Unit E, 4/F Ho Lee Commercial Building 38-44 D'Aguilar Street, Central
Tel: 3102 2255
Open: Monday-Saturday, 5pm-1am
Price: about HK$250 without drinks and the service charge.
Ambience: staff were friendly and casual, as befits an izakaya (a pub serving food). There's an outdoor terrace that's a great place to sit, weather permitting.
Pros: the restaurant features Okinawan dishes so there are some offerings not seen on other izakaya menus. They have a good selection of sake, soju and Japanese beer.
Cons: the dishes we liked best were from the Okinawan menu. The others, such as deep-fried chicken with negi (spring onions) and soy sauce (HK$80), and grilled pork neck with Japanese yuzu sauce (HK$98), were well cooked but less interesting. Bitter gourd is a speciality of Okinawa, but deep frying it (HK$65) isn't the best way to showcase the vegetable.
Recommended dishes: the Okinawan speciality of sea grapes (HK$55) are delicious, served with a tart dipping sauce that cuts the slight fishiness of the seaweed; the tiny 'green caviar' (as it's described on the menu) pop delicately in the mouth. Mascarpone with fish guts (HK$55) sounds unappetising but it's addictive. Mix the ingredients together and spread it on crackers for pungent, creamy bites. Peanut-flavoured tofu (HK$45) was subtly flavoured, but its almost jelly-like texture was cooling. My guest loved the Okinawan agu pork dumplings (HK$65, above), which consist of thin dumpling skins wrapped around a juicy, subtly flavoured filling.
What else? There's another branch of Rakuen in Causeway Bay's Circle Tower (Tel: 3580 8858).