The ever-expanding peeps behind the popular Italian restaurant Pirata and Spanish eatery The Optimist (which, by the way, houses one of the best happy hours in the city, with their drinks under $50, including cocktails, until 7:30pm every night of the week) are also behind this new izakaya (a Japanese late-night casual eatery).
It’s a strange entrance, set back off the street above a parking garage, but once you get inside, TokyoLima has a kind of den-of-iniquity vibe. In fact, it feels a lot like The Optimist, with its dark, warm and spacious interior – it’s the kind of place you could easily spend hours. You can eat at the bar, for a front-and-centre spot with the chef and his team, you can choose the island bar seating and look out over the restaurant or you can settle into one of the comfy low tables with their elegant leather-backed chairs. A long bar at the entrance is an easy place for a quick – or slow – tipple; it already feels like the coolest place on the block.
The menu is Nikkei, the name attributed to the glorious union of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines that evolved from the influx of Japanese immigrants into Peru in the late 1800s. And they’ve scooped up one of Hong Kong’s best Peruvian chefs: the easy-on-the-eyes Arturo Melendez, previously of Chicha, working his unflappable magic in the buzzing open kitchen. The newspaper-style menus are full of unrecognisable words and unfamiliar ingredients that add to the adventure and mystery of it all.
Beautiful, carefully crafted cocktails like the Inca sour, made with rye whisky, Cabernet Sauvignon and a sour cherry garnish, made us ache for more.
But the food had arrived, and our attention was captivated by the ki-mo-chi fried chicken thighs ($110), prepared karaage-style with a crispy sweet and soy exterior. The T-3 ($120) was a full-flavoured salad with pumpkin, quail egg, tomato and crunchy glass noodles that made us wish we weren’t sharing with the rest of the table.
The H&M ($130) came in a pretty starfish plating with delicately sliced strands of hamachi and maguro swimming in a clementine dressing, while the maguro and avocado maki ($140) were expertly prepared. The ceviche Nippon ($140) was chock-full of citrus-soaked scallop, prawn, sea bass and squid.
The tacu tacu ($210) had us all questioning the ingredients of this tasty and intriguing dish that gave a textural element much like clay pot with its crispy pops of Peruvian rice and legumes.
Peruvian corn is madness! Choclo kernels are the size of grapes and have an incredibly starchy consistency and nutty flavour, with a very slight undertone of that familiar corn flavour. The kabocha and choclo ($95) is a must-try dish for those looking for new ingredients to lay their taste buds on.
The portobello skewers ($80) were intensely flavoured thanks to the porous nature of the mushrooms, which generously absorbed the robust marinade, resulting in a sublime moment for the mouth. The beef skewers ($140) were tender and tasty, served on an interesting edamame purée.
The lobster with garlic butter ($360) was heaven on a plate. It’s hard to go wrong with that combo, but they certainly did it right here. We’ve talked about it much since and currently have visions of it circling our screen.
It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know what choclo, tiradito or even what Nikkei is, because if you like good food, you’ll love TokyoLima.
UG/F, 18–20 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, 2811 1152