Sunday, July 12, 2020

Yakitori by the pier

Despite many restaurants fully-booked during the Father's Day weekend, we found that this small yakitori place near our neighborhood which managed to squeeze us two of their remaining seats at the counter at last minute. 

With the name of the restaurant Hatoba meaning "dock" in Japanese, the place was (appropriately) located right by the Sai Wan Ho Pier. The restaurant was tiny with only a handful of tables and a few seats by the kitchen counter, but I love this rustic, wooden theme that reminded me of one of those izakaya by the train stations in Japan. The best tables were those right by the sea with the comfortable view and breeze - it's hard to find any restaurant that close to the waters anywhere in town.

The menu offer good variety of dishes, most of them prepared in skewers and cooked on the grill by the open kitchen. There were the traditional ones with different chicken parts, but there were also other meats and vegetables, and even live seafood kept in the fish tank depending on what's available from the market that day. For the size of the restaurant, they did have a long drinks menu with interesting selections of sake and shochu. Should definitely look into that at our next visit but this time, we just wanted a pint of good old Sapporo on draft. 

We began with a few starter dishes. The Hotaru Ika no Shiokara (fermented firefly squid) has the punchy, salty flavor with a slightly slimy texture - made perfect bar snacks. The cream cheese shuto has a similar taste profile but more balanced with the additional of the creamy cheese cubes. And I also like the refreshing flavor of salmon roes salad, served with just a gentle toss of mayo.  Just as we were done, the skewer dishes began to arrive, with the courses served on a table-top hibachi grill with hot stones placed beneath. The presentation is cute and practical to keep the food warm. I also appreciate the fact that the chef timed its cooking so the food came in sequence instead of all at once. 

It's regretful that we only managed a few courses this time but all of them were very decent. The tofu seems like a simple dish to make but it's perfectly grilled with a crispy crust with soy sauce basted on top while it's cooked. The cuttlefish sausages were served in thick slices with the pork sausage mixed with cuttlefish ink to give a rich flavor and dark color to it. The Tsukune was excellent, made with minced Japanese chicken meatball and served with the egg-yolk sauce. It's smooth with a bite with some cartilage bone mixed into the meatball. 

The prawn wrapped with oba leaf seems like a good idea - while the flavor was great, the texture was a bit off with the prawn pre-frozen. The three pieces of eels on the skewer seem a bit small for the price they charge, and I thought they could live with a richer tare sauce, but the skin was done crisp and was delicious. Ox-tongues and chicken wings completed our skewer courses and they were well executed. 

Was going to finish with the Korayaki (crab miso stew) but when we were told it's not available, we went for their signature Kamameshi with chopped scallions, leeks, seaweed and beef tsukudani mixed with a Japanese egg yolk. It's served in a fancy Japanese mini rice pot with portion perfect for 2 people. I like the mixture of different textures came together with the rice slightly crisped at the bottom for the extra crunchiness. 

Such a lovely place in our hood that we would love to come back some time, maybe on one of those cooler nights that we can enjoy the sea breeze by the window over a bottle of nice sake and more of their skewer dishes. 

When? June 20 2020
Where? Hatoba Japanese Restaurant, Sai Wan Ho Pier, Tai Hong Street, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Tsukune - Minced Chicken Skewer with Egg-yolk Sauce

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