Tuesday, February 9, 2016

KOKO Get-together with the Gang

The recent opening of Koko, a Japanese izakaya on Wyntham first caught my attention not because of its food but its sake selection. With professional footballer turned sake master Hidetoshi Nakata being one of the partners (along with the KEE Club people) there's no surprise that the restaurant has access to some of the rarest sake selections directly from most sort-after breweries (of course none more special than "N" Sake, one Nakata-san collaborated with the famous Takagi brewery - maker of the Juyondai sakes)

A few weeks ago I came to the restaurant for a dinner tasting with the CHF gang. Well, no "N" Sake for me this time but we were given quite a treat with a series of dishes done in contemporary Japanese cooking style done with sake pairing. With the freezing weather and the drizzles this may not be the best evening to be out and about, but those of us who managed to brave the rain and arrive early was awarded with an impressive series of snacks and cocktails, served at the lounge area. I particularly loved the tuna tartare and the tsukune, both served in bite-sized portion. The chopped tuna came from the chu-toro cut and was served with a boiled quail egg with the slightly runny yolks on a crispy wonton skin, while the tsukune, or minced chicken meatball, was deep-fried (not grilled as it's done normally) and served on a wooden spoon with a raw egg mixed with shoyu and mirin as dipping sauce on the side. Both have smooth flavors and were delicious.

Just as everyone in the party arrived, we moved back to the dining area for a series of sumptuous dishes, paired with a few Japanese sakes of different style. The serving size of their dishes geared towards individual portion or to be shared with a small group of people (2 to 3 persons). I thought all the dishes were quite good - I liked the Rock Shrimp Tempura served with a chili mayo. The shrimps were coated with a puffy batter like a popcorn shrimp rather than the more traditional tempura-style batter and went well with the simple dipping sauce of chili sauce mixed with kewpie mayo.

I think by consensus our favorite dish was the King Crab and Uni Hot Pot, the last course before dessert. It's prepared like a traditional Japanese Zousui, with the bisque-like soup mixed in with rice in a cast-iron nabe pot, and topped with picked crab meat, sea urchins and tobiko (flying fish roes). We felt it's particularly hearty in this cold weather.

A few bottles of sakes were served along with our dishes, and my favorite was the first sake served - the Azuma-Ichi Ginjo from Kyushu's Saga Prefecture. It has a neutral, slightly sweet flavor, with enticing melon fragrance and very refreshing, probably a bit light to drink on its own but went well with the series of seafood dishes to start. The sake list was on the pricey side, but they do have a good selection, some not so commonly found in town, and they also have sake sommelier to help you with finding the right bottle according to your preference and dishes.

Overall I thought it was one fine meal, and I will definitely be back next time when I look for a place for some casual Japanese and good sake.

When? January 11 2016
Where? KOKO, 5/F, Carfield Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights?
Tsukune - Chicken, Soft Egg and Nori
King Crab and Uni Hot Pot - King Crab, Uni and Rice
Azuma-Ichi Ginjo 東一 吟醸酒 - 佐賀県 五町田酒造
Matsu no Tsukasa Junmai Ginjo (20BY) 松の司 純米吟醸 (20BY) - 滋賀県 松瀬酒造
Koshino Setsugetsuka "Tobindori" Daiginjo 越乃雪月花 斗瓶取り 大吟釀 - 新潟県 妙高酒造
Web: https://www.facebook.com/kokodining/

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