Restaurant review: Okra, a modern Izakaya by Max Levy in Sai Ying Pun
Unique flavours at a modern izakaya
Okra Hong Kong first came on my radar the old fashioned way: I walked past it. In Sai Ying Pun, there are streets full of hot new restaurants but Okra is located in a sleepier, residential part of the neighbourhood. This izakaya just looked so cool yet homey, a perfect neighbourhood secret. I made a note in my Wunderlist to check it out.
A few months later, an American friend in Beijing was thinking about visiting Hong Kong and asked me if I had checked out Okra. He explained the original Okra was actually in Beijing, and he knew the owners. I trusted him enough to know he wasn’t BS-ing me, since he generally has the best taste of anyone I know. So the second time Okra came on my radar was also another old fashioned way. It wasn’t an Instagram post, but a real recommendation from a friend.
Walking into Okra, I was surprised by how tiny it was. It was two of us for dinner, and we were seated at the high tables. Honestly, I didn’t love this table set-up. The high chairs were uncomfortable, and our table was so tiny it didn’t fit all of our plates. It was comfortable enough for a meal I guess, but not the nicest spot to linger.
We ended up staying a while though because we kept ordering dishes. Most of the food really was very good, but also the portions were very small. And not cheap. All in all, we ordered around eight dishes to share. These were my three favourites.
El Pollo Loco Fried Chicken Samich ($138)
I’d heard good things about their fried chicken, so had to give this a try. They use marinated thigh and leg meat which means there wasn’t a dry bite of chicken, and it went well with the crunchy cabbage and spicy Crystal sauce. All this between a wonderfully fluffy Okinawan purple sweet potato bun. This is a very satisfying sandwich at a good price.
Unakyu Foie Gras ($178)
Fresh water eel was grilled to be crisp yet tender. The honey miso foie gras on the side gave it a dense creaminess, while the sanbaizu vinegar added tang. It was quite rich overall, but I’m attracted to strong flavours and combinations so it was a hit for me. My only complaint is the size. It was a bit tiny for the price but they don’t cut corners with the ingredients and quality ingredients are costly.
Smoked Bonito Zuke ($218)
We ordered this zuke at the recommendation of our server. Zuke is an old Japanese method of preserving fish by soaking it in a soy sauce mixture. Okra’s version uses skipjack tuna and yuzu. The fish itself was so well marinated, each piece of tuna had taken on the salty, citrus, and floral notes. And on top of this, it was served with bacon, kale and crispy garlic on the side. Another dish with unusual flavour combinations. This one was well worth the price, and came as a decently sized portion.
There was also an amazing tomato special. I know this looks like a bowl of cut up raw tomatoes, but they were the best tomatoes I’d ever had. They were so incredibly sweet and flavourful.
Okra is serving up some very special food in Sai Ying Pun. Though we tried eight dishes, we barely made a dent as their menu is quite extensive. I’d like to go back and try more of their creations. However, it is expensive and not the most comfortable setting for a long, large meal. Perhaps it’s better as a bar with food where people can walk around and mingle.
G/F, 110 Queen's Rd W, Sai Ying Pun, 2806 1038