Restaurant ・ Japanese
As the sister establishment to Kee, the ever-stylish private members’ club on Wellington Street, Koko brings the essence of youth in its ambiance. Guests are greeted at a narrow entrance that leads to an open, elongated dining space, with an open terrace overlooking the bustling view of Wyndham Street and Central Police Station. On a clear day the terrace is a great al fresco option, whereas the banquettes along the dining room side are spacious and comfortable. Night time at Koko brings an intimate vibe to the restaurant, as orange hues matched with darkened wood enhance the feeling of warmth.
Koko’s izakaya-inspired menu brings a modest selection in each category, from soups and salads to starters, mains and rice dishes. Guests can expect a Western twist in some dishes, and contemporary presentation to others. We started our night with deep-fried chicken wings, where each wing is split in half and fried until golden brown with crisp edges. Some of the wings are a little dry but with a squeeze of lime they make great snack pairing with sake cocktails. Tsukune arrives in smaller portions on serving spoons. The meat patties are juicy and tender, particularly great with the dashi-rich dipping sauce. The restaurant’s signature red mullet escabeche is a burst of flavour, as frizzled garlic and a thin ring of jalapeno pepper tops a bite-sized morsel of red mullet. The dressing is tangy and umami-rich, and the heat sneaks up on you after the toasty garlic aroma passes.
Main dishes are all about meats at Koko, featuring favourites such as baby back pork ribs and rib-eye with pea shoots and shiso miso sauce. We opted for lamb chops with black garlic and hatcho miso instead. Each tender lollipop-like lamb chop tops a juicy round of braised turnip. Dolloped on the side is the black garlic and hatcho miso, which excels in complexity as sweetness, tartness and umami build up on the palate in every bite. The uni and crab hotpot is a showstopper. Rice is cooked in a French-style seafood bisque until creamy and al dente, paired with flaky bits of crabmeat and sea urchin. Stir well before serving and allow the sea urchin and bisque to coat every grain of rice.
Guests at Koko can expect Western-influenced desserts. The almond and yoghurt cake with mango and caramel miso ice cream features a petite round of yoghurt sponge cake, whose potent tartness matched with underripe mangoes can be an acquired taste. The caramel miso ice cream, however, is a winner. The miso complements the richness of caramel. Dark chocolate green tea fondant with vanilla ice cream is enjoyable. The dark cube of chocolate fondant is fudgy throughout with a molten green tea centre, and the whole dessert has the right consistency and flavour to bring out the pleasant bitterness of chocolate.
The wine selection at Koko may be a bit generic, but makes up with an impressive array of sakes to choose from. Most sakes come in three sizes, a 90ml tasting portion, a 300ml glass option and a full bottle. We found the lightness and fruity characteristics of the Ugonotsuki Junmai matched well with the complex flavours of the menu’s offerings, particularly umami-packed dishes such as the escabeche and miso-rich dishes. Sake cocktails are well-executed, especially with the addition of house made fruit-infused sakes. The tantalising tartness of the Ume Sour helps cut the richness of deep fried items, while the Koko Negroni brings out the richness of citrus-infused sake from a blend of gin, vermouth and aperol.
Service at Koko is impressive. The sake sommelier brings expertise in the restaurant’s offerings, and make useful pairing suggestions. The staff make sound recommendations to menu offerings, and service is attentive and not intrusive at all.
A full dinner for two with cocktails and a glass of sake comes up to HK$1,400. With a notable selection of sakes and finely-executed dishes from snacks to mains, Koko sets the bar high for contemporary izakayas and certainly one of the better ones worthy of future returns.