Yau's new all-day dim sum restaurant, Yauatcha, which opened earlier this year, hasn't taken the shine off its older sibling. Hakkasan remains ground-breaking - not least for introducing the stylish nightclub look to an unsuspecting public. The look has been widely imitated and since become standard in many other establishments. But if Hakkasan was a movie, it would be a Wong Kar-Wai movie. And that's pretty cool.
Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, London 020 7927 7000, lunch Mon-Fri 12-3pm Sat-Sun 12-4pm Dinner Mon-Sat 6-12midnight Sun 6am-11.30pm. Meal for two, excl wine: £50
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