Tucked away in a backstreet alleyway near the end of the Lan Kwai Fong strip, Roji – named after the Japanese word rojiura, meaning alleyway – has opened its doors to offer Japanese food with a touch of French influence. The French part actually comes from the restaurant’s founder Agnes Mu’s roots, whose French and Taiwanese parents met and lived in Japan, combining the two cuisines for a new take on the traditional Japanese izakaya.
We took one for the team (how selfless are we?) and went to check the new place out – here’s what we found. Dishing out fun casual vibes with light bites and creative cocktails to the beat of old school RnB, soul, and hip hop, Roji feels like the cool hangout and izakaya we’ve been waiting for. Though the sadness of losing Brickhouse, one of our favourite Mexican spots in town, was still raw, Roji more than makes up for it with a brighter restaurant filled with table seating and high countertops, a slick bar, and semi-outdoor space with benches to perch on.
Hamachi and scallop
Food wise, the menu offers a range of dishes including small bites, starters, hot plates, mains, desserts and rice boxes, all of which come under $300. Highlights, such as the plump cuts of scallop ($138) is charred for smokiness and dressed in a rich brown butter sauce, along with Japanese asparagus, shiso leaves and dill, while an oily hamachi dish ($168) topped with salmon roe, grated bottarga and crispy garlic chip sets you up for the meal ahead. The rich flavours are balanced with a bright tomato dish ($98) which leans on the natural sweetness of oxheart, cherry and jubilee tomatoes brought to life with a zesty yuzu citrus dressing and pickled onions.
We thoroughly enjoyed the A4 Wagyu beef ($298) with white daikon, baby carrots, corn and snap peas in a shiso ponzu sauce, but it’s Roji’s rendition of crunchy deep-fried chicken katsu ($168) that steals the show for us. The dish uses the thigh for a tender juicy meat centre wrapped in a golden breadcrumb exterior which is a must-order with sweet and tangy tonkatsu sauce and mustard to cut through the richness. We also got hooked on the cartilage ($98) and could stop popping the deep-fried chicken soft bone with yuzu salt in our mouths. The menu also offers loaded mini-sized rice pots filled with wagyu ($248) or seafood ($268) which we didn’t have room for, but have already vowed to return to try it next time.
Seafood rice box
We washed the food down with some classic highballs ($95) that are interestingly made up of a bonito-infused umeshu, which adds a complex savoury layer of umami, sherry and Miyagiko whisky and soda, along with cocktails created by mixologist Lok Gurung. Their vibrant version of a saketini ($125), made with gin, floral akvavit, and bergamot carries herbaceous notes of caraway, dill and cucumber lime, and fruity Kinome cocktail ($120) with vodka, Fernet Hunter and tropical flavours of coconut and citrus, keep us sipping for more.
Left: Mugi punch, saketini and kinome cocktail | Right: Classic highball
As we end the meal, and head to the semi-outdoor terrace for a nightcap, bopping along to 90s tracks that show our age, we realise how much we’ve missed this feeling. Roji, and its back-alley location, seems to whisk us away from the weird and wild world and sits us slap bang in the middle of a secret spot in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai. And if there was ever a time that we needed this free and easy feeling, it’s now.
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