Enjoy modern twists on traditional Japanese favourites, along with a standout drinks menu, at Zoku…
District: Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Contemporary Japanese
How much: Meet me in the middle – sushi and sashimi start from $68 to $198; skewers start from $88 to $188 and mains start from $228 to $1,288
Must order: Uni & Caviar Temaki (hand roll), Kushiyaki (meat skewers) and Yellowtail Sashimi. Head here for the full menu.
The best for: Smart business lunches and lingering happy hours with small bites
Hot on the heels of its grand opening late last year, The Hari has wasted no time in treating us to a second signature restaurant, Zoku. In contrast to its sister Lucciola, which spotlights hearty Italian fare, this newcomer looks to the East for inspiration, marrying Japanese tradition with contemporary flare. Led by Chef de Cuisine Phillip Pak, who has worked alongside the renowned Nobu Matsuhisa, expect to find seasonal Japanese produce featured in reimagined classics ranging from sushi to tempura and kushiyaki, all updated for the modern palate.
Located on the cusp of Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, The Hari sits on Lockhart Road towards the eastern end of the neighbourhood, and is about a seven-minute walk from the nearest MTR station. The area is largely dominated by austere commercial blocks, but what its surroundings lack in glamour, The Hari more than makes up for with its effortlessly luxe design, defined by petrol blue lacquer panelling, cosy amber leathers and elegant grey marble. You’ll find Zoku on the second floor of the hotel.
Read more: Your Neighbourhood Guide To Wan Chai
Decked out in a sumptuous palette of blush mauves, russet velvets and plush leathers, Zoku strikes the right balance between chic design and approachable comfort. We love how the tables are naturally placed at a good distance away from each other, allowing for a sense of privacy and intimacy. The spacious al fresco terrace (opening soon) is worth shouting about too, complete with a statement wall of greenery for ultimate jungle vibes.
Zoku’s menu is an ode to all your classic Japanese favourites, with a twist. The Yellowtail Sashimi ($288), for instance, comes wrapped in crunchy circles of pickled radish, and eschews traditional wasabi for a sliver of Serrano pepper to imbue the fish with a subtle heat. Meanwhile the Temaki, or handrolls, are presented in a custom wooden holder, partially wrapped in a form reminiscent of a taco; we tried the uni and caviar, and it’s a must-order!
One of the highlights of our meal were the Kushiyaki, or meat skewers. Our platter consisted of a trio of scallop ($118), pork belly ($108) and A5 grade Miyazaki wagyu ($188), which had been skewered and grilled over binchotan (white charcoal), and glazed in tare, shiso and spicy miso respectively. Though a relatively simple dish on paper, the subtle char and smokiness elevate the natural juicy flavours of the meat, and left us wanting more.
The mains we tried – namely the Chilean Seabass ($288) and Wagyu Steak ($428 per 100g) – were well executed. Of the two, the fish dish was our favourite, with its crisp golden crust and buttery, tender flesh, served alongside sautéed Brussels sprouts and a delicately briny oyster cream foam.
As for dessert, though the Tofu Cheesecake ($118) wasn’t a personal hit with us (we’re not huge tofu fans!), we did appreciate its light airy texture and cinnamon crumble crust. The accompanying matcha sorbet added a creamy depth that worked well to enliven the muted flavours of the soy.
While the drinks menu at restaurants typically appear to be an afterthought, second to the food, that is not the case at Zoku. Bar Manager Sabrina Cantini Budden’s programme of tipples is deserving of praise on its own accord. Here, Sabrina has drawn inspiration from Japanese flavours and culture to create a curated selection of imaginative, multi-sensory cocktails.
We loved the Suzie Wong ($108) in particular; taking its name from the iconic fictional character, it’s a heady concoction of whisky, rose syrup, cucumber and yuzu soda, finished with a spritz of rose water table-side. Theatrics aside, this pick was excellently-balanced and surprisingly light, despite the whisky. An honourable mention must go to the mocktails; we tried the Shirinyoku ($88) with shiso, pineapple, matcha and lime, which retained the same complexity of flavours as its alcoholic counterparts. We especially enjoyed the extravagant presentation (as seen above), which just goes to show that it is possible to go teetotal without missing out on any of the fun.
Zoku is off to a strong start with its solid food offerings and standout drinks menu; the modern twist on classics ensure it’s anything but your run of the mill Japanese restaurant, making it worthy of a visit. When restrictions finally ease, we recommend gathering your friends for breezy sundowners on the terrace, accompanied by small bites of sushi and skewers. Alternatively, we think Zoku is fantastic for a smart business lunch, with daily sets that start from $298 for a main, miso soup, pickles, mochi ice cream and tea or coffee.