First impressions of KOKO, Central izakaya with some special sake and a big menu

Collaboration between KEE Club and a former Japanese soccer star’s craft sake company has alfresco terrace, food for every appetite and drinks with poetic names like ‘moon after the rain’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 January, 2016, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 January, 2016, 1:36pm

There is a lot to love about KOKO, a “contemporary izakaya” that opened late last year on Wyndham Street. The breezy alfresco terrace overlooking the former Central Police Station, a DJ spinning tunes that get better later in the night, and the restaurant’s selection of food and drinks - especially sake - are a combination that will lure us back.

KOKO is a collaboration between the KEE Club and retired Japanese soccer star Hidetoshi Nakata, whose business, the Japan Craft Sake Company, created the restaurant’s sake list. A sommelier is available to suggest pairings to go with the dishes you ordered, although we found it enjoyable to explore the long list ourselves, especially when there are options with poetic names such as “moon after the rain”.

The menu abounds with everything from light snacks, such as black cod and prawn gyoza and tsukune (chicken meatballs), to more filling dishes, including baby back pork ribs and king crab chirashi. Except for the soggy rock shrimp tempura (HK$128), which we found to be rather bland, we enjoyed the dishes we tried.

Two raw fish dishes – red mullet escabeche (HK$168) and chu-toro tartare (HK$168) – were lovely. While the former appeals with an appetising ponzo dressing, the latter – mixed with a quail egg yolk – has a melt-in-the-mouth texture which contrasts with the deep-fried wonton skin we used to scoop up the minced fish.

The meat dishes are also done well, although we discovered only later that all three of the ones we ordered come with miso dressings, which luckily, are all tasty in their own way. Our favourite is the moist barley chicken (HK$178), which had crisp skin. Our group was divided about the other two dishes: the pungent black garlic and hatcho miso sauces with lamb chops (HK$228) and the Australian black Angus beef with shiso miso (HK$230), each of which had fans and critics.

The king crab and uni hot pot (HK$268), which has already become the restaurant’s signature dish, is a must try. The creamy, flavourful rice has a rich seafood aroma and bites of sweet crab meat.

Desserts such as almond and yogurt cake (HK$88) and green tea and banana baked cream (HK$78) are interesting combinations.

KOKO, 5/F Carfield Commercial Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2109 1777. Open: Monday to Thursday 5pm-midnight, Friday and Saturday 5pm-2am.