The Roe Down: Handcrafted with feeling, Artifact presents artistic yet approachable caviar-infused Japanese cuisine
Tucked away below Central’s traffic horns and meandering pedestrians – along what has become the go-to canteen of people in stilettos and navy suits – is Artifact, a newly opened upscale chef’s table Japanese restaurant uniting the different variations of caviar with fine dishes. Paired harmoniously with jet-fresh ingredients flown directly from Japan, this whole caviar experience is savoured at a deep-blue upholstered 14-seat dining counter and ultra-sleek contemporary speakeasy bar set within a casual basement food hall. These diverse concepts converge in the creative mind of Chef Sato Kiyoshi, whose vision has brought eccentric Japanese cuisine to the energetic epicentre of Hong Kong – in the depths of BaseHall 02 in Jardine House.
It is the quality of food and ingredients presented in a delectable style that sets Artifact apart from the hundreds of other Japanese restaurants scattered around the city. In true Japanese fashion, calling in an artisanal expert like Chef Kiyoshi was an important puzzle piece in its realisation. Scrimping on quality is never an option for the head chef, who says of his edible masterpieces: “It’s a combination of texture, foundation, ingredients and balance. For me, a perfect dish is always driven by a feeling or an inspiration.”
The speakeasy bar offers separate and interchangeable menus; it is only at the chef’s table that a single menu is strictly adhered to, omakase-style. However, with an intricacy based upon ‘shun’ – the Japanese philosophy of seasonality – the menu adapts constantly to fold in the finest produce on the market. “We are an ingredients-focussed restaurant, so the menu changes according to what is the best for the season,” says Kiyoshi. “From the first menu to the next one, for instance, we changed chocolate and coffee dessert to milk and ginger, and wagyu to tenderloin.” It is often said that we eat with our eyes first. At Artifact, the food looks just as good as it tastes and all the dishes are pretty spectacular. And so, the caviar chronicle begins. With a name defined as a handmade object or the remains of one, Artifact takes pride in the craftwork that goes into the construction of each tasting menu – both for its four-course lunch and eight-course dinner.
The four-course set embraces appetisers of Miso Cheese with Baerii Caviar, and Namerou, Goma and Kaluga Caviar, followed by a choice of entrée between Polmard Beef with Kaki Potato and Obsiblue Prawn with Ginger Orange Ponzu and Oyster. For the main course, there are options of Hokkaido Pork, Carrot and Wakami; Toothfish, Kabocha and Razor Clams; or Wagyu with Maitake and Soy, along with a traditional Tamago Kake Gohan (Japanese egg and rice) to accompany the meal and a seasonal dessert to wrap it up.
Caviar is central to the dinner journey, where the dégustation menu includes highlights such as Namerou and Goma with Kaluga; Takoyaki and Rakkyo with Ossetra; and Carabineros with Smoked Miso Cream and Baerii. Kinmedai, Kabu and Yuzu is another wonderful course. If the caviar rush becomes too much, a carefully curated wine list spans an international selection of Champagnes, rosés, whites and reds to cool racing minds and calm overworked taste buds.
The ambience is chic and bustling, catering to smart mid-towners in need of a Japanese fix. The act of sitting around a counter enhances the Artifact experience, as Kiyoshi elaborates: “We aim to offer the best dining experience as we can with the counter dining setting. It gives me and my team more opportunities to interact with customers. Diners can also see what’s brewing behind the kitchen and the preparation that goes into each dish.”
The truth of these words is evident as human connections extend from those relaxed at the counter enjoying their food to everyone labouring diligently within to create it. In a city like Hong Kong, where life whizzes by at almost twice the speed of a watch’s tick, Artifact stands apart because warmth, style and artfulness abound throughout the entire place. It lives in the buzzy dining room, the service, the interiors and, above all, in the sumptuous, well-considered meals. It is a scene and a dining room you want to lean into, linger over and – without question – indulge in.
Artifact, Shop 5 and 7, LG/F, Jardine House, 1 Connaught Place, Central, Hong Kong. +852 6468 8762. artifactbar.com
(Text: Joseff Musa Photos: Artifact)