It's hard to imagine trying to open a new restaurant, let alone a new hotel in the midst of a pandemic. However, we've certainly seen both happening all throughout Hong Kong. Right in our backyard here in Wan Chai, a small boutique swanky hotel called the Hari Hotel just opened. Inside there are two restaurants, an Italian restaurant called Lucciola and a Japanese restaurant called Zoku.
Bryan knows I love Japanese food (way more than he does, to be honest). So when he found out about Zoku, he tried to make a reservation. It turns out that reservations were a bit difficult to secure! I guess Hong Kong people still LOVE trying out new restaurants and despite the cloud of the pandemic still hanging over us.
Japanese Fusion at Zoku in Wan Chai
Zoku is a Japanese-inspired restaurant from Chef Phillip Pak who counts Nobu Matsuhisa as his mentor and spent three years at Matsuhisa (in Aspen). The food is certainly fusion-esque and most certainly reminded me of Nobu. In fact, I had those thoughts even before knowing Chef Pak's connection with Matsuhisa.
Upon glancing through the (quite extensive) menu, we ended up choosing the tasting menu because it looked the most interesting. Zoku has a very large menu, including all sorts of Japanese food. There are many different types of creative makimono (roll sushi), temaki (hand rolls), sushi and sashimi, as well as grilled seafood and meats (kushuyaki), tempura, and more Western style main dishes. It was almost overwhelming. To me it made sense a restaurant inside of a hotel would offer so many types of food to cater to all types of guests. At the same time, the breadth of Japanese dishes made me wonder what are the restaurant's specialties? Can it even focus?
The tasting menu was indeed very fun, and definitely a great way to sample so many different dishes. I also think many of the most interesting dishes are only available as part of the tasting menu. All in all we found the food to be well executed with interesting and creative flavors.
A Yellowtail Sashimi totally reminded me of Nobu, who many say invented the yellowtail + jalapeno combination from his time training in Peru.
One of my favorite dishes from our first tasting was the Wagyu Dumpling (young leeks, soy vinegar, garlic oil, scallions), which was just so perfectly executed. The flavors were really balanced, and the textures were perfect. We both loved it.
It's hard to go wrong when you combine toro, uni, and caviar. Zoku's version is certainly beautifully presented and clearly created to impress (yes, there's even GOLD on top). I thought it was tasty, though I wasn't particularly blown away by the dish, mostly because I have encountered this combination so many times already.
The main dishes were good - solidly executed and enjoyable - but did not stand out to me the way the earlier dishes had. I will say I was pleasantly surprised by the grilled vegetables, which had a really nice smoky char.
Kagoshima Tasting Menu
We came back another time about a month later. This time they were doing a completely different tasting menu called the Kagoshima Tasting Menu, which costs HKD888 a person for 7 courses. You can add a Shochu pairing for an additional HKD388 per person.
There's nothing quite like Zoku in the Wan Chai area, so I can see why it's quite popular and hard to book. The food is good, with some really excellent standouts. I believe it's a great, reliable place to get your fix of many types of Japanese food all under one roof. I think it's great that Chef Pak keeps it fresh by changing up the tasting menu. It makes people like me want to come back more often.
Another plus is that the restaurant has a terrace, though I have yet to actually sit out there yet!
Finally, the drinks are quite good. I really enjoyed the She's Old Fashioned cocktail, and it was fun to try different sakes with our tasting menu.
We'll be back!
Zoku Hong Kong
2/F, 330 Lockhart Rd, Wan Chai