Perfectly suited for intimate dining under current restrictions, Central Hong Kong’s new Yakiniku Ishidaya offers a world-class Wagyu beef experience.
There’s no doubt that Hong Kong has a fascination with all things Japanese, which to outsiders may seem a little odd given the two country’s turbulent past. However, insiders will understand that this is about a recognition by Hong Kongers of Japan’s reverence for quality, precision and tradition, all things we can certainly appreciate.
And nowhere is this admiration more discernable than at the dining table; Hong Kong probably has one of the highest ratios of Japanese restaurants to population in the world and there are always new eateries popping up, from initiate sushi joints to vibrant teppanyaki hotspots, and elegant yakiniku restaurants.
Yakiniku Ishidaya is more than just a new addition to the city’s dining scene; it’s the first overseas outpost of Kobe Ishidaya, a culinary icon of Hyogo Prefecture, home to some of the world’s best Tajima Wagyu beef stock.
Grilling cuts handpicked by founder Kiyonori Ishida that include Wagyu and Kobe branded with the coveted purple chrysanthemum (the sign of genuine Kobe beef), Yakiniku Ishidaya marries great produce with an intimate dining experience in a series of deep-set booths and private rooms that are perfectly suited to current dining restrictions.
With dark, intimate interiors by Alexander Chang of A&A Design that fuse traditional and contemporary elements ranging from stone and charred wood to onyx, weaved steel and wire mesh or ami, the restaurant allows Hong Kong diners the chance to ‘travel’ to Kobe for an hour or two, and to experience the tradition of Kobe Ishidaya without a passport.
The new restaurant’s menu is extensive and includes chicken, pork and seafood dishes, as well as a host of Japanese vegetable and salad options but the reality is you’re here for the beef, which includes over 15 premium cuts of A4 and A5-grade Japanese Wagyu (from HK$158) and that oh-so-coveted Kobe (from HK$688).
Soon after taking our seats one busy weekday afternoon, my dining companion and I are welcomed by our yakiniku master, Steven, whose knowledge of premium Japanese beef is immediately evident. He presents a cross-section of beef cuts, all of which are included in the restaurant’s Tasting Menu, and which are complemented by a house salad of greens, ponzu, onion and crispy shallots; cold Wagyu noodles, and Japanese wines.
We kick off with glasses of 2019 ‘Kashiwabara Vineyard’, a red wine made from muscat bailey A grapes from Yamagata’s Asahimachi winery. Yakiniku Ishidaya has an extensive selection of sought-after Japanese sake, shochu imported from Kagoshima, Kumamoto, and Okinawa, and Japanese whiskies like Yoichi and Miyagikyo. However, I’d never had Japanese wine before, and the sweet, fruity red lent itself well to the slithers of superbly roasted Wagyu, topped with rocket, pink peppercorns, a touch of truffle oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan, that were served while Steven warmed up the yakiniku grill, onto which he placed strips of A5 Kobe Wagyu rib eye.
I’ll be honest, I find Kobe, with its exceptional marbling and buttery texture, a little rich (I know, I’m a peasant), but these few perfectly-cooked portions were just enough to showcase the intense yet elegant flavour of the coveted beef without overpowering the palate. Served with a touch of wasabi, house beef jus, and a touch of soy sauce on the side, the Kobe rib eye was a decadent first salvo and one that was quickly followed by thicker cuts of A5 Wagyu Chateaubriand, a classic tenderloin that quickly picked up a lovely char from the grill while staying pink and incredibly flavourful within.
Our final yakiniku dish was the Omakase Platter, three cuts selected and marinated by the chef on any given day – in our case chuck rolls, karubi or flank, and what is labelled simply as “lean”. Again, Steven cooked each morsel to perfection, and unlike with the Kobe, which required a touch of wasabi to cut through the nearly-melted fat, these leaner cuts are a meat-lovers dream just as they are.
We finish our lunch with a bowl of Wagyu noodles, with a slightly sweet broth, a hard boiled egg, and a touch of saffron complementing the firm noodles in a cleansing last touch to an exceptional example of timeless yakiniku.
3/F, Century Square, 1-13 D’ Aguilar Street, Central; +852 2983 6838
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