Big in Japan

Japanese fusion restaurants in Hong Kong are constantly coming up with new offerings to keep Hongkongers going back for more.

Hot on the heels of its successful Spanish pop-up, Statement in Tai Kwun is launching a second one with sister Japanese restaurant in London, Aqua Kyoto.

Planned by head chef Iwahashi Tatsuya from Hong Kong’s Aqua Kyoto and the head chef in London, Ken Miyake, over hours of video calls, the menu brings their Japanese and Spanish backgrounds to life in food form.

A must order is the sushi maki – salmon, beetroot and sea buckthorn berry maki (HK$148) – a molecular take on the classic sushi. The berry juice is extracted and combined with natural agar gelatin to create a firm and textured outer layer that adds refreshing citrus notes to complement the salmon, sea vegetables and earthy beetroot.

Cured red snapper with truffle (HK$118), which awakens the taste buds with cucumber, chives and watermelon radish wrapped around delicate white fish, is also recommended. Each bite-size piece is perched on top of marinated daikon discs and topped with freshly shaved black truffle, colorful edible flowers and served with a thick ponzu dressing.

The London branch’s favorite miso-cured sea trout (HK$98) is making its debut in Hong Kong. After being cured for 12 hours in a rich miso paste, the fish is seasoned with roasted kombu and hijiki powder. It is then gently slow-cooked and assembled on pickled red onion and avocado puree and embellished with umami kizami katsuobushi.

For a sweet ending, the popup offers a modern rendition of the classic Japanese street-style taiyaki waffles (HK$88).

Freshly cooked until golden brown, the fish-shaped waffles are crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside with a range of custard fillings – chocolate, matcha and vanilla – which pair perfectly with the rich miso ice cream.

For overworked salarymen in Central, the newly opened modern izakaya Roji might become a new popular after-work destination.

The menu isn’t quite like that of any other izakaya, with a traditionally Japanese focus and a complementary French flair in a nod to founder Agnes Mu’s roots and two favorite cuisines.

“I want to invite people into a secret alcove to discover delectable food, incredible drinks, a relaxed vibe and ultimately each other’s company – the true embodiment of Roji,” said Mu.

Kicking off with the beautifully blended, fizzy and unique (to Hong Kong) Hoshuzaki highball (HK$95), the snack and starter menus contain familiar items such as chicken cartilage (HK$98) and a shortlist of seasonal fish and fruits, including the lightly charred scallops (HK$138) which exude a smoky umami flavor.

For something a little more plentiful, the main dishes are the way to go.

The A4 wagyu beef (HK$298) is perfectly paired with shiso ponzu sauce, white daikon, baby carrots, baby corn and snap peas. There are only two dishes consisting of carbs on the menu: wagyu box (HK$248) and seafood box (HK$268). Both are heavyweight and designed to be shared between two to four people.

You can’t call a restaurant an izakaya without alcohol. Apart from food, Roji also serves a wide range of sakes, whiskies, tequilas and mezcals next to a brief list of cocktails.

Fan of Kagoshima wine and ingredients? The Hari Hong Kong offers a limited seven-course tasting menu (HK$888) at the hotel’s Japanese dining outlet, Zoku Restaurant & Terrace, in collaboration with Kagoshima prefecture and Shochu Meister Yoshie Kakimoto.

The menu includes a Kagoshima yellowtail trio with nigiri, sashimi and tartare, paired with a refreshing shochu highball; Tobiuo “flying fish” ceviche paired with shochu mizuwari; and Kagoshima wagyu steak served with fresh wasabi, sudachi and a negi salad.

Complete the experience with a citrus dessert comprising mandarin sorbet and served with soft cream cheese and kumquat, paired with a coffee shochu martini cocktail.

Available until the end of May, there is also the option to accompany the tasting menu with a shochu pairing for an additional HK$388.

(This article was published at The Standard on May 28, 2021: Weekend Glitz: Big in Japan )

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