The Hari Hong Kong is something of an anomaly on its stretch of Lockhart Road, a boutique luxury hotel surrounded by furniture showrooms, appliance shops and drab office buildings. Zoku Restaurant & The Terrace, located on the second floor of The Hari, is likewise an unexpected culinary gem amidst Wanchai’s typically more casual offerings. The main dining room is contemporary and elegant with warm lighting and blush-coloured hues, while the terrace area feels like a hidden garden oasis.
Zoku is led by Chef de Cuisine Edwin Guzman, who boasts a strong background at various Japanese establishments such as Peru’s Maido and Macau’s Aji at MGM COTAI, and he also draws inspiration from his Peruvian heritage (Guzman was born and raised in Lima).
Zoku Restaurant & The Terrace (photo credit: The Hari Hong Kong)
We sampled the Zoku Experience tasting menu, which is currently a South Kyushu & Okinawa degustation menu in partnership with Mizunara (a whisky, shochu and awamori specialist, also known for its cocktail bar Mizunara: The Library). The menu is available in a six-course option (HK$888/person) with a pairing of five cocktails and shochu (+HK$398/person) or an eight-course option (HK$1,188/person) with a pairing of six cocktails and shochu (+HK$428/person).
We tried the eight-course option and were impressed by the range of flavours and textures, beautiful plating and refreshing drink pairings.
1. Snacks (paired with Kagami cocktail)
There are three snacks, representing the prefectures of Miyazaki, Kumamoto and Okinawa, respectively: a Wagyu “tart” with daikon and caviar, a rice cracker topped with mashed potato and shredded crab and a chawanmushi with sea snail. These bites provide a strong start to the menu – the plating is stunning and each canapé is a well-thought-out combination of flavours and textures.
This course is paired with a cocktail dubbed Kagami (meaning “mirror”) that features The HACHI kokuto shochu made from brown sugar – one of my favourite drinks of the meal. This is a clarified cocktail – smooth, with hints of mango, pineapple, lime and even shishito pepper – and the mixologist explained that the complex profile of the drink enables it to be paired with the range of flavours showcased in the different snacks.
2. Mackerel (paired with Cool Mint shochu)
Up next is mackerel sashimi from Kagoshima, served with edamame pureé, ikura and a wasabi ceviche sauce. This is paired with the Cool Mint shochu, served on the rocks. The tartness of the higher alcohol content and subtle mint aftertaste help to cut through the fattiness of the mackerel. I also liked how the saltiness of the ikura and slight spiciness of the wasabi balance out the rich flavour of fish.
3. Katsu sando (paired with Yaezakura sour)
This has to be the best katsu sando I’ve ever had! It’s a refined take on your typical katsu sando, with thin and crisp layers of bread that allow the katsu to take centre stage. And the katsu here, crispy Kagoshima pork belly, absolutely deserves the spotlight. Slow-cooked for 12 hours, then deep-fried and topped with a Peruvian panca chilli sauce and wiry tendrils of spring onion, it’s buttery, flavourful, tender and simply delicious. For our drink pairing, we were served a Yaezakura sour made with lime and Yaezakura shochu that’s distilled from sweet potato, resulting in a drink that has both sweetness and acidity in order to balance out the richness of the katsu.
4. Kuro-dai (paired with Umai cocktail)
Moving on to the mains, we started with kuro-dai (sea bream) served with shimeji mushroom and crispy seaweed. The accompanying cocktail is made with Rokuchoshi shochu, Cointreau, ginger beer and Okinawa lime, resulting in a bitter yet citrusy drink that is meant to play on the umami flavours of this course. I enjoyed both the dish and the drink, but for me, the cocktail was a little too overpowering against the kuro-dai’s more delicate flavour.
5. A5 Wagyu (paired with shochu martini)
The next course is a dainty slab of Wagyu from Miyazaki served with a shiso-leaf tempura and charred red pepper compote, plated strikingly with a dusting of sweet potato powder. This is served with a shochu martini made with Tori Kai shochu, KI NO TEA gin, yusen vinegar and sencha. It’s quite a strong drink, but this helps to balance the richness of the Wagyu.
6. Zosui (paired with Shiso Oyuwari cocktail)
Zosui is a traditional Japanese rice soup. In this iteration, it’s made with rice from Kumamoto, soaked in a hearty lobster broth and drizzled with coriander oil. This was one of my favourite courses, and I would order it again in a heartbeat.
Our drink pairing is Shiso Oyuwari – a hot cocktail (oyuwari means “with hot water”) made with Sakura Ichiban awamori, honey, yuzu, shiso and oolong tea. The awamori used here has been aged for three years, resulting in a smoother and oakier flavour profile. This drink is a tea-inspired digestif to accompany the last course of the meal (before dessert), and it succeeds in offering a comforting complement to a very satisfying dish.
Our first dessert is a citrus sorbet made with oranges from Kumamoto Prefecture. The plating is a tribute to the landscape of the region, and dry ice is added for dramatic effect. Visuals aside, this is a faultless sorbet that also serves as a refreshing palate cleanser.
8. Shima tofu (paired with Kurouma Kunteki shochu)
We finished the meal with a dish inspired by local dessert tofu fa (豆腐花), or tofu custard. In this rendition, shima tofu pudding is served with a mix of fresh and jellied strawberries and an Okinawan brown sugar syrup, topped with a tuile biscuit that matches perfectly with the plate.
Our final drink of the night is a pour of Kurouma Kunteki shochu served neat and at room temperature. This shochu has been aged for three years in sherry oak, resulting in a more elegant and fruity flavour profile that helps to bring out the sweetness of the dessert.
Offering a well-executed, thoughtfully crafted and beautifully plated take on modern Japanese dining, I'll definitely make a return visit in the future. Zoku’s tasting menu is a great choice for the next time you want to impress or celebrate, although I’d recommend opting for the eight-course version unless you’re a light eater or still full from lunch. Considering how packed the restaurant was when we visited on a Wednesday evening, I’d also suggest booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
Where: 2/F, The Hari Hong Kong, 330 Lockhart Road, Wanchai
For reservations: phone 2129 0338 or 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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