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In this brave new world of lunch extravaganzas (dinner out is now strictly off the menu owing to COVID restrictions), we ventured to the brand-new Zoku restaurant at the newly opened The Hari hotel in Wanchai for a taste of modern Japanese cuisine.
Housed on the second floor of the hotel, Zoku’s interior reflects the same refined contemporary sensibilities as its menu, featuring an intricate “origami” ceiling and muted jewel-tone accents. There’s also a terrace bar with stunning views.
Chef Phillip Pak, who was previously at CÉ LA VI in Hong Kong and most recently held the Chef de Cuisine position at Matsuhisa in Aspen, Colorado, brings his unique brand of modern Japanese cuisine to Zoku. Having started his career at the age of 17, Chef Pak trained with renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa and worked at two of his restaurants. The young, dynamic chef brings plenty of energy to the menu, offering a bevy of Japanese flavours, with kushiyaki, tempura, sushi and fusion starters and mains all offered.
Since we can only have lunch out these days, we have converted to daytime drinking (as if we needed any excuse!). The bar menu is comprised of whimsically named cocktails and classic favourites with a twist. Tsundoku ($108), a refreshing mix of daiginjo sake, gin, peach, cranberry, ginger and soda, is named after those book lovers who also love hoarding volumes, while the ruby-red Kinsukuroi ($88), a cocktail of strawberry, raspberry, yuzu and soda, is named after the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. Lastly – and our favourite – Bar Supervisor Jun Tsang’s “secret concoction” of fresh yuzu juice and chilled sake makes for one delicately perfumed aperitif.
Nothing quite comforts us like hot dumplings on a cold winter’s day, and Zoku’s upscale version, filled with buttery, tender Wagyu ($188), is a definite treat.
A feast for the palate as well as the eyes, the toro, uni, caviar and puffed rice temaki ($188) is a delicious study in contrasting textures, from the chewy short-grain Japanese rice, to the crisp seaweed, to the creamy toro and uni, to the pops of brininess from the caviar, to the crunch of puffed rice at the bottom.
The selection of nigiri, including uni ($198 for 2), ikura ($118 for 2), unagi ($118 for 2), hamachi ($88 for 2) and toro ($188 for 2), is delicately pressed and served alongside tender slices of house-pickled ginger.
Always fans of meat on a stick, we especially enjoyed the scallop kushiyaki ($118) with its bouncy texture and smattering of shiso. The chicken thigh ($98) was also quite juicy.
A fusion dish, the Chilean sea bass ($288) over a bed of Brussels sprouts, dressed in yuzu herb butter and oyster cream, is the type of dish one would expect at a fine-dining restaurant – satisfyingly buttery, with a delicate caramelised crust that broke apart in creamy, indulgent flakes.
With a Southeast Asian flair, the mochi cakes with coconut sorbet ($118) offer an enjoyable yet non-traditional way to end a Japanese meal. We liked the slight savoury balance provided by the miso caramel drizzle. Note that the mochi cakes are quite dense, so this dish is best shared.
Zoku provides a delicious departure from classic Japanese cuisine, which tends to be the popular norm in Hong Kong. This restaurant is a stylised, innovative take echoing the type of modern Japanese food that has made Nobu famous the world over – not surprising, with Zoku’s chef honing his skills under the watchful eyes of Chef Matsuhisa himself.
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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