Lan Kwai Fong isn’t top of mind for a good dinner out, with most joints flogging unimpressive dishes and overpriced drinks. Tokio Joe was the first Japanese restaurant on the block, and has remained open for 10 years to become somewhat of an institution. The décor is a bit tired but having the sushi bar at the centre of the room still seems novel. You’d imagine it was right on-trend when open kitchens became a thing. The restaurant has dim lighting and yet the atmosphere is fun, making Tokio Joe an ideal venue to jumpstart a night of partying.
Hong Kong is teeming with Japanese restaurants so competition is already stiff for Tokio Joe. This is compounded by the fact that the demand for anything ‘fusion’ or even the use of the term is deemed passé, as consumers opt for simpler flavours and farm-to-table concepts. This hasn’t dampened the mood, however, as this is a restaurant that’s confident in its offerings and delivers the experience flawlessly. You can tell that they use good ingredients – the sashimi was melt-in-your-mouth as expected. In addition, the playful flavour combinations they’ve developed through the years are well balanced and continue to delight. A meal starts off with complimentary edamame and chilled tomato, both a peek into the calibre of food at Tokio Joe. In terms of starters, the hamachi uzu zukuri was a highlight, while the seared grilled scallop had a too many jalapeno peppers sprinkled on top, which detracted from the natural sweetness of the shellfish. The delicious deluxe sushi platter offered something for everyone, from crowd-pleasing California rolls, seared salmon sushi to the uni gunkan. Seafood is definitely made with love and this goes beyond their raw selection. The kelp-grilled seabass is a signature dish for good reason – it’s extremely moist and while infused with other flavours, one one can still enjoy the natural taste of the fish. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to sample any more of Joe’s rolls and cones, but that gives us reason to return to this Lan Kwai Fong institution.
There’s enough variety of wine and champagne here but one is better off with sake or beer to complement the food. The menu lists descriptions of the alcohol on offer, which is helpful if and when unsure of what type of sake to opt for.
There’s nothing formal about the service in Tokio Joe, which matches the casual mood of the restaurant. Servers are friendly and food comes promptly, which is more proof that they know what they’re doing and do it quite well.
A meal for two with drinks comes up close to HK$2,000 – something you’d expect to pay at a more formal venue. Given the location and quality of food, however, it’s worth splurging here once in a while.