Location: On Wo Lane, Sheung Wan
Type of food: Japanese fusion
Rating: ** (2 out of 5)
Riding on the success of his first solo venture Yardbird, Canadian chef and entrepreneur Matt Abergel opened an izakayi this March that is as gimmicky and overpriced as his yakitori joint, but not nearly as cool or happening.
|Ronin on On Wo Lane|
Behind a grey sliding door on On Wo Lane hides a narrow space that measures less than 100 square feet and seats barely more than a dozen. It is for that reason and not its popularity that makes securing a reservation at Ronin harder than getting tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert. The seating arrangement is so awkward that it defies common sense. Guests have the options of sitting either at the bar watching the bartender shave ice balls or at the counter facing a brick wall all night. Either way you will be seated side-by-side your guests, which makes having a conversation impossible.
Abergel tries to do something different with the menu: okra tempura, honey glazed chips, beef with maitake mushrooms and fish I have never heard of: grunt fish, belt fish and trigger fish. But the portions are so pitifully small that calling them “finger food” would be an overstatement. My friends and I paid $800 each and we were about a quarter full by the time we walked out. We joked about going to McDonald’s afterwards and I think one of us actually did.
|Sit back and enjoy the wall|
From the serving staff to patrons, everyone at Ronin is an expat. This is not the kind of place you would hear a word of Cantonese – which is of course well and good. Problem is, random friends of the restaurant staff will show up in the middle of the evening, laughing at inside jokes and giving each other fist bumps and bear hugs. On the night I went, some loud-mouthed guy named Mike walked in with his half drunk friends and started conversing with the restaurant manager at deafening decibels. You have to remember that this is a tiny cave of a space with 14 seats. And so I tapped on Mike’s shoulder and said, as politely as I could, “If you don’t mind keeping it down, there are people trying to eat here.”
Ronin is the kind of place you want to visit once just to know what the hoopla is about. But once you try it, you will not ever want to go back. The restaurant might have the largest collection of Japanese whisky in the city, but it probably has the least repeat business.
|Don't worry, the nearest McDonalds is less than a mile away|