Sundowners and sweet tunes: It’s all about the right ambiance when it comes to choosing a relaxing spot to unwind after a long hectic day. It seems that we’ve found the ideal pairing at the new KOKO, a modern izakaya featuring eclectic tunes and rare sakes. A partnership between Hong Kong party icon KEE Club and world famous footballer and sake ambassador Hidetoshi Nakata, the contemporary izakaya features vintage sakes from exclusive boutique producers in Japan as well as renowned whiskies from Hakushu, Yamazaki, Yoichi and Suntory. There’s even a sake sommelier to provide suggestions on food pairings. Simon Pang Washford, who is the Head of Music at KEE, handpicks the DJs to create the perfect blend of eclectic music for guests to sip to.

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Ideal pairings: Our evening started with drinks on the spacious garden terrace overlooking the historic Central Police Station. We sipped on refreshing glasses of apple sake and cinnamon infused glasses of Ringo Spritzer ($60), alongside moreish small bites ranging from tuna tartare adorned with soft-boiled quail eggs ($88), red mullet escabeche cured in zesty ponzu ($168) and juicy tsukune dipped in velvety egg yolk ($98) before moving onwards to a cosy secluded booth. We warmed our bellies with spicy seafood soup ($128) brimming with tender fish, scallops and prawns and slurped up umami-rich broth from the clams steamed in sake ($168). The rock shrimp tempura ($128) was slightly rubbery but still made a good pairing to the crisp, sweet Azuma Ichi sake. The baby back pork ribs ($188) in a sticky stock glaze was fingerlicking good, and fall-off-the-bone tender, while the lamb chops ($228) dressed in black garlic and Hatcho miso were seared to a perfect blushing pink. The Australian Black Angus ribeye ($230) was a touch overcooked, and paled in flavour when compared to the ribs and chops. The pièce de résistance arrived in the form of a bubbling hot pot of king crab and uni over rice ($268). Each kernel of rice was plumped by the rich umami seafood broth, embellished with sweet morsels of crab and sea urchin. Our meal concluded with an almond and yoghurt cake ($88) paired curiously with a caramel miso ice cream that reminded us of salted caramel, as well as a green tea and baked banana cream ($78) that sounded odd on paper but was a tropical treat with the coconut foam. However, our favourite was the dark chocolate green tea fondant ($98) which oozed in all its gooey delicious glory, although it tasted more of chocolate than matcha.

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Verdict: With all these new restaurants popping up built on “buzzwords” and complicated “flavour of the week” concepts, it’s refreshing to see a new opening that focuses on simple dishes and classic drinks. The menu is straight-forward and doesn’t succumb to any hipster inklings, plus, the sake sommelier is quite easy on the eyes.

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5/F, Carfield Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, 

2109 1777

Editor-at-Large, Jetsetter Food Nomad

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