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Anyone who has visited a genuine Japanese izakaya knows that design does not matter as much as the food on offer. Often lacking in style but with plenty of character, a typical izakaya is where pints of draught beer and plates of yakitori are consumed surrounded by boisterous laughter. Zuma is the complete opposite – it offers a quiet, elegant space in which to enjoy classic izakaya dishes given a contemporary twist. Conveniently located at the Landmark, Zuma occupies an enviable open-plan space over two levels and a terrace connected by a spiral staircase. One is immediately drawn to the hive of activity that is the open kitchen – chefs stand behind the sushi bar and the robata grill preparing fresh platters of sashimi and tasty yakitori. The dining room features a neutral colour palette and high ceilings that immediately puts one at ease. Diners are seated in a comfortable expanse with well-spaced tables, and can opt for a glass-encased private room for parties of eight or twelve. Modern but not cold, both the main dining room and the patio are relaxed spaces for a light meal or post-prandial drinks.
Like the setting, the food also reflects a modern shift: they elevate dishes in terms of presentation and taste by introducing distinctly Japanese flavours like ponzu, yuzu, and wasabi to the mix. While go-to dishes such as yakitori-negima yaki (chickens skewers with baby leeks) is made similarly, Zuma gets creative with its other robata grill offerings. Make sure to order the standout Hokkaido scallops with grated apple, wasabi and sweet soy, which is juicy as can be. It also has a handful of larger dishes, and the miso-marinated black cod wrapped in hoba leaf is rightfully popular. A generous piece of fish is cooked in a way that is moist inside but has a crisp coating of miso flavour on the exterior. Those inclined to smaller servings won’t get disappointed with Zuma’s impressive selection. Sushi, sashimi and a variety of small plates allow one to sample their range – try the seared beef with yuzu kosho-ponzu, it’s a definite crowd pleaser – while also leaving space for a creative dessert like Zuma’s play on chawan mushi.
As with any izakaya, the variety of tipples to tickle your fancy is considerable. In addition to a world of wines and spirits to choose from, there is a comparably broad selection of sake and shochu from the length and breadth of Japan. Zuma is also well known for its cocktails, which are infused with ingredients like yuzu, ume, as well as shochu.
The service is competent and attentive but could be dependent on the time you dine. Sake pairing and shochu recommendations come easy, as well as suggestions on which sashimi or robata grill dish to try.
Dinner for two comprising of sushi, sashimi and robata grill dishes with either a carafe of sake or a cocktail comes to approximately HK$2,000. Zuma’s izakaya-inspired menu will please all who favour a balance of traditional and modern, in a relaxed environment.