Izakayas are Japanese bars offering alcoholic drinks and snacks to pair. This quintessential Japanese experience isn’t quite a pub nor is it a tavern of any sort. It’s instead a designated place designed to stay and drink as opposed to a booze shop where you just take it home. In fact, the literal meaning from the Japanese kanji characters “居酒屋” is “stay saké shop."
Booze and food – what’s not to love? Just in time for the end-of-year gatherings, izakayas are perfect for catching up with friends and family. Also, with tightening travel restrictions in Hong Kong popping up once again, visiting these Japanese bars is a creative way to “travel” amid the pandemic by allowing you to dip your foot into Japanese food and culture without leaving the city.
Read on for some of our top picks for izakayas in Hong Kong to check out.
If you’re looking for fresh seafood perfectly paired with sake or beer, Isono Suisan is one of the izakayas in Hong Kong you’ll want to check out. From sashimi to boiled dishes, it’s up to you how your dish is prepared. Their seafood is shipped from Japan directly at the start of each day so that you can count on its freshness and quality.
Also styled like an authentic Japanese izakaya, with a wooden interior and view of the kitchen where your dishes are being prepared, you can snuggle into this cozy bar and “experience Japan.” Make sure to look out for promotions like the occasional buy-one-get-one-free sake.
Address: 19/F, Macau Yat Yuen Centre, 525 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay
Birdie serves yakitori-style dishes that pair perfectly with sake. Yakitori-style dishes consist of meat and vegetables pitched onto skewers, and they’re both aesthetically pleasing and easy to eat. This simple dish is the perfect “chill” snack to go along with your drinks, offering a fitting bite here and there throughout your conversation.
Aside from yakitori, Birdie also offers dishes like chicken and egg rice bowls as well as desserts to top off your meal. In addition, Birdie serves an array of alcoholic beverages to complement your meal, including sake, wine, highballs, whiskey and shots, too.
Address: 9/F, The Steps H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central
If you’re looking for a casual place to have a drink after work, this cozy izakaya will meet your needs. On a quiet street, Hige Izakaya follows the style synonymous with the izakayas you’d find in any local Japanese town. Settle in for the evening in one of their private booths, or grab a mini seat circling the bar for a more interactive experience.
Specializing in kushiyaki (meat-skewers), Hige Izakaya employs classic Japanese cooking techniques to provide the ultimate Japanese dining experience. Come prepared to splurge, as it is on the pricier side (you can expect to spend around HK$400 – about US$51 – per head).
Address: Shop A, G/F, Woodland House, 9A-9C Castle Road, Mid-Levels
Enso is a Japanese yakitori restaurant and izakaya specializing in serving variations of skewered chicken, such as Minced Chicken Stick and Red Satsuma Chicken Wing. The interior is not reminiscent of a traditional Japanese izakaya but instead embraces a modern and sleek vibe.
Enso has bar seats that allow you to watch the chefs prepare your food, as well as box seats for more private dinners with your friends and family. From staple Japanese udon and soba to yakitori and other unique dishes, there’s plenty to try (and share!). Each dish ranges from around HK$38-98 (US$5-13).
Address: Shop 5, 25 New Praya, Kennedy Town
Rakuen may seem intimidating initially, with the many jars and bottles filled with sake greeting you upon arrival, but stick around, and you’ll find a plethora of drinks and foods to enjoy. Rakuen offers “a multitude of Okinawan dishes and several other Japanese foods,” as well as an ambience comparable to a traditional Japanese izakaya. The Okinawan music in the background adds the finishing touch to making customers feel like they’re dining in Okinawa.
Grab a seat by the bar, and the warm and friendly servers will guide you through the perfect pairings and recommended dishes of the day. You can expect to spend relatively more money here at about HK$500 per head (US$64), but it’s worth every dollar.
Address: 12/F, Circle Tower, 28 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay
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