Word of mouth is a good way to kick start a culinary business. Albeit Hong Kong not being short on Japanese restaurants, the grand opening of Roji – a modern Japanese Izakaya with a French twist – was a definite head-turner for any foodie alike. When we heard that the latest establishment to join the Central district will be serving its own creative rendition of izakaya dishes we all know and love is opening on D’Aguilar Street, we just had to check it out!
Conveniently located on the slope to Lan Kwai Fong, it’s apparent that Roji would soon become one of Hong Kong’s hotspots for late-night snacks and drinks. The name Roji is fittingly named after Roji Ura meaning alleyway hideout in Japanese as it replaces the previously spaced, Brickhouse. As you walk through the alleyway, you’re welcomed by dimly lit lights and a tranquil ambiance eclipsed by funky 90’s pop music.
A sure thing to catch your attention is the open bar where mixologists can be seen stirring up refreshing cocktails or even the classic highball carefully curated to accompany your dishes. The semi-outdoor benches that emulate the street style dining culture in Japan also can’t go unnoticed which shines the perfect blend of modernity and liveliness to the hushed outdoors. Or if you’re hanging with a larger party, the large countertop in the centre of the dining room is the way to go.
In true Izakaya fashion, we couldn’t ignore the carefully curated list of drinks to accompany the dish. We started the night with a bang with the Classic Highball (HK$95) which fuses bonito umeshu and sherry with Miyagikyo whiskey. Blended with an ultra-fizzy concoction and savoury subtle notes that aren’t overshadowed by heavy bubbles, the smoky apple and floral aromatics of the highball was the perfect aperitif to get our appetite rolling.
Dishes at Roji are made with locally sourced ingredients prepared with French cooking styles, bringing the perfect marriage of the East and West. You can expect the cleanest of flavours prepared by gastronomical wonders with each dish. Their small plates are a great place to start to bring out your appetite. The Scallops (HK$138) are prepared with an ever-so-slight char on the surface to bring out umami flavours while the pairing of brown butter sauce brings attention to the natural flavours of the fresh seafood.
One dish that surprised us is the Tomatoes (HK$98). Surprisingly understated but prepared with so much care, the tomatoes were lightly blanched to remove the skin bringing out only the sweet and tangy flavours of tomato varieties. Tossed in a yuzu citrus dressing with pickled onions, vene cress and shiso, it’s the perfect palette cleanser to wait for the next dish.
Sharing-style dishes are a highlight in most Asian cuisine, it’s no different at Roji. Hot off the stove, the Japanese Giant clams (HK$198) offer a generous serving to please any large of a crowd. Prepared in a blend of aromatic sake, the meat of the clam is perfectly cooked to a tender texture which is elevated when consumed with Roji’s house broth. The Chicken Katsu (HK$168) was one of the highlights of the night. Leaning towards the authenticity of its origin, the chicken thighs are tenderised and cooked with a secret panko mixture which is then fried to perfection. The pairing of tonkatsu sauce and golden crispy breadcrumb exterior was one of the best we’ve ever had.
Mains at Roji were unstoppable choices. The A4 Wagyu Beef (HK$298) is pleasing to both the eyes and the mouth. Beautifully plated on a clean white dish with the wagyu slightly seared on the surface with tender juice oozing out of the marbling of the beef plated next to a colourful array of produce such as white daikon, baby carrots and snap peas, we relished the dish within minutes. Paired with shiso ponzu sauce, the vegetables helped cut through the fat of the beef without compromising its robust flavours.
The King Crab Legs (HK$248) was another show stopper. While looking simply prepared, we can’t imagine the gastronomical preparation that must’ve been executed to maintain the freshness of the crab and burst of flavours of the meat. Surfaced with a thick blend of parsley and shiso leaves with a lemon wedge for a zesty drizzle, it’s the perfect subtle kick to bring out the freshness of the ingredients.
We couldn’t resist not trying their dessert menu which is inspired by classic Japanese ingredients. The Skillet Pan Cake (HK$148) was the perfect end to the meal with semi-melted marshmallows and white chocolate topped up with homemade Hojicha Ice cream. Bringing the perfect balance of bitter and sweet with hot and cold ingredients, it was the cherry on top to the perfect meal and vibes to share with friends and family.
Roji boasts a great atmosphere to spend time with your loved ones while enjoying culinary twists to the classic dishes we know and love. The lively atmosphere complimented by touches of wooden interior provides a subtle warmness that welcomes every guest. While bopping to funky 90’s hip hop and nostalgia, we indulged on a wide selection of small plates and hearty mains complimented by carefully curated cocktails. We took a quick trip to memory lane as it brought us back to the simple happiness in life when enjoying good food and good company.
Roji; G/F 20A, D’Aguilar Street, Central; Open Monday to Saturday, drinks are served from 5PM and dinner service begins at 6PM. Walk-ins only.