Jun Yakitori

About

There are surprisingly few proper yakitori restaurants in Hong Kong. Places like Sapporo Ramen and Watami offer it as well as other things, and others do full on barbecue, but there’s not many dedicated to the little barbecued skewers. Which is why I was so eager to try Jun Yakitori when I read it was one of the best yakitori restaurants in the city.

The restaurant feels like one of those hidden backstreet restaurants you get in Tokyo. Entering through swinging wooden doors, you step into a slightly gloomy, tavern-like interior. There are small wooden tables and writing scrawled over the lumpy clay walls. To one side is a bar counter behind which a woman busily tends to skewers on the hissing grill, sending smoky smells wafting through the room.

The slightly confusing menu has a wide selection of meat, fish and vegetable skewers to be grilled, costing from about HK$20 upward. We started with a few chicken skewers. The ‘Chicken With Long Onion’ turned out to be small pieces of meat interspersed with pieces of leek. These were nicely cooked so the leek was just lightly charred and still had a freshness and crispness, while the meat was well grilled to leave it with a smoky and succulent taste. Unlike many satay skewers, which have very chewy and fibrous bits of chicken, these were pleasingly soft. A few pieces were perhaps a little too salty, but it was a promising start.

Next came skewers of Chicken skin that looked depressingly small and shrivelled on the plate, but made up for their size with the flavour they had – indulgently fatty and juicy. Following these where a couple of chicken heart skewers which had wonderfully soft and smooth texture and had been done in a way that really brought out meat’s potent flavours.

The dried mushroom skewers were somewhat disappointing. While they had the nice woody flavour typical of these big brown mushrooms, the grilling had dried them out and they really could have done with a bit more moisture – their lack of juiciness contrasting with all the pieces of meat. Quail egg skewers were better though, coming garnished with strands of seaweed that contrasted nicely with the smooth creamy white of the eggs.

Then came the highlight – a wonderfully cooked piece of grilled saba (mackarel). The fish’s skin was beautifully charred and blistered by the grill, leaving it tasting really moreishly salty and smoky. Its crispness contrasted perfectly with the soft white fish flesh inside, the flakes of which were all infused with a subtle smoky flavour. I felt like I could easitilyorgo the rest and come here just to eat this dish.

To finish off, we had a roasted rice ball with cod-roe inside. This was also really excellent.The big plump grains of pearl rice round the outside a nice golden colour and deliciously cirspy, while the rice around the roe stayed soft and perfectly cooked.

The portion sizes of a lot of the dishes here are admittedly quite small. But this is made up for, in my opinion, by the quality of the cooking and ingredients. This is definitely a good place to come to have yakitori.

Directions

33A Hillwood Road, Tsim Shah Tsui, Hong Kong
+852 2311 9291

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Raku-En

About

I’m writing this quite a while after going to Raku-en and am not able to remember too much detail about the separate dishes we had. But the quality of the Okinawan food offered here made me want to write at least a short listing to be updated on a second visit.

Hidden away at the top of a tower, this place specialising in Okinawa style Japanese food felt authentic the moment we stepped in. Japanese magazines and other items crowded the front counter, sake bottles lined the walls, and all the tables were already filled by excited groups of young Japanese.  It’s one of several Causeway Bay based hideaways for Hong Kong’s Japanese community.

The menu had a massive range of small plate dishes ranging from about HK$40 to 70. I am fairly new to Okinawan food, so was fairly bewildered a choice of dishes that stretched from stuffed fried chicken wings all the way to snapper carpaccio.

The pork belly in miso had beautifully soft pieces of meat which melted in your mouth, their small layers of fat adding a richer buttery hint to the taste. Each spongy piece has soaked up the sauces stronger flavours and let these drift sumptuously out as you chewed.

Fried chicken sunk into a pile of crumbled bread and garlic and chilli also tasted great. Each crisp piece of chicken would gather up so of this pile to add to the crisp flavour of the skin. Both this, and the skewers, were ‘snack style’ dishes prepared excellently and with extra elements.

The stuffed chicken wings were another example of this. With the bones taken from the middle of the meat, little fleshy white pockets were filled with a pasty stuffing. This was sealed in a wonderfully crisp skin that was perfectly fried to fill it with taste whilst keeping it from being to charred or oily.

Almost all of the other dishes we had followed a similar trend – full of flavour and with meticulous attention to detail. The cod showcased as well as anywhere I have been in Hong Kong the Japanese ability to prepare fish in a very simple way that brings out all of its flavours.

Overall, Ruku-en is a great place to go to explore Okinawan cuisine and to try a wide range of different dishes. I felt confident that the things I was eating were genuine and that whatever I ordered it would be well prepared and offer something interesting.

Directions

12 F Circle Tower, 28 Tung Lung Street, Causeway Bay

Website

http://www.rakuen.com.hk/

Cost

About $40 to $80 per dish.

Yachiyo

ramen

 

About

I’d walked past this place quite a bit. It’s tucked away in On Wo lane, just behind Wellington Street in one of my favourite semi–hidden areas of the island. There are host of Japanese restaurants around the intersection of Aberdeen, Gough, Cage and Wellington streets, and I’m yet to really weed out the good from the bad. Yachiyo is definitely good.

A Japanese friend had also given Yachiyo his seal of approval, based on the fact that the noodle company he works for supplies them. The ramen here had an amazingly soft texture, melting in your mouth as you ate them and spreading a rich buttery flavour. They are the type of noodles you could eat unadorned and really enjoy.

Here though, the ‘spicy miso’ ramen I had came wonderfully presented in a bright red broth scattered with different additions. The soup really was exceptional, with a deep and hearty miso flavour just piqued by the right amount of spice. Its texture was especially satisfying. While not at all gloopy, the loaded flavours gave it a thickness so different from the tired, watery broths in a lot of places. I’m told this is because, instead of using a soup base, the chef here spend about six hour boiling down fish and other ingrediants into his own broth. 

Scattered into this broth are a liberal amount of other seasonings. Taking your chopsticks you can pull together the bits of seaweed, pickles, ginger and even strange very soft boiled egg, mixing all these with the noodles to further add to the depth of the flavours.  Although these ramen aren’t cheap, they are definitely worth the extra cash for the attention given to their preparation.

The restaurant does a range of ramen, a couple of cold noodle dishes, a few snacks like gyoza and fried vegetables, and Japanese ice cream. The beer and sake are reasonably priced and would go well will a bowl of spicy noodles. Worth checking out.

Directions

8 On Wo Lane (Kan U Fong), Sheung Wan

Price

$60 for a bowl of Ramen, $28 for 8 Gyoza

Notes

Open on Mon – Sat 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm.

Tel: 2815-5766

Yu-Raku

About

Yu-raku was recommended to me by a Japanese friend and is one of the only places in Hong Kong I know of that does Okonomiyaki, a kind of Japanese egg pancake.

Slide open the door of this tiny restaurant and your only option is to sit by counter which stretches along the side. Perched on a stool here, you can watch the chef fry different ingredients on the hot plate in front of you and breathe in the different smells until you are drooling with hunger.

We began with the standard okonomiyaki which was a feast to satisfy any appetite, a thick patty of egg and cabbage and onion set on top of lightly crisped bacon and then smothered with cheese and the dark syrupy sauce that has a very distinctive flavour.

The care in the cooking here was impressive. A thinner, Negiyaki pancake was crafted over ten minutes or so, with the chef pressing rice crispies and onion into beaten egg to make a firm base and then scattering more onion on top of this.

The result was delicious, with the surfaces of the thin base browned but the centre still softer. Like the toppings of a good pizza, the ingredients scattered on top seemed to fit really well with this crisped pancake base.

Another wonderful dish used a really thin egg pancake to wrap noodles that were fried and smothered in a rich brown sauce. The combination of the frail egg wrapper’s soft, savoury taste and the richer noodles worked really well.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend Yu-Raku as a place to go in Hong Kong for an authentic Japanese Okonomiyaki experience. At about $70-80 a dish, it’s a bit more expensive than some of the other restaurants in the city, but then Japanese food usually is.

And eating okonomiyaki, packed with flavour and smothered with sauce and cheese, you really do feel more satisfied that you would many other places.

Directions

Shop E, 468 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay

Notes

Tel:2838 0061
$41-$100
Mon-Sat:12:00 – 15:00;19:00 – 04:00 (Closed on Sunday)


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