Mon to Sat, 12:00 noon - 2:30 pm
Sun to Thu, 6:30 pm - 11:00pm; Fri to Sat, 6:30 pm - 11:30 pm
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Aji usu zukuri
Vegetable kakiage roll
Kelp-grilled sea bass
Set in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong, Tokio Joe has all the youthful buzz and hype a restaurant in the city’s drinking district can offer. Unfortunately, it also has all the noise. The restaurant decor is tasteful for the most part, staying true to its Japanese identity without looking overdone, although the wooden chairs with the nondescript covers seemed a bit out of place. Otherwise, the lighting is comfortably dimmed, the music appropriate and the ambience would have been fitting a restaurant of Tokio Joe’s calibre if it weren’t for the blasts of street noise that screech in every time the door slides open. But perhaps that very energy is what draws the young and hip to this popular restaurant.
In a city where Japanese food ranks among the top two favourite cuisines, a Japanese restaurant needs to be exceptionally good (or exceptionally cheap) to stay afloat. Tokio Joe doesn’t disappoint. The assorted sashimi platter (regular: HK$395) is served delightfully fresh and at the perfect temperature. The restaurant’s signature Rainbow Roll (HK$170) – amaebi, crabstick, egg, avocado and mayonnaise wrapped with sliced fish – is delicious and ideal for sharing, but with regards to taste and texture, it pales in comparison to the House Special Roll (HK$170). The house roll consists of deep-fried softshell crab, cucumber and mayonnaise, wrapped in rice then topped with avocado slices and healthy servings of crab roe. The pairing of the piping hot crab and the cool cucumber, with the crunchiness of the latter complementing the creamy avocado and mayonnaise, makes each mouthful a pure delight. Another house special, Joe’s Cone (HK$85), is a fun one to order. A hand roll with fresh prawns, scallops, crab roe and cucumber, topped with a half-cracked quail egg, the cone is particularly photogenic but in reality a rather messy affair. Even if you manage to tip the half-cooked quail egg into the roll, the nori will likely be soggy by then from your efforts and the earlier photo snapping. For a belly-warmer, Tokio Joe does a decent tempura, and their hot soba is fine, fresh and subtly seasoned. The tempura cha soba (HK$120) in particular is a winner.
Tokio Joe has a decent wine list, complete with detailed tasting notes, but we recommend going for their sake. The restaurant has a healthy selection of both hot and chilled sake, the list has helpful notes on each option, and the staff is on hand to make informed recommendations based on your order, preference and budget.
The waitstaff at Tokio Joe is well-trained and friendly. Service comes with a smile even during the busy dinner rush, and the staff is efficient and knowledgeable about the food and sake menu.
Dinner for two comes out to about HK$1,000 for two, excluding alcohol. Considering its location and ambience, this is not bad value for money.