Tuesday, June 22, 2021

For Old Time's Sake

My memory failed me when I was asked “So, when’s the last time you ate at Tokio Joe” at a recent visit to the restaurant. It must have been years, if not decades since I last set foot in this Lan Kwai Fong institution, right in the forefront of being the place to be some 25 years ago when it first opened its door (in 1995 – according to Google) and when “contemporary Japanese cuisine” was a thing. 

Fast forwarding to 2021, and I felt like they tried hard to retain that old-school vibe with the décor resembling those traditional Japanese izakaya, even with artefacts such as a record turntable or pachiko machine near the entrance, both of which I was assured by our host were still in working condition. And right at the center was the open sushi bar where the chefs were at work for customer’s order. The omakase menu was what we were having, and basically it's a medley of signature dishes and some new ones recently introduced in their a la carte menu. 

We started with some sashimi and appetizers. I love the tsubugai (sea whelk) with the crunchy texture, served in tasting portion with a dash of ponzu. The hamachi (yellowtail) was served with a kick of jalapeno on top along with the mild yuzu ponzu sauce. My memory of the place might be scarce, but I still remember their all-time favorite spicy toro tartare, with chopped fatty tuna tossed with a spicy mayo sauce and served in a lettuce wrap, with a full mouthful of explosive flavor. 

I also loved how the chef sent each of us a platter of sushi ingredients, including abalone, uni (sea urchins), amaebi (sweet shrimp), salmon, hamachi (yellowtail) and o-toro (fatty tuna), along with rice, wasabi and nori sheet, so we could “make our own” sushi. Sushi fundamentalist might have frown upon with the sight of such, but I actually thought it’s kinda fun. 

Same for the sushi rolls – I refused to leave until I have my sushi roll craving fixed with a couple of their signature, the Dynamite Roll with lobster and prawns (served with the deep-fried prawn heads on the side), and the one with toro and plenty of gold flakes on top. 

We finished with a couple hot dishes, including the deep-fried crab cake and beef goma fumi, with thin slices of beef grilled and served with sesame teriyaki sauce. And then there’s the miso soup and a platter of fruits and green tea ice-cream as our final course. 

While this won’t be my restaurant of choice when it came to authentic, serious Japanese fare, but for something fun and casual, sure why not, even if it’s for old time’s sake. (there ain’t too many restaurants still standing after 25 years in this part of town)

(The meal was by invitation)

When? June 7 2021
Where? Tokio Joe, 16 Lan Kwai Fong, Central
Menu Highlights? Spicy Toro Tartare - Chopped Toro, Spicy Sauce, Lettuce Wrap

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