Here are my thoughts on the Japanese, Korean and Thai restaurants I’ve been to in Hong Kong. They’re all on this Google map.
Yardbird (High Intermediate A-) 33 Bridges St, Tai Ping Shan, www.yardbirdrestaurant.com
This hipster Japanese-style yakitori and cocktail joint was the talk of the town when I was in HK in 2017. It took me two attempts to get in as they are very popular and it’s not possible to reserve so I went early one evening and got told to come back in half an hour. After a drink up the road and another short wait, I finally managed to get a seat at the bar.
As usual I began with some Edamame (steamed fresh soya beans) while I read the menu (A).
The friendly bartenders plied me with Sake (rice wine), Shōchū (stronger rice wine) and Umeshu (shōchū steeped sour plum and sugar rice wine), the last of which I’d never fully appreciated until I came here, despite having lived in Japan for a few years.
The grading kind of went out of the window as I got to taste a fair few varieties, all good (A/B).
The best was the house shōchū which I just couldn’t get enough of. They’d been experimenting with steeping the plums for longer and longer periods and the results were excellent (A+).
Yakitori are chicken parts on skewers that are grilled on a small barbeque. I had the Liver with sansho and tare dipping sauce (B) and the Meatball with tare and egg yolk (A).
I enjoyed the Cucumber Salad with sesame, miso and pine nuts B+).
And I loved the Scotch Egg with cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise (A).
The Rice Cakes with furikake seasoning and sesame were good too (A).
Everything was excellent and I loved it, but it’s really expensive! I waxed over HK$1,000 in here so not somewhere you could go every day of the week, unlike this next place I went to in 2006 which also does great Japanese food.
Kyozasa (Intermediate A), 20 Ashley Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Open 12-2.30pm and 6-12pm
This is a very authentic Izakaya, the nearest equivalent to a pub in Japan, except that it serves a very wide variety of foods. This was just like going back to Japan for me; all the food was excellent and absolutely the real thing.
My friend Ethel and I started with edamame followed by sukiyaki (beef simmered in sweet sauce and dipped in raw egg), grilled fish, miso soup, sushi and sashimi and finishing with sake onigiri (salmon in balls of warm rice). Absolute heaven.
Ronin (Advanced B+), 8 On Wo Lane, G/F, Sheung Wan www.roninhk.com
This is the sister business of trendy Yardbird above. It’s a speakeasy type of affair with an unmarked door and no sign, so it took me a couple of attempts to find it. It’s not as busy as Yardbird, which is a good thing as it’s smaller with seats at a single long bar.
The food is very good apparently, they do a tasting menu, but I’d already eaten and was only here to feed my newly attained shōchū addiction.
They have the same house shōchū as in Yardbird, but it’s even more expensive here. I had three Chikusen Junmai; a handmade umeshu using junmaishu (premium sake with no added alcohol), which cost me HK$630. I loved every droplet (A+) but it was hard to justify spending that amount.
A great place, but sadly one for people who get paid a lot more than I do.
I’ve also been to a couple of Ramen shops, Yokozuna Japanese Noodle Shop and Ippei-an Ramen, reviews for which you’ll find in my post on famous noodle shops in HK.
I’m a massive fan of Korean food and I can’t get it in my home town, so I filled my boots while I was here. Hong Kong has a big Korean community and their restaurants and other businesses are centered around Kimberley Street, and the streets around it, in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The area is called Korea Town but that makes it sound more exciting than it is. By day scrap dealing seems to be the main activity on Kimberley Street.
Chung Gye Chon (Intermediate C+), 1J Kimberley Street, Tsim Sha Tsui
I came to this place on the off chance, after wandering around Korea town with nowhere in particular in mind. I’d just tried to get in to another very popular Korean place a few doors down but it was packed out. Know where you’re going and arrive early is the lesson.
As usual, the meal started with Panch’an (or Banchan); a host of little vegetable dishes. These included classics such as Kimchi (fermented napa cabbage), Kongnamul (cold boiled bean sprouts with sesame oil) Sigeumchi Namul (lightly parboiled spinach dressed with sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce), Gaji Namul (boiled aubergine), Musaengchae or Muchae (julienned white radish in a sweet vinegar sauce), and Oi Sobagi (cucumber kimchi, stuffed with chili, spring onions and buchu (Asian chives)), plus a couple of others I didn’t recognize.
For my main I had Beef Bibimbap, another favourite. Literally meaning ‘mixed rice’, bibimbap is warm white rice topped with more Namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables), Gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce, or Doenjang (a fermented soybean paste), and typically Bulgogi (marinated and grilled sliced beef). It’s usually served in a hot stone or metal bowl with a raw egg and the whole dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating. It was okay here but not amazing (B).
To drink I tried OB Premier Pilsner, a Korean beer masquerading as a German pilsner which, just like all the other Korean beers I’ve ever tried, is absolute piss water (C-). Shame they can’t sort this out.
The service was fine but I found the dining room to be very smoky and unattractive. The food here is okay but there are better places to be found. The search continues…
Mr. Korea BBQ (Intermediate B), 1/F, Surson Comm. Bldg., 140-142 Austin Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, www.mrkoreabbq.com
I love Korean BBQ restaurants and according to Time Out, this is one of the best ones. It’s quite modern with individual smoke vents for each circular table grill. Once again, the Panch’an was the first thing to arrive.
As it was relatively quiet I got excellent personal service from the waitress who sat and chatted with me while she grilled the food. She taught me that you should start with the fatty meat to oil the grill, and also that it’s quite okay to grill the Kimchi as well.
The food was good (B/B+) but the draught beer was completely flat and I sent it back (D). I later switched to Soju (Korean shōchū) but that wasn’t much better (too sweet, C-).
The final bill came to HK$583. So, an okay place, but I know it can be better. More research required.
Edition (Intermediate B), 37 Peel St, Central, edition37peel.wix.com
This is a Korean-American gastropub that serves fusion bar snacks from both countries.
I had the Bulgogi Sliced Beef Steak Slider with onion, garlic and jalapenos, and the Kimchi Fries with mozzarella and the spicy house sauce, and another side of Kimchi for good measure (all B).
Lots of soju drinks here as you’d imagine, many of which have been infused with fruits in-house. I had the Soju Margarita which was nice (B).
With a bottle of Tsing Tao the bill came to HK$358.
A cosy, unpretentious place with a friendly welcome.
I didn’t get to as many Thai places as I’d like to although there is a large community of Thais in HK. According to my friend Tom, Kowloon City is the area to go to but I didn’t have time. However I did go to this place in Causeway Bay for lunch…
Thai Shing (Low Intermediate B), G/F, Tang Fai Building, 36 Tung Lung Street, Causeway Bay
I came here as it was just around the block from where I’m working, but it got on my map due to its inclusion in CNN’s list of ‘ 40 dishes we can’t live without’.
The dish in question is the Shrimp Sashimi; raw prawns served with raw garlic and chilli on a bed of ice. It was a first for me, but I can’t say I was that impressed (B) as they don’t taste of much. I’m sure other things on the menu are good though.
I’ve since discovered that there is an excellent ramen shop called Kanada-ya right next door at 36 Tung Lung Street. One for next time…
So that’s it for the food. Bars and boozing next!