Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Homey lunch at Wanchai's Youka

My friend G who's in PR business was kind enough to invite me to try out this new Japanese restaurant in Wanchai recently. Youka - which literally means "The Eighth Day" - sat in the street corner on Johnston Road one block away from the Southorn Playground and at the helm is Chef Katsuhiro Ito, formerly of Tensho, and before that, Sagano at Nikko Hotel Hong Kong.
The decor - both outside and inside - was tastefully done. The dark wood facade resembled the body of a fish with its fin pattern, and inside was an amply lit space with a sushi counter that can sit around 6-8, small tables on either side of the walls, plus a high table in the middle for more casual seating. The arrangement was a bit cramped for a place of this size but not to the point of not being able to sit comfortably.

Their lunch menu was similar to others serving washoku in town, with items ranges from sushi and sashimi to cooked seafood and meat, and a number of rice bowl choices, to satisfy any cravings or preferences. This afternoon we went for the Youka bento set, which consists of salad, steamed egg custard (chawanmushi), sashimi, a few cooked items, rice, soup and dessert - yeah, with a bit of everything, it's not bad for the price they are charging.

There weren't a lot of surprises in the set - salad's okay and chawanmushi was decent. Sashimi was based on seasonal choices and on the day I went, I got hamachi and maguro, again pretty standard but they were nonetheless fresh and tasty. The cooked items - altogether four types - were presented in a neat lacquor tray. Just when I was debating where to start, out of instinct i reached out to the shrimp tempura. I don't have much expectations for a piece of tempura out of the bento box but the shrimp was fresh and firm, the batter flavorful and not soggy at all.

I also like the pork kakuni - which was pork braised in soy-based sauce with bamboo shoot. It's juicy and tender with all flavors well-infused into the meat. Perfect to go with the rice, which was cooked with the right stickiness, coming out in mild flavor and a hint of sweetness. The portion of the bento set was sumptuous - reckon that's more than enough for one.

We also got to try a few a la carte dishes normally available during dinner - including the sazae (horned turban shell) sashimi sliced and served in the original shell, shiokoji-marinated pork tenderloin, stewed abalones and grilled scallops. And out of those I liked the sazae sashimi and stewed abalone most - that gave me some incentive to check out their full dinner menu some time soon.

My initial thought is this is definitely a nice place for lunch if you happen to work in the neighborhood and look for something of no-brainer. The menu may be predictable with the usual choices, but I think the execution is spot on.

Where? Youka, Shop 1D, 35-45 Johnston Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

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