Hong Kong’s dining scene is positively brimming with its fair share of Japanese restaurants, but we would like to put the spotlight on izakayas, a traditional kind of Japanese drinking tavern that serves small dishes and skewers to best go with drinks like sake, beer, and shōchū. Izakayas are informal restaurants with a fun atmosphere for you and your pals to relax in, so here’s a round-up of different breeds of izakayas in Hong Kong for your next casual night out!
Tucked away in the corner of Tai Hang, Kona is a modern izakaya that makes us want to go back for a meal every week! With a penchant for using luxurious ingredients in their dishes without charging unreasonable prices, dishes like the Sea Urchin with Lobster Broth Jelly and Egg Sabayon ($168) is the perfect starter to stimulate your taste buds—just let the strong umami flavour and the aroma of lobster envelope you in a warm embrace. Their signature is none other than the A4 Wagyu Beef Bowl with Sukiyaki Sauce and Summer Truffle ($168), served with a generous portion of rice to go with the marbled wagyu beef—irresistible!
Kona, G/F, 16 Lin Fa Kung Street West, Tai Hang | (+852) 2881 6339
Kimberly Street in Tsim Sha Tsui is known as Hong Kong’s ‘Little Korea’ because of the slew of Korean restaurants lining the road. Standing amongst them is the mysterious Mokutan, a modernised izakaya with only a wooden door and a traditional lightbox to indicate whether the store is open or not. They use simple but high-quality ingredients for their dishes to bring out the best flavours. Must-tries include their signature Mokutan Threadfish ($168), where they hang the threadfish overnight to condense the flavour before grilling it, and the Minced Chicken ($48), marinated in a secret sauce and served with a perfectly-cooked onsen egg.
Mokutan, Shop 2, G/F, 8 Kimberly Street, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2708 2009
Fukuro is one of the most popular modern izakayas in Central, and with its jovial atmosphere and excellent music playlist, what’s not to like? The dishes here are full of surprises and originality, such as the signature Crispy Caramel Butter Corn ($88), which you may have already come across on your Instagram feed. Our personal favourite is the mouth-watering Wagyu Zabuton ($298) that comes generously portioned, served with seaweed soy, smoked oil, and enoki mushrooms. The energy at Fukuro is intoxicating—perfect for night owls and those looking for a start to their debauched adventures in the wee hours of the night.
Fukuro, G/F, Winly Building, 1–5 Elgin Street, Central | (+852) 2333 8841
Sai Ying Pun also has a representative izakaya, Okra, which is one of our favourites for how close it is to our office! Innovative Japanese fusion cuisine is the best way to describe what chef Max Levy is dishing up at this slopeside tavern, and whatever magic they’ve managed to brew up in the kitchens is a clear winner, as everything on the menu here is utterly delectable.
Their Hentai Pigeon Tatsuta (With Bones) ($118) is one of our go-tos; an aged pigeon is marinated in secret tatsuta sauce, deep-fried, and served with preserved ginger and spring onion. Likewise, the El Pollo Loco Fried Chicken Samich ($148) is a crowd-pleaser, where they plate a whole marinated chicken thigh and leg on an Okinawan purple sweet potato bun with fresh cabbage and what they call a “crystal sauce”.
Okra, G/F, 110 Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Western District | (+852) 2806 1038
Best described as contemporary Japanese cuisine, Ronin has made a reputable name for itself in the Hong Kong dining scene. We know it’s on the pricey side, but if you haven’t been, well, it’s one of those establishments that is a must-try. The menu is separated into raw, smaller, and bigger dishes, all meticulously crafted and plated.
One of the more aesthetic dishes that we love coming back for is Flower Crab with Uni, Mitsuba, Sudachi ($490), which is presented in a crab shell that is carefully perched on a pile of ice. The KFC Sawagani Crab with Yuzu and Sesame ($150) is also a fun dish, as the crabs are deep-fried and then plated as if they are ready to run off the plate! We love the playfulness of a restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Ronin, G/F, 8 On Wo Lane, Central | (+852) 2547 5263
Found in the bustling heart of Lan Kwai Fong, Uoharu is a contemporary izakaya with creative dishes that are bound to make your evenings a whole lot more fun. Their Wagyu Foie Gras Sukiyaki ($288) is an all-time favourite, with slices of marbled wagyu beef and a hearty slice of foie gras simmered in an aromatic sauce. Another novel dish is their Uni and Salmon Roe Macaroni Gratin ($148), an unusual blend of Japanese ingredients in a Western dish. Some nights—if you’re lucky—the staff will put on a live cooking performance, placing slices of fish on a straw pile and setting it on fire to smoke the fish while leading the customers on a traditional Japanese chant!
Uoharu, 7/F, M88, Wellington Place, 2–8 Wellington Street, Central | (+852) 2217 8880
For those who would like to visit Koji Charcoal Grill, be prepared to embark on a scavenger hunt. This North Point izakaya has no signage at its shopfront, and only a pair of traditional Japanese izakaya doors and a thatched makeshift roof give its location away. As the name suggests, they specialise in charcoal-grilled items and donburi dishes.
This izakaya uses a traditional charcoal grilling station, as well as charcoal imported directly from Japan, ensuring that the grilled items all have an amazing charred scent and fragrant flavour to them. That said, the dishes at Koji Charcoal Grill are priced on the premium side for an izakaya, but you get what you pay for, including high-quality dishes such as Japanese Wild Eel ($480) and Alfonsino Claypot Rice ($450).
Koji Charcoal Grill, Shop 6, G/F, China United Center, 28 Marble Road, North Point | (+852) 2885 8830
A traditional speciality izakaya that has its origins in Osaka, the food at Jan Jan Kushikatsu centres around authentic Japanese deep-fried skewers. Contrary to the widespread impression of Japanese skewers—which is quite heavy on the palate and stomach—these ones are covered in just a thin layer of batter and breadcrumbs before heading to the deep-fryer. You know the shop is a good one when it is often frequented by Japanese expats! Customers usually opt for their set meals of at least six skewers, but each fried skewer starts from $19. Jan Jan Kushikatsu also offers modern takes, such as Deep-Fried Parma Ham or Deep-Fried Cheese to adapt to the diverse palette of the Hong Kong community.
Jan Jan Kushikatsu, 1/F, Soho Tower. 25 Hart Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2157 1410
A modern izakaya spot, Birdie shot to popularity right after its opening in H Code in Central. Birdie specialises in yakitori, a Japanese term for grilled chicken skewers that are made from different parts of the chicken, a style of food commonly found in izakayas. With 14 parts of the chicken to order, it can be hard to choose, but our personal favourites include Liver ($45) that is grilled to perfection and dipped in Birdie’s signature sauce, as well as the Thigh ($45) that is bursting with meat juices.
Birdie, 9/F, The Steps, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central | (+852) 2789 2881
Another yakitori restaurant, Yardbird is a local favourite for a fun evening out, and this award-winning establishment draws crowds from overseas as well. Tables and dishes are on a first-come-first-served basis, as everything is freshly sourced, but even if all the tables are filled, you can still choose to start your meal in one of the standing areas before moving on to a table as and when it becomes available.
We always start with the Liver Mousse ($150), served with toasted pieces of fluffy milk bread and crispy shallots. As for the yakitori, you can never go wrong with the Signature Meatball ($48) with tare sauce and egg yolk and the famed KFC ($120), Yardbird’s Korean-style fried cauliflower with chilli, lime, and yuzu. The Chicken & Egg Rice ($165) is also on the must-try list, and we personally love the grilled Maitake Mushrooms ($135).
Yardbird, G/F, 154–158 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2547 9273
Over in Tsim Sha Tsui, Goshaku is a must-go for sake lovers. They offer over 200 kinds of sake, and you get to play around with an iPad that gives you recommendations based on your preference, such as fruity notes or Junmai Ginjo, a different composition of sake. Their food menu sticks to traditional izakaya offerings, and you can opt for their daily sashimi selection or skewers. We love their Grilled Beef Tongue ($68) that is cut up into small cubes and grilled just enough to lock the meat juices in. Why not go for the Sake Tasting Flight to make the most of the night?
Goshaku, 6/F, Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2687 6565
You may think that Sake Central is a shop that only sells sake, but there are also food options as well. A long glass table is set against the back of the restaurant with small boxes of rice underneath the glass—talk about an aesthetic arrangement! Sake Central has an extensive range of sake for you to choose from, as well as small bites that change seasonally to go with your drinks. It’s always a good idea to ask the staff to recommend some sake for you to try since you can get a choice of glass, tokkuri (sake flask), or a full bottle!
Sake Central, S109–113, 1/F, Block A, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central | (+852) 2656 6552