Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Youka Review: Low-Key Japanese

hkLifestyleGeek checked out Youka

Situated on a corner with dark wall siding, Youka can be hard to find at first. But once you press the button to open the door, inside is a warm welcoming place that serves top-notch Japanese cuisine.

"Youka" literally means "eighth day" and a Japanese writer once wrote about a cicada that lived for eight days, which is unusually as they usually live for seven. He imagined this particular cicada would have had a nirvana-like experience, free from the other cicadas. Another interpretation is that God created the world in seven days and so by the eighth day, man had developed the arts, culture and cuisine.

As a result, diners here are treated to a gourmet experience presented by seasoned chef Ito Katsuhiro, who has lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years and previously worked at Sagano in Hotel Nikko and his own restaurant Tensho on Jaffe Road. And not just devoted followers of chef Ito come to Youka, but also government officials and top businessmen, including former Chief Executive Donald Tsang who seems to have gained some weight now that he's retired...

For starters the soramamae beans (HK$90), large broad beans that were a nice change from the usual edamame. Stepping it up was a bowl of rape blossom with King Taraba crab (HK$90) that was refreshing and sweet.

Next came raw firefly squid with ponzu miso and shallots (HK$90), with the squid having a delicate taste that was drowned out by the sauce. Nevertheless we savoured the deluxe sashimi platter (HK$780), with slices of yellowtail, hamachi, salmon, prawns, scallops and a generous helping of uni that we wrapped in seaweed.

Then we moved onto cooked dishes, such as the right-eyed flounder (HK$220), braised in a thick soy sauce, and grilled US beef terriyaki style ($250). A standout was the grilled Kurobuta pork marinated with rice yeast (HK$150). Eaten with thinly sliced raw onions it was a delicious combination that seemed to further enhance the pork taste.

Assorted tempura (HK$180) is nothing new here, though we tried the seasonal sakura ebi (HK$80), small fish deep-fried together, but their sweet taste seemed to be lost.

Finally -- if that wasn't enough -- the kohada sushi (HK$50 each) was fantastic, very fresh tasting and refreshing when compared to the sea eel sushi (HK$55) that was more sweet. Nevertheless Youka is a place for quality Japanese food that won't hit the bank.

Shop 1D, 35-45 Johnston Road
Wan Chai
2833 5188

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