Pirata Group’s newest restaurant has just opened in Sheung Wan. This time, it’s a slightly more grown-up eatery – Japanese fusion set in a contemporary space – to accompany their punky temakeria TMK, next door.
Upon entering Honjo, you immediately notice a pop of luxury, from the stunning polished jade floor tiles in the entrance area to the overall moody atmosphere. The bar area is the first room you’re greeted with, with a bar that runs along the wall. It’s not the classic style with a barkeep behind it, but rather the bartender makes the drinks in front of it as if it were a home set-up.
The interiors were done by Charlie & Rose, who have kitted out some of the trendiest restaurants in the city. The idea was to create a homestyle atmosphere, with each room having its own unique style and theme. There are private dining rooms and an open dining area, where each table feels like the space has been considered for the comfort of its guests. We sat in the main dining area, which is a sort of safari-themed room with chairs covered in blue and green velvet, light fixtures of polished brass and tables wrapped in an impressive ostrich leather.
The evening feast kick-started with the cocktail menu, made up mostly of classics with a Japanese twist. My Geisha Manhattan ($150) was made with Japanese whisky and vermouth and yuzu bitters and was so good!
Once we sat down, we were given some bowls of edamame ($35) to nibble on, followed quickly by the arrival of the sake. The restaurant has over 200 different wines and sake to choose from. We sipped on the Honjo Junmai Daiginjo ($168/180ml, $270/300ml or $1,400/1,800ml), one of the in-house brands, which was chosen by the wine team over 10 different tasting sessions in order to perfect the style of the sake to complement the numerous dishes on offer. Diners get to choose their own individual sake glass from an eclectic assortment – a lovely touch. This attention to detail is a theme at Honjo, and its these small touches that set restaurants apart and make them memorable.
Now let’s get to the food! The menu is arranged by type (small, raw, hot, tempura, sushi and sashimi, sides, dessert).
Starting with the raw, we dined on a plate of wafer-thin Wagyu with chorizo oil, Asahi tosazu, crispy quinoa and chives ($150). If you’re expecting just an oily bite, you’ll be instead surprised with an insanely delicious melt-in- the-mouth texture from the beef, with the crispy quinoa giving it the perfect crunch. The chorizo oil provided a lovely salty, porky flavour and added to the softness of the Wagyu.
Next up, a single fruit tomato ($130) was served in its own bite-sized dish, skinned and covered in yuzu gelée and Arbequina olive oil, then adorned with herbs and flowers. At $130, it appears a little expensive for a single tomato. But consider the care and effort that goes into preparing this dish and the price becomes more understandable. This was undoubtedly one of our favourites from the night. It was sweet, juicy and tangy and made the mouth cry out for another bite.
Hamachi with rocket butter, white soy and yukari ($140) was served next, with the yukari (a salty, tangy dry condiment made with purple shiso) gave an injection of acidity to the luscious, buttery taste of the fish.
Next up was daikon carpaccio, radish sprouts and green tea oil ($90). Because everything was sliced so finely and laid out with such care, this felt really special to eat. It was cool, crisp and refreshing. This acted as a palate cleanser to nibble on between the other dishes.
Moving on to sashimi, we were presented with the most beautiful handmade pottery bowl on little legs that housed some perfect chunks of fresh and delicious fish in the chef’s sashimi selection (price varies).
This was quickly followed by the chef’s sushi selection (price varies), because who can choose between the two, right? The portion size was generous and could easily be shared amongst three or four people.
Moving on to the tempura section of the menu, we delighted in the light and crisp selection that was at no point heavy or greasy. And, drum roll please... Boston lobster tempura ($420)! The lobster meat was sweet and succulent, and the wasabi aioli was the ideal accompaniment.
Finishing off the tempura section was the short rib tempura ($160) – delicious little portions of deep-fried meat topped with shiso, miso and bubu arare (tiny baked rice-cracker pearls). These were soft and savoury and packed a lot of flavour for their size, with the delicate tempura batter adding texture.
From the hot section came the baby chicken ($260), stuffed with rice, mushrooms, pancetta and hazelnuts, served with a roasted ginger sauce. The chicken was tasty, but perhaps a touch on the dry side if we’re being picky. The rice, however, was perfectly seasoned and moist from being cooked inside the chicken and full of flavour. The ginger sauce was heaven on earth once the chicken was dipped into it. Comforting like your mum’s homemade roast chicken but elevated to chef level, we would love to have this recipe!
We finished off the meal with desserts of kuromitsu cheesecake ($110) with apple filling and pineapple and cinnamon sorbet and Too Much Chocolate ($130), an ode to chocolate along with raspberry sorbet, shiso sponge and coconut rum. Both were delicious, with the perfect balance of sweet and sour, and not too large, ideal for sharing.
I can’t wait to return to Honjo and taste the rest of the food menu and a few more of the cocktails. Dining here feels like a treat, and being able to move around the space and then have a drink in the bar room makes it feel sort of like a small members’ club or a friend of a friend’s fabulous home.
1/F, 77–91 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan, 2663 3772, 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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