Inspired by Japan’s dimly lit, cosy izakayas and gado-shitas, Yurakucho by Singular Concepts is a lively spot to check out some handcrafted Japanese cocktails and a variety of bites as you head into the weekend.
Left to right: Penishirin and Mido Koshu
The drink menu is spearheaded by veteran mixologist Gagan Gurung, who offers up memorable twists on classic cocktails. Starting our night, Penishirin and Mido Koshu (HK$120 each) whisked our palates straight to Japan. Peneshirin contains pandan rum, Japanese ginger liqueur and yuzu. Using a wooden cover with fine mesh, sakura wood is smoked over the cocktail. Unlike other smoky tipples, the sakura provide a subtle floral aroma. You’d expect the drink to be sweet owing to the added sugar, but it focuses instead on sour flavours, with the yuzu and ginger complementing each other well.
Mido Koshu is earthy and sweet, with the base of shiso and green bell pepper juice providing a bright green colour to the margarita-like drink. Mezcal gives a subtly smoky swish with each sip, and the glass is dusted with yuzu kosho, a mildly spicy fermented Japanese seasoning made with chilli, yuzu peel and salt.
Left to right: highball and Shisomato
Shisomato (HK$120) is a lighter version of a Bloody Mary made with Japanese tomato, giving an umami flavour to the cocktail. This blush-pink tipple contains vodka, shiso, balsamic vinegar and oyster mix and is refreshing and clean tasting.
For something simple, there are classic Japanese highballs on tap (HK$110) – easy drinking at its finest!
On the food front, the Kobi oysters (HK$78 for 2) are topped with yuzu pearls, which unfortunately don’t add a lot of flavour. A touch of acidity would be welcome with these shellfish.
Edamame (HK$58) are a popular Japanese snack, and at Yurakucho, these soybeans are dashi brined, charcoal grilled and accented with sweet miso. They’re super addictive and make for a great match with a highball or pint of beer.
The same goes for the chicken gyoza (HK$78). The plump, tender dumplings showcase crispy chicken skin. A classic Japanese snack that never goes out of style.
The food highlight at Yurakucho is the robotayaki. Leading the kitchen are chefs Vickly Mau and Matthew Chan, who highlight the natural flavours of each ingredient. The focus is on perfecting the grilling technique rather than on spices, rubs and heavy marinades. Admittedly, if you’re very hungry, you’re going to have to order a lot of skewers to get full! Kushiage (deep-fried skewers) is also available.
Our table was quickly covered with skewers hot off the robata. The earthy shishito peppers (HK$88 for 2) are topped with thinly shaved bonito. The lightly salted chicken hearts (HK$108 for 2) have a slight chew, while the hon-shimeji mushrooms (HK$98 for 2) are covered in a light, sweet glaze.
I found the seasoning of the tsukune (HK$98) and its presentation a little off. It tasted more like thyme-flavoured chicken sausage drenched in a sweet sauce, crowned with a large egg yolk. Personally, I prefer the classic version of tsukune – skewered chicken meatballs, with the yolk on the side – but this was definitely the heartiest robata dish of our tasting.
Yurakucho gives guests an atmospheric glimpse of Japan. I’m fond of the cocktails, but I found that the food menu is tailored to groups of only up to four guests; the skewers and izakaya dishes needed to satisfy larger groups would quickly add up. Regardless, Yurakucho is a great place to stop by both after work or late night for some tasty Japanese bites and drinks in Central.
Where: G/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43–55 Wyndham Street, Central
For reservations: phone 2663 0068 or book online
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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