A cosy izakaya offering Saga cuisine and excellent service
Hong Kong has no shortage of Japanese restaurants, but in all the wide sea of sushi specialists and ramen joints, Sara stands out as the first – and currently only – place in town to specialise in Saga cuisine. Styled as a casual izakaya with 30-odd seats, the restaurant is a simple space decorated with traditional porcelain wares from the prefecture it celebrates. Most of the ingredients used here are also sourced directly from Saga, in western Kyushu, including chicken from the village of Mitsuse, Kinboshi Saga pork, Ariake seaweed, Otofuse oysters and, of course, the world-renowned Saga beef.
On the night we visit, we start with a sweet and succulent whole squid ($498) caught in the port town of Yobuko and flown in as a seasonal special. The body, translucent and deliciously fresh, is served sashimi-style while the tentacles are taken into the kitchen to be turned into crisp, golden-brown pieces of tempura that still retain their sweetness after being deep-fried. Also in season that evening are Saga’s famed Kouju tomatoes ($98). Served chilled, these yield plenty of juice in every bite. They’re sweet enough to be eaten on their own but guests can also sprinkle crystals of sea salt to accentuate the flavours. Simple preparation lends itself equally well to the bulbs of garlic sourced from Egachan farm. Chargrilled with root and sprout still intact, the whole cloves are sweet and floral without the pungency of most other garlic varieties.
Moving onto larger plates, we order the Saga beef prepared as a gyukatsu cutlet ($338) on the staff’s recommendation. This A5 wagyu is cooked to a perfect medium pink and is enveloped in a crisp, sun-kissed panko crust. Anyone who loves a well-marbled cut will appreciate this dish, although it does get heavy after a few pieces and is probably best shared between two or more people. For something lighter but no less satisfying, try the soymilk noodles served in Mitsuse chicken soup ($138). Made in one of the most important areas for soybean cultivation in Saga Prefecture, these slippery noodles boast a slight bite and a delicate, nutty profile that pairs well with the broth after a dab of yuzu kosho. A simple yet delicious matcha pudding ($88), made with Ureshinocha leaves from Saga, rounds off the meal perfectly.
The excellent food at Sara is complemented by top-notch service, whether from the wait staff or the chefs. The latter, in particular, are the finest ambassadors of Saga cuisine. Aside from explaining each dish in detail, Sara’s chefs show as well as tell by constantly offering guests samples of other interesting local produce. Throughout our meal, we – and the diners around us – are treated to several complimentary off-menu items, including an appetiser made from olive flounder liver and roe cooked in soy sauce with a touch of yuzu zest. Sweet and flavourful, it’s a fitting reflection of the dining experience here.
12/F, 15-21 Sharp Street East, Causeway Bay
|Opening hours:||11am-3pm, 6pm-11pm|
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