Date of review: February 13, 2014 | Reviewed by: Esther Wong
Taking over what used to be Corner Kitchen, just up the road from Po’s Atelier is this new okazu establishment, serving Japanese tapas. Seating is limited, with one long bar table adorning the side (which can easily be converted into a private dining space), and several smaller tables within for a more intimate dining experience. The clientele are mostly young professionals, looking to unwind after a day of work with drinks and comfort food. The restaurant is decorated with natural woody interiors and industrial light fixtures, lending a comfortable and homey vibe.
The food menu is divided into four sections: ‘raw’, ‘sea’, ‘land’, and ‘soil, each with at least six items to choose from to cater to everyone’s tastes. As they specialise in Japanese tapas, the portions are smaller, so if you come with a bigger group you can try pretty much everything on the menu. We started with the uni spiked tofu, which came with homemade tofu topped with uni, dashi jelly, and a range of condiments. This dish is served cold and the combination of flavours was delightful, although we felt that the uni sometimes got lost in the dashi jelly. Our favourites of the evening included the Hokkaido sweet corn tempura, where the core was hollowed out and replaced with mozzarella cheese, before being deep-fried and topped with a little bit of green tea sea salt. The steamed razor clams also came as a surprise, with Hitachino white ale foam and chopped eringi mushrooms mixed in with the tender clam. The meat was already cut up into bite-sized pieces, making it perfect for sharing. The spicy wagyu tartar was also a crowd pleaser, with hand-cut tenderloin marinated with spicy miso, and mixed with egg yolk, white sesame, capers, chives, pickled onions, pine nuts, rice crackers and smoked green tea oil. For dessert, this section is noticeably absent from the menu, though we were offered one anyway: a caramel chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard), which provided a light ending to our meal.
Tabibito has a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks alike, but we were thoroughly impressed with the Hitachino Nest beers, pale ale and white ale, which are available on draft. At the time of our review, a selection of eight signature cocktails were on offer, but we are told that they may be making modifications to the list depending on customer feedback. We enjoyed the ‘Yamaboshi’, which was refreshing with its mixture of umeshu, apple brandy, roasted hazelnut syrup, and sake vinegar.
The service throughout our meal was friendly without being too overbearing. Our server was thoughtful and knowledgeable about the menu, giving us recommendations of her favourite dishes when asked for suggestions, and the owner was on hand to answer questions. What really stood out was the attentiveness and general atmosphere the servers created. At one point during our meal, we almost felt like we were dining at a friend’s house. Dishes come at a reasonable pace, and our table quickly filled with Japanese tapas.
Depending on your appetite, it’s easy to build up a hefty bill, even though most dishes on the menu range from HK$50-$200. A filling meal for two, including several dishes from each section of the menu, and a drink each, will come to about HK$1,200, which we think is fair value for money considering the quality of ingredients used.