Japanese cuisine is immensely popular in Hong Kong, with no shortage of izakayas, teppanyaki and even fast food. Yet there doesn‘t seem to be that many Japanese bars around. So we were ecstatic to try out Tsuru‘s brand-new Japanese cocktails, playful sangrias and tapas.
Located on Wyndham Street, the small bar was not difficult to locate. Seeing Japanese mixologist Katsuhisa Hirakawa show off his experience of over two decades from outside the bar, we were bursting with excitement as we made our way in.
Upon arrival, we were welcomed with a glass of Sake Daru Sangria ($500/1L), served in a wooden sake cup and scooped from a mini sake daru (barrel). It was a pleasant surprise to see the sake presented in such a traditional manner. The drink itself looked like white sangria and tasted of smooth sake, with notes of citrus from the chopped fruits nestled in the daru.
The Sake Daru Sangria is also available as a combo ($700) with shrimp tempura (4 pieces), seared bonito (5 pieces) and negitoro (spring onion and tuna) rolls (6 pieces). Customers can follow the traditional ceremony of kagami biraki, usually performed at celebratory events, by breaking the lid of the daru with a wooden hammer for good luck.
Next, we were excited to try the Sakura Mojito ($120) with its beautiful pinkish hue and, of course, sakura (cherry blossom). Made with sakura liqueur, shochu, fresh mint, edible sakura and Japanese citrus fruits (sudachi and hyuganatsu), the drink was elegantly light and refreshing.
We next tried the Shiso Marriage ($120), made with shiso liqueur, sake, cranberry juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Served in a tall crystal glass with a strip of lemon zest to decorate, it looked absolutely gorgeous. Its taste was a fine balance between sweet and sour, delighting everyone.
Moving on, we tried the “Playful” Fish Bottle Japanese Wine Sangria ($430/500mL; serves 2–3). Served in a gigantic fish-shaped bottle, it looked just like the soy sauce bottles that come with takeaway sushi, certainly living up to its “playful” description. There was not much of a surprise when it came to the taste apart from the use of red tea in addition to the red wine and fruits, but it was still a pleasant sangria made with smooth Japanese red wine that we all enjoyed.
A server then walked by and offered us their Shichimi Bloody Mary ($125). Head mixologist Hirasawa-san personally explained to us that they use all-natural ingredients to create a Bloody Mary with seven flavours. He utilised fresh tomatoes, peppers and even seaweed to create this concoction where the flavours were well matched for a layered, flavourful drink.
Lastly, we had the WA Negroni ($130), a mixture of Campari and vermouth made with Japanese gin and Asahiyama Senjuhai sake from Niigata. It was much stronger than the other cocktails, with a hint of bitterness, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
We first sampled the radish salad ($45), served in a glass bowl with bonito flakes, seaweed strips and a couple of sour plums on top. It was dressed with a refreshing ponzu sauce. It was so light and appetising, we finished the whole thing in no time at all.
The negitoro wrap sushi ($90) was cute, with the minced tuna and spring onion first wrapped in seaweed and then rice paper. The waitress sprayed soy sauce onto the wraps using a little bottle, much to our surprise and delight. It was a wonderful idea to prevent us from adding too much sauce to the point that we could no longer taste the freshness of the fish and cocktails.
We were excited seeing takoyaki ($50) on the menu, and it certainly did not disappoint. The little octopus balls were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They were also quite light, which made them perfect nibbles to go with our drinks, unlike the usual takoyaki around town that is smothered in sauce and mayonnaise.
The seared bonito ($90) came as a bit of a shock (since we usually see it as flakes), served with spring onion and a light sauce drizzled on top. The sesame and spring onion went well with the slightly sweet sauce.
Lastly, the pork cutlet sandwich ($95) was a pleasant surprise. The deep-fried pork cutlet was not at all oily. Coupled with a sour plum sauce and crispy toast, it was a lovely match for the fish-bottle sangria.
With a warm and welcoming atmosphere, guests will find themselves relaxed before even deciding what to order at Tsuru. Head mixologist Hirakawa-san even does occasional live performances at the bar, from mesmerising magic tricks to carving ice balls to serve with Akashi Red whisky. With creative ideas and elegant displays of drink and food, I have already found myself planning when to drop by Tsuru again.
G/F, Parekh House, 63 Wyndham Street, Central, 2523 9968
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.