Header image courtesy of Suit Izakaya and Bar
Originally published by Ching Yuen. Last updated by Celia Lee.
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 its dishes without charging unreasonable prices, the kurage jellyfish with lemon marinade is the perfect starter to stimulate your taste buds—just let the strong umami flavour envelope you in a warm embrace. Its signature is none other than the A4 Wagyu beef bowl with sukiyaki sauce and summer truffle, 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
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, which you may have already come across on your Instagram feed. Our personal favourite is the mouthwatering chef’s-cut Wagyu with yakiniku glaze and sansho cream that is generously portioned and 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
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 snow crab spring roll, lily bulb, Parmesan, which is presented in a crab shell that is carefully perched on a pile of ice. The KFC Sawagani crab with yuzu and sesame 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 Lan Kwai Fong and Admiralty, Uoharu is a contemporary izakaya with creative dishes that are bound to make your evenings a whole lot more fun. Its Wagyu beef fried rice 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 the uni and salmon roe macaroni gratin, 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 in a traditional Japanese chant!
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 roof give its location away. As the name suggests, Koji specialises 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 and Alfonsino claypot rice.
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 a set meal of at least six skewers. Jan Jan Kushikatsu also offers modern takes, such as grilled bacon-wrapped salmon 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 that is grilled to perfection and dipped in Birdie’s signature sauce, as well as the thigh 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, served with toasted pieces of fluffy milk bread and crispy shallots. As for the yakitori, you can never go wrong with the signature meatball with tare sauce and egg yolk. The chicken and egg rice is also on the must-try list, and we personally love the grilled maitake mushrooms.
Yardbird, G/F, 154–158 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2547 9273
Sake lovers will adore Suit Izakaya and Bar. A causal and cosy restaurant located in the heart of Sheung Wan, Suit offers a rotating menu of rare bottles on a seasonal basis, and patrons can savour the spirit by the glass, bottle, or opt for one of the sake flights ranging from three to five glasses. The food menu pairs exceptionally well with the sake on offer, and we particularly enjoyed the unique miso paste yeasty tofu, the cuttlefish blanket, and the signature koji-marinated yellow chicken rice that leaves you hankering for more. Round off your meal with the umami cocoa for a complete experience.
Suit Izakaya and Bar, G/F, 89 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan
Over in Tsim Sha Tsui, Goshaku is a must-go for sake lovers. It offers over 200 kinds of sake, and you get to play around with an iPad that gives you recommendations based on your preferences, such as fruity notes or Junmai Ginjo, a different composition of sake. Its food menu sticks to traditional izakaya offerings, and you can opt for the daily sashimi selection or skewers. We love the grilled beef tongue 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