The latest addition to the Toy House in Tsim Sha Tsui is an establishment that hails all the way from the bright lights of Tokyo and goes by the catchy name of Yakichi. Acquired by the ever mercurial EN Group to replace Chura, Yakichi is the first branch of this famous Japanese chain to arrive in Hong Kong; and having more than 80 outlets in Japan means that Yakichi has enough bargaining power to get first dibs at the Tsukiji Fish Market, importing fresh and rare catch that are not easy to find elsewhere in this city.
We visited on a busy Friday, but found the interior to be rather dim – albeit neat and cosy. Upon entering we spotted some inviting private booths off to one side, but were instead led straight to the large tatami seating area (traditional Japanese flooring made with woven straw mats) located in the middle of the restaurant.
Dinner started with some traditional Okinawan cold appetisers, such as the sea grapes ($58), which on first bite felt similar to the crunchy texture you get when eating fish roe, despite it actually being a kind of seaweed. But still, it tasted fresh and sweet with a distinct oceanic flavor and was a good little dish to kick-start dinner.
Next in line was raw shrimp marinated with salt ($30), another authentic Okinawan appetiser. The shrimp was certainly fresh – it’s texture being perfectly chewy, juicy and bouncy – but other than it being overpowered with the taste of the sea, the salt simply drove us to drink more sake. This traditional dish, also known as “shiokara”, is certainly something of an acquired taste.
Then came the ‘big reveal’ as the waitress brought out the various ‘catch of the day’ for us to survey. After a brief introduction from our waitress we plumped for three kinds of fish, so that we could sample the three distinct ways of cooking them: isaki for sashimi, houbou for braised and nodoguro for grilled. Isaki ($250) is one of those summer seasonal fish that are commonly caught in Tokyo Bay. In terms of preparation, the whole fillet was cut into two parts, fish back and fish belly. The meat in the fish back was relatively lean and thinly sliced, which kept it crispy and slightly chewy, while the belly part was cut in thicker slices in order to maintain its soft and tender texture (kudos must also be given to the chef for his precise knife skills when cutting the raw meat. It’s an art that takes years to master). Finally, the main bone was used to make the legendary, but oh so simple, miso soup.
Next up was the whole houbou ($230), which was braised with soya bean sauce, sake and mirin (Japanese cooking wine). The flesh was meltingly tender with a superbly rich flavour, and together with the slightly sweet sauce was undoubtedly the star of the show. The grilled Nodoguro ($290) was perhaps a bit too salty and the fish skin was not nearly crispy enough. Luckily we were compensated by the tender, succulent and delicious flesh under the skin.
Outside of our oceanic adventures, we also tried the braised pork belly with miso ($72), which tasted delicious but was a little rubbery in texture. The steamed Australia wagyu beef with vegetable ($128) was simply tasteless, and was a real disappointment compared with the near flawlessness of the fish dishes.
And talking of their fish, they only get delivered twice a week – on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So make sure you make a reservation on the right day in order to taste the very freshest catch.
B/1, Unit A, The Toy House, 100 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, 3105 8950. Daily noon-3pm & 6pm-11pm.
Sea grapes $58
Raw shrimp $30
Isaki sashimi $250
Braised houbou $230
Grilled nodoguro $290
Pork belly witih miso $72
Steamed wagyu beef $128
Ten per cent service charge $106
B/1, Unit A, The Toy House, 100 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui