Game on A quiet haven offering respite Amazake is not
The original amazake drink – a sweet fermented rice brew – contains either just a dash of, or no, alcohol at all. So it’s incredible how unlike its namesake this Central bar slash restaurant really is. Amazake (the establishment) hits us over the head with a robataya paddle with its resplendent offerings of cocktails, food, sake, beer, games, whisky – and did we mention alcohol? – a sure-fire recipe for a hangover. Surrounded by clubs Play, Levels and the newly opened Dizzi, Amazake takes over the spot previously inhabited by Masu, a traditional Japanese robatayaki and sushi joint. Masu (we can testify) was a reliable spot for lunch bentos, but, as an Amazake waitress whispers to us, ‘that’s kind of over right now’.
Other things that are over – separate dining and drinking areas, alcohol in controlled portions and long, overdrawn degustation meals. The Prive group has made an overdue move by going with the grain here. They’ve wicked their attention away from black Amex-heavy clients and towards large groups looking for a place to hang before hitting Lan Kwai Fong’s throng of clubs.
Amazake is spread out like a giant living room, with raised, private booths and an open bar – generously stocked – lining the walls. The central space contains several tables, which can be pushed together to form beer pong turf after respectable dining hours. Vintage, boxy television screens make a nostalgic sculpture in one corner and the walls and menus are printed with cute, imbibing sumo illustrations by design firm J Candice Interior Architects.
Amazake is perfect for both worn in groups and acquaintances that need a little ice-breaking. They’re proud of their games, which include Kiku No Hana (brutal when it comes to sake consumption), Amazake Bombs and Island Line (how many on that weird purple line can you recall from memory?). They also serve up tasty sharing bites, from wagyu sliders ($105) to lobster udon ($168), a brothy dish tossed with inaniwa udon.
But we’re here for the drinks, so we say kanpai! to our first of the night, the signature The Amazake ($130). Shaken with amazake, sake, shochu, awamori and umeshu, and a generous splash of lime and lemon juice, it goes down surprisingly easy. It’s a tad too sweet for our palate, but is nevertheless refreshing. Next, we try the Ginger & Honey ($125), a short tumbler of awamori, smoky Suntory Black Label whiskey muddled with citrus juice, ginger root and raw honey. Again, the sweet notes come through a little strong, but the thick gingery wash of the drink works extremely well with the alcohol. Other cocktails worth noting are the shochu concoctions, one rather unusual sounding Asparagus Martini ($120), and, of course, the bottle selection does not disappoint – Suntory whiskies are aplenty and the sake list is impressive. The Amazake private label house sake ($450 for 720ml, used in all cocktails) is also worth trying.
It’s well-noted that, although set up for a drinking game bloodbath, Amazake was a little empty when we visited, and the lighting was just a little too bright. We suspect a fizzier atmosphere would give Amazake that post-natal spank it needs – think your typical university drinking game hosted by Bill Murray and designed by Tarantino on a ‘trip’ to Tokyo. With games like these on the menu, we doubt they’ll have trouble pulling in crowds. Ysabelle Cheung
Verdict: Game on at this fun, group-friendly joint
Amazake G/F, On Hing Bldg, 1 On Hing Terrace, Central, 2537 7787; amazake.hk.