Review: With Good Vibes, Scrumptious Ramen And Well-Curated Sake Collection, Nojo Has It All
At 9:00 pm on a weeknight, the foot traffic along Pottinger Street is running low, but Nojo, a new contemporary izakaya, has no sign of stopping. The modern eatery occupies the ground floor of H Code (the sister complex of H Queen’s), also home to restaurants such as Birdie and Piin.
Nojo greets its guests with an open-air terrace with standing room where visitors can chill over beers and cocktails during happy hours. The space also doubles as a waiting area until the next table is ready for guests. The interior of Nojo is a handsome square space, with an open kitchen area set with bar seating, which are prime, spacious areas where guests can watch their food and drinks being given their finishing touches. Large communal sharing benches are placed at the centre of the room. The interior is reminiscent of a traditional izakaya, with the addition of industrial cast iron and dark wood embellishments dispersed throughout the space.
The menu serves a generous range of izakaya treats, some with a Western twist; but, more importantly, standards and execution are satisfying. We began our meal with the Nojo house-made umami pickles, where a mélange of fresh seasonal vegetables are quick pickled with vinegar, salt, and dashi to bring complexity. We love the light tartness, followed by the umami from the dashi that lingers on after we tasted the sweetness which originated from the root vegetables such as radishes, carrots, and daikon slices. The myoga, or ginger buds, were particularly enjoyable, as the sharpness of ginger was slightly muted and mellowed.
Bagna cauda in Kyoto-style miso is another standout vegetable dish. Cuts of raw vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and cucumber batons were served alongside a pot of warm dip, traditionally made with anchovies and oil and vinegar, but Nojo added a Japanese twist with Kyoto white miso. The warm dip was creamy with a sweet finish, as the miso helped round out the vegetables’ natural sweetness.
Overnight sake lees, soy, and ginger marinated fried chicken was certainly a highlight of the meal. The bird was cut into large chunks, well-brined and marinated before the meaty pieces were deep-fried until golden brown. Sake lees helped tenderise the meat, while the ginger and soy were staples to add depth to the freshness of chicken.
Unlike most popular ramen shops with their proud gravy-like pork bone soup bases, Nojo stood out with their paitan-style chicken ramen, where the broth base was prepared with mainly chicken, simmered for hours while breaking down the birds’ fat into liquid richness. Nojo’s spicy dandan ramen paid homage to the Sichuan spicy broth base, where the chicken broth was topped with a spicy pork ragu. The meat sauce added a fiery sensation to the rich broth, while the chilli oil clung slightly on the al dente ramen noodles.
The soy-sauce based ramen was a showstopper. Soy sauce added depth and an earthy touch to the chicken broth, while the large drumstick served with the noodles remained tender and juicy. We must also not forget the perfectly cooked soft-boiled ramen egg, with just the right amount of soy-marinade permeating through the tender whites.
The dessert selection at Nojo is limited. If you must have a sweet ending, the fried Japanese bread with assorted ice cream is a satisfying treat to share. Like a crisp pain perdu with a Japanese twist to it, the custardy bread was topped with scoops of housemade red bean, green tea, and hojicha ice cream. Other than sweets, Nojo’s beverage list is modest but impressive. The list of sakes is curated by Sake Central, and we were surprised to find a few good cocktails well-prepared with sakes as well.
Service is very good at Nojo, and smiles are everywhere. Like similar izakaya a settings such as Fukuro and Gonpachi, guests are welcomed with a cheer of welcome in unison and the service team are keen to help take orders, offering assistance and introduction and, best of all, checked on us throughout the evening. They kept even timing for guests, with food and drink arriving steadily throughout the meal.
With its consistency in execution, Nojo’s success extends beyond its convenient location—it is also reliant on its genuine hospitality that makes guests feel right at home from the moment they enter the restaurant. There is no better feeling than a warm welcome and appreciation from beginning to end.
A meal for two with one beverage and service: around HK$800
How we rate
Each of our reviewers score restaurants based on four main criteria: setting, food, service, and drinks, taking into account more than 35 different points of reference including manners of staff, usefulness of the wine list, and whether or not the restaurant makes an effort to be environmentally aware. 5/5 indicates an exceptional experience; 4-4.5/5 is excellent; 3-3.5/5 is good to very good; and 2.5/5 or lower is average to below average. Before visiting a restaurant, the reviewers will book using a pseudonym and do not make themselves known to restaurant staff, in order to experience the venue as a regular guest—if this is not possible, or if we are recognised, we will indicate this in the review.