Sunday, May 26, 2013

Happiness is dining on 101st Floor - Inakaya Hong Kong

I ventured out to West Kowloon to try out Inakaya with a few friends. Inakaya is part of the Sky Dining 101 complex which sat at 400 meter above sea level on the 101st Floor of the ICC building. There were two sections in the restaurant - the main dining area features dark decor with windows facing the Victoria Harbor on one side and stations with teppenyaki grill on the other, but the major attraction is the robatayaki area at the back, where we were seated.

I love how the robatayaki room was set up - in the middle were two Japanese chefs kneeling in front of the grill from which all food's prepared. At their back was today's special items written on the wall, and in front was all the ingredients available being displayed - fish, seafood, meat and seasonal vegetables. And everyone just sat at counter seats around the table, eating and drinking. I was told not only were the chefs came from the original restaurant in Tokyo's Roppongi, the decor was the exact replica of the restaurant also.

As everyone in our party arrived shortly after 8pm, we started with a series of classic robata dishes over glasses of beer. In my mind, robata cuisine was rustic and no-nonsense, but here they somehow managed to have a delicate spin to it. The green asparagus, for example, was seasoned with just salt, grilled, cut, plated and passed to us by a long wooden paddle held by the chef. It's a simple dish yet with just the right taste and the right crunchiness. The tsukune (minced chicken) skewer was also top-notch. Flavorful, cooked to just the right crispiness on the outside with the delicious sauce. Same with other dishes such as grilled tomatoes, shishito peppers, crab legs, wagyu beef, kabocha (with butter) and scallops. I just love them all, seriously. Okay, I think the scallop - which was served on its shell - were a bit overcooked but not to the point of being hard to chew, if I have to be hypercritical.

Overall the atmosphere was lively but not terribly loud even with a few customers who seem to have one drink too many towards the end of their meal, if you compared that to a bar or izakaya. In the middle of our meal, there was the mochitsuki ceremony demonstration - during which chefs, and sometimes customers, took turns in pounding and kneading the cooked sticky rice dough with a traditional wooden mortar, as part of the process to make mochi, the Japanese sweet rice cake. I gave it a try and it's not as easy as I thought - the mortar was heavy and was hard to hold. But well I don't know - somehow I felt the mochi that I "helped made" was extra yummy - it's served with sweet soybean powder coated on them and distributed to everyone as desserts. They also had this elaborate "changing guard" ceremony when the robatayaki chefs changed shift and all customers need to follow their instructions in clapping hands in unison. It's all good, light-hearted fun.

After the robatayaki treats, we moved back to the main dining area for more food. By now the rain which has been pouring all day has stopped and we were treated with a marvelous view of Hong Kong Island skyline from the window next to our table. Here we tried a few conventional Japanese dishes - my favorites were the sashimi platter with yellowtail, tuna and snapper (kinmedai), and also the teppanyaki wagyu beef served with special sauce and onsen tamago. They were all very decent, but if I must choose, I would prefer the robatayaki section for the unique experience and good ambiance.

From what I heard, meal at this place did not come cheap. But this is a lively, fun restaurant with serious food (and spectacular view). If you are looking for the feeling of being transposed to an authentic robatayaki restaurant in Tokyo, and for a theatrical dining experience, look no further. I had a good time there and I was happy. Thanks Inakaya and its owner H-View Group for their kind invitation.

Here's the rest of the picture on flickr:

When? May 20 2013
Where? Inakaya, Sky Dining 101, 101st Floor, International Commerce Center, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Everything from the Robatayaki grill

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