If you’re seeking an authentic crab feast, look no further than the Japanese institution, Kanizen.
Since 2010, crustacean lovers have been flocking to this seafood paradise for a taste of some of the finest crabs in town, flown in fresh from Hokkaido three times a week and prepared in methods that range from grilling and tempura to sashimi and shabu shabu (Japanese hotpot).
Kanizen is owned and operated by Japanese food enthusiasts, Kevin Lee and Timothy Lau, who founded the restaurant after being unable to find a place in Hong Kong where they could enjoy live Japanese crabs.
Hidden away in a discreet corner of Wan Chai, the upscale venue is laid out like a sushi bar, with a U-shaped counter around which patrons can enjoy individual crab hotpots. If you prefer, take a seat at one of the intimate booths, while larger groups may prefer to take advantage of one of three private rooms. Sliding screens in place of doors, wooden tabletops and a Sakura flower-patterned wall combine to create a soothing and zen-like ambience.
If it isn’t already abundantly clear why you’re here, you’re greeted at the door by two large open-top tanks swimming with live crabs, claws pinching and clamouring at the sides of the glass walls. In this seafood temple, it’s all about the humble crustacean.
One of the only Japanese crab specialists in town, Kanizen stocks three varieties all year round: matsuba, or male snow crabs; succulent taraba crabs, prized for their sweet flavour and size; and kegani, or Japanese horsehair crabs, easily discernible by the hair covering their shells.
In addition to its main selection, Kanizen brings in seasonal varieties such as seiko crab and hanasaki crab in the winter, and takahashi crab in the spring/summer season.
Pick out your pinchers and get ready for a culinary journey that sings the praises of crab from start to finish. Like traditional omakase, the dinner menu evolves with multiple dishes that build on flavour and complexity. A light appetiser could be Hokkaido corn soup with sea urchin and crabmeat or lightly grilled crab claws dipped in vinegar to balance out the sweet meat.
The tempura is a highlight of the meal – lightly battered and crisp-fried crab claws paired simply with matcha salt. Along with mixed veggies, the tempura basket includes a wonderful fried Japanese onsen egg – with the oozing yolk intact despite a trip to the deep fryer.
The degustation menu unfolds with more substantial dishes such as crab in shabu shabu, crabmeat dumplings, rich and creamy crab congee, crab steamed rice, and crabmeat mixed with its own roe. Crab is undoubtedly the star, but a nice assortment of accompanying veggies, noodles and rice guarantees that the meal is well rounded.
If all the fresh seafood and veggies sound a bit too virtuous, you can pair your meal with a bottle of premium sake, with the restaurant stocking some exceptional bottles including an impressive collection of Jyuyondai Sake from Yamagata Prefecture. Wines are also available by the bottle, along with a selection of Japanese beers.
For discerning diners, there’s no better spot in town to enjoy the full flavour, range and versatility of one of the ocean’s finest ingredients.