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The best izakayas in Hong Kong

For your own sake, try these Japanese drinking dens

By Time Out Hong Kong

Izakayas are traditionally seen as watering holes for overworked salarymen. Combining elements of the best sake bars and hidden bars, they fulfil a role all of their own. Like the best gastropubs, they are just as much about the atmosphere and copious drinking as they are about good food. 

Make no mistake, the options on this list all offer great bar snacks and small plates to go with the drinks. But the atmosphere is key. The izakaya is somewhere where everyone’s in it together to have a good time. It is common practice to down 16 highballs, swear at your boss and tell Vanessa in accounts what you really think of her new hairdo, before passing out in the street and having to be put in a taxi by your colleagues. And no one mentions it the next day. By Sam Sinha

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Hong Kong's best izakayas


Restaurants Yakitori Central

Yakitori is found at izakayas all over Tokyo and that’s what Birdie specialises in. Nesting on Pottinger Street in Central, it should be obvious what you’re getting yourself into – lots of grilled chicken, from livers and hearts to smoky, crispy skin, thighs and wings. Take a seat at the grand horseshoe-shaped bar which, as well as housing the all-important charcoal grill, offers a selection of sake, shochu and highballs to wash it all down with.

Fukuro sashimi platter
Fukuro sashimi platter
© Nicholas Wong


Restaurants Japanese Soho

Fukuro’s head chef, Shun Sato, couldn’t be better versed in the ways of the izakaya. The tattooed fashionista grew up in and around his Dad’s izakaya before working at Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji fish market, which is the source of the restaurant’s fresh catch. The basement dining room is all elegant wood panelling and moody lighting, while the enthusiastic staff are decked out in stylish Japanese denim. Favourites here include the seasonal sashimi platter, A4 Wagyu sukiyaki and the caramel butter corn. The range of regional sake is delivered overflowing out of the glass and into the surrounding masu box, a symbol of wealth and generosity from the restaurant. Sounds good to us, pour away!



Restaurants Japanese Sheung Wan

This traditional izakaya in Sai Ying Pun specialises in charcoal-grilled proteins and sashimi. The team are proud to say they buy in whole fish and entire animals and use every bit. One of the highlights is the aged tuna sashimi plate, which comes beautifully decorated with Japanese herbs, along with six different flavoured salts and real wasabi. Japanese erotic art covers the wall opposite the long counter, from which diners can watch the chefs at work. The cosy spot offers lively chatter, excellent service and sake by the glass or tokkuri.


Restaurants Sheung Wan

Despite dropping out of Asia’s 50 Best this year, Ronin remains a lively hideaway serving the finest raw and grilled seafood. The narrow cave of a dining room is more low-key than its uber-cool sister, Yardbird. This younger sibling is happy to fly under the radar and concentrate on serving the freshest seafood and finest whisky Japan has to offer. In true izakaya style, there are no desserts on offer, just more drinks!


Sake Central

Bars and pubs Sheung Wan

On first appearance, Sake Central is a very well-stocked sake shop in PMQ, but behind a thick curtain lies a totally different experience. Not only does it offer perhaps the best selection of sake in the city, curated by ‘sake samurai’ Elliot Faber of Yardbird and Japanese culture aficionados Ken Nagai and Takashi Endo. Guests can enjoy a tasty menu of carefully prepared small plates, paired with sakes from all corners of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Photo: Calvin Sit


Restaurants Japanese Lan Kwai Fong

Tokyo import Uoharu specialises in the robata cooking style – pieces of fish, meat and vegetables are cooked at varying speeds over hot coals. Highlights from the open grill include whole mackerel, dried tuna tail and thick-cut tofu, plus there are delicious non-grilled specialities, such as sea urchin and salmon roe macaroni gratin. Start with a lemon gin sour or highball then be sure to order a bottle of sake or shochu to go with your meal. Kanpai!



Restaurants Japanese Central

TokyoLima nails the convivial izakaya atmosphere, pounding out its punchy playlist late into the night. The brainchild of the team behind Pirata, Pici, Meats and The Optimist, this popular eatery serves up the Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine known as Nikkei in its swish dining room. It may sound strange, but the two cuisines marry wonderfully. The menu offers raw and seared items, sticks, Nikkei sushi and larger plates, allowing you to enjoy a few small plates and maki rolls with your sake and cocktails, or go all out on a full meal.

Wako Teppanyaki Izakaya

Restaurants Japanese Wan Chai

Wako marries elements of an izakaya with a teppanyaki bar in an upmarket setting. The goal is to encourage intimate interactions between diners and the chefs and to take the traditional dining experience to the next level. The chefs here are also very picky about the ingredients, choosing only Wagyu beef flown in straight from Miyazaki in Japan in order to deliver classic teppanyaki flavours. If you can’t decide what you want, you’re more than welcome to ask the chefs to create a meal just for you.

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