I am always impressed by how consistent the food at Hakkasan is, given its considerable scale. On a busy night they may serve 450 customers or more, yet the kitchen never seems to turn out a below-par dish. At a recent meal a plate of steamed dumplings included the classic har gau (prawn), crab, scallop and duck. The dumplings themselves had very good texture, the respective fillings precisely cooked (15/20). Soft shell crab was fried with curry leaf and some red chillies. This dish often suffers from greasy batter but there was no trace of that here, the crab flavour coming through and being complemented by the bite of the chilli (14/20).
Australian lobster in spicy black bean sauce was stir-fried and served on a basket of crisp noodles with mushrooms. Lobster is easily overcooked, but the shellfish in this dish was superbly tender, the crisp noodle basket and mushrooms adding additional textures, the spice level lively but not overwhelming: this was a really top-notch dish (16/20).
Also lovely were langoustines wrapped in vermicelli glass noodles, resting in a Gu Yue Long Shan rice wine and garlic sauce laved with chilli. The noodles were extremely delicate and the shellfish was terrific, sweet and tender, their flavour nicely lifted by the garlic and hint of spice (easily 16/20). On the side, gai lan (Chinese broccoli) with garlic sauce is a Cantonese staple, the version here featuring young, delicate gai lan that had been carefully steamed; whenever carnivorous types complain about the prospect of eating vegetables I always wish they could taste perfectly cooked gai lan like these (16/20). Egg fried rice was also good (14/20)
The bill came to £114 a head, albeit with pre-dinner drinks as well as alcohol with dinner – at £61 that lobster dish does not come cheap. Early on a Monday evening in mid January, when some other London Michelin starred restaurants had special offers to attract diners at this quiet time of year, the Hakkasan dining room was not only full but tables were being turned around us. Of course it is quite expensive if you order from the carte, but at lunch you can eat three courses for £35, which is about what you would pay at a host of “small plate” hipster places in London with food not remotely of this quality.
I have written before about the silky smooth service at Hakkasan. Let me illustrate this tonight with a little vignette. Before coming here this evening I had been at an event nearby and was given a bottle of wine as a souvenir. When I arrived at Hakkasan I checked this bottle in its marked bag into the cloakroom along with my coat. When we finished dinner I went to collect my coat and the bag with the wine in, but a manager took me to one side. He explained that the bottle had been knocked over in the cloakroom by accident and broken. Ah well, accidents happen, but I was puzzled because the bag with a bottle in was handed to me. It turned out that the staff had checked the label on the bag (which identified the venue with the event), gone round to the place where the event had been and procured a substitute bottle. Now that, in my estimation, is service.