August 9th, 2009

First impressions: Hakkasan

Hakkasan logo

For my first Miami Spice dinner I chose to go to Hakkasan, the Fontainebleau locale of Alan Yau’s London restaurant by the same name. Though its Miami Spice menu wasn’t the most appealing among my choices, I wanted to check it out. Arriving at the restaurant from the hotel lobby takes some walking past shops and other restaurants, then getting into an elevator that drops you off right at the restaurant’s entrance on the fourth floor.

The place is a work of design. It has a gorgeous interior with latticed dark wood panels, dark wood furniture contrasts and light bluish green leather seats embroidered with gold thread and accented with silk pillows. Light projectors create the effect of moving water reflections against the stone wall behind the bar. A large blue glass wall at one end of the main dining room pops against its dark surroundings.

While my intention was to order from the Miami Spice menu, which they don’t offer you unless you ask for it, my dining companions – D and Mr. Blind Mind – were more interested in the regular menu than by the Spice menu options. I don’t blame them. Hakkasan’s menu is expansive with a long list of appetizers, and anywhere between 7 and 10 dishes in each of the menu’s main categories: fish, seafood, poultry, meat, vegetarian and noodles. Three tofu dishes are also offered.

We started with the dim sum platter ($24), wild mushroom lettuce wraps ($18) and roasted mango duck ($18). Of the group, the duck was the standout dish for me. I loved how the its tender meat and crispy skin paired with the sweetness of the perfectly ripe mango slices. The dim sum was also a good choice. It included a shrimp dumpling, a vegetable and wild mushroom dumpling, a chive dumpling with shrimp and a scallop dumpling – my favorite. The lettuce for the wraps was Lilliputian and while the wild mushrooms had good flavor, the dish was the least impressive. Plus, its price seemed disproportionate considering that the roasted duck was priced the same.

While our server explained – well into our meal – that the entrees are meant to be family style, we each ordered individually. I ordered a spicy Assam prawn in coconut ($36), D the braised black bean grouper claypot ($35) and our friend stir-fried scallop and pumpkin in black bean ($36). We also ordered a side of bok choi in oyster sauce instead of ordering rice (yes, you must order it separately).

There were no major disappointments in the food we ordered. My shrimp was served inside a baby coconut that kept the dish steaming throughout the whole meal. Sweet buns were served on the side to dip into the spicy sauce. I liked my dish but found my companions’ dishes, of which I got a small taste, much more interesting.

The service at Hakkasan was spotty. Our server wasn’t very knowledgeable about the food and failed to inform us about several things like the fact that there is a $3 surcharge for spirits ordered on the rocks, which we noticed only when it came time to pay. I also perceived some attitude on part of the restaurant with regards to Miami Spice. We witnessed a party of six leave upset shortly after being seated because they had one more person in their party than Hakkasan allows to take advantage of the promotion. There’s also a minimum.

In the end, I was glad that I didn’t order the Miami Spice menu here. While our decision resulted in a more expensive meal, I think I had a better dining experience and better food based on what others are saying about the Spice menu. There are a number of entrees in the $18 to $30 range that can help you keep your dinner at Hakkasan within a decent price range. Just make sure you skip the bottled water and keep the cocktails to a minimum. Parking is free with validation through September 30.

4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon

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6 Responses to “First impressions: Hakkasan”

  1. Guess we were at Scarpetta at the same time. Service was excellent, Spice menu came with regular menu and dishes were lifted from the regular menu. Highly recommend.

  2. I found the food at Hakkasan to be, nearly, perfect. I agree about the service;it was spotty,but that’s Miami. Will go back again and again.

  3. I can’t stand it when people say that’s Miami and just put up with it. Such a copout. We should expect more especially when you pay the money you do at Hakkasan

  4. I agree Jimmy. Let management know you didn’t like the service, don’t go back, otherwise, nothing will ever change. When the people in a restaurant where you are spending over $100 a head aren’t treating you as nice as someone in a diner where you are spending $10, there’s a problem.

  5. Im gonna speak up and comment that it wasnt “bad” service. The waitress was just, as I like to say, about 3 cheeseburgers short of a happy meal. In other words, a bit clueless. We actually wondered if she was usually a hostess that had been called upon as a server because someone was out sick. Nice girl, just not a great server and seemed like she was fairly new to the job.

  6. Not “bad” service as the Blind mentions but not great. I think there were 3 things we ordered that they didn’t have that night that she didn’t tell us about until after we ordered them.

    If I’m going to go to an upscale restaurant then the staff better be stellar.

    She did however state that “the mangoes came from a tree.”

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