Originally a watering hole for overworked Japanese salarymen, the izakaya is where everyone’s in it together to have a good time before passing out.
Just down the street from financial offices, The Aubrey at the Mandarin Oriental in Central has a classy interior design and a harbor backdrop with Japan-influenced jazz music playing, making it one of the most vibrant spots for post-work snacks and drinks.
There is a lot to be said about the ambience, which is created by three distinct areas: the main bar, an omakase cocktail bar and a champagne and sake bar.
Of the three cocktail menu concepts, which include a highball and chuhai cocktail menu, a seasonal menu and a signature craft cocktail menu, the Queen’s Gimlet (HK$160) blends Japanese Roku gin, citrus, chamomile and cardamom for a refreshing floral taste.
The omakase bar seats four people, with a bartender offering a beverage omakase to take guests on a journey exploring spirits, flavors and textures. The champagne and sake bar offers a selection of sparkling sake – a rarity in Hong Kong.
Specializing in traditional Edomae sushi-making, chef Yukihito Tomiyama presents indulgent bites made from fresh ingredients and presented in beautiful handcrafted wooden boxes that will brighten up your dining table.
Want a feast after a stressful day? At Toriten in Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong, the tantalizing menu, which comprises signature donburis, ramen, three omakase menus and an array of skewers, comforts guests in an elegant yet cozy environment.
Offering more than just a mouth-watering display, these donburis are made with the finest ingredients. The flamed wagyu beef donburi (HK$398) features A4 Saga wagyu sirloin that is lightly grilled with a blow torch upon serving. An sweet and silky egg yolk and diced pickles offsets the oiliness.
Some of the signature skewers that are recommended to satisfy any cravings you may have include the chicken with plum and perilla sauce (HK$38), the Japanese pork with cheese and spicy cod roe (HK$48) and the Saga wagyu beef short ribs (HK$98), as well as various vegetable skewers using ingredients flown in from Japan.
An asset to the neighborhood, Izakaya by K at The Parkside in Tseung Kwan O promises a lively vibe, with a menu guided by Michelin-trained chef Yusuke Kitade, who presents an extensive menu of more than 100 classic izakaya delicacies.
“I am proud to introduce Tseung Kwan O to a top-class yet affordable izakaya experience that residents of Hong Kong’s new towns can normally only find in classy, but pricey districts in downtown Hong Kong,” Kitade said.
In true izakaya spirit, Sapporo Beer is on draft (HK$88) or bottle (HK$58), while the restaurant manager, who is also the establishment’s sake sommelier, works with the chefs on sake and dish pairings and introduces diners to hidden sake, shochu, premium whisky and liqueur gems from Japan.
Kicking off with appetizers, the Japanese fruit-tomato salad (HK$65) served with tuna and shiso, which offers a mix of umami and sweetness, comes highly recommended. Their sushi (from HK$28) is a must-try, while some deep-fried items, such as the Nanban chicken (HK$98) and ground wagyu cutlets (HK$88), are perfect companions to sake.
Upgraded from humble izakaya fare, the skewers showcase the chef’s delicate culinary skill, including the sliced Kurabuta pork roll with soft boiled egg (HK$45).
A secret marinade and grilling technique dating back to the Edo shogun era is used for the pork belly (HK$36), ox tongue (HK$45) and chicken thigh (HK$38) – all sourced from free-range farms in Kagoshima.
If you need some grease and carbs to soothe your mood, the Japanese wagyu clay pot rice (HK$380) features A4 Miyazaki wagyu that melts in your mouth. Served with Madeira sauce for a French twist and topped with raw egg yolk, it is sure to improve your mood and get you through the day.
(This article was published at The Standard on April 9, 2021: Weekend Glitz: After-work drinks, Japan style )