OKRA Hong Kong

OKRA Hong Kong

Where:
Okra (fuck yeahhhh, absolutely useless HK restaurant websites)
110 Queen’s Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2806 1038 (but they don’t take bookings, but more on the reservation bullshit later).

Price:
HKD500ish for the food per person.  HKD660 per person including sake.  The bill very clearly states that the 10% service charge goes directly to OKRA’s staff.

The deal:
Chef Max Levy has recently opened up OKRA in Hong Kong, after establishing OKRA in Beijing.  If you read the press, it’s often mentioned that Chef Levy was the only non-Japanese sushi chef at Sushi Yasuda in New York.  OKRA Hong Kong is currently in soft opening and after hearing some good shit around the traps and seeing all the Instagram #foodie #foodporn shiz, I decided to get my ass down to its small, 12 seat restaurant with a few standing tables that can accommodate two to three people each in Sai Ying Pun.

When I emailed OKRA Hong Kong to ask about bookings, I received a polite and swift response that they don’t take bookings, but given their location they were fairly confident that I should get a seat.  However, another homie gave me the low down that when he’d emailed OKRA Hong Kong about bookings he’d received a detailed email about how they only take bookings for 6pm and you have to do the tasting menu.  Like thanks a lot you OKRA assholes, that’s just fucking dandy for anyone that may have a J-O-B and can’t get their weary ass down to Sai Ying Pun for super early stupid o’clock dinner times.  Seeing as I’m suffering from a crushing case of Jobitis, I resigned myself to the no booking scenario, arriving at OKRA Hong Kong around 8pm.  We were politely told that our hopes of getting a counter seat were pretty much a big fat zero given that they were five parties ahead of us (even though no one was sitting at the counter yet) but we were welcome to eat at one of the standing tables.  Fuuuuuuuck, I get it, reservations are a pain in the goddamn ass for restaurants because customers are flakey, tardy dickwads who often don’t even have the decency to call up to cancel but FUCK, as a responsible customer who never ditches a booking, it still gnaws at my inner being that I am the one who is reaping the failed crop of no-seat-uncertainty sown by rude as fuck doucheknuckles who can’t keep bookings. Taking a more positive view, at least we didn’t have to wait to get a standing table but real talk, this sad sack of bones, blood and fat barely held together by some skin is not built for endurance sports like eating an entire meal standing up.

mjfrustrated

I calm my rattled no-booking nerves by ordering a bottle of the Kaze No Mori Nama Akitsuho Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai sake (HKD418 + 10% service charge), after some considered discussion with our fuck yeahhhh, friendly as fuck waitress.  She promises a light effervescent fizz to it and the aroma of dried yuzu peel, green banana and fresh bamboo while giving us some nice chat about the Akitsuho rice that’s used to make it from Nara.  It all makes sense and with the green banana note resonating the loudest, I try not to glare too enviously at all the seated, comfortable OKRA homies, enjoying the privilege of a chair while eating dinner.

OKRA’s menu is split into an A-side (smaller eats) and a B-side (slightly larger), with the a recommendation printed at the top to essentially order one A and one B per person.  I interrogate my waiter and he brims with unbridled delight when he talks about the food while he makes some thoughtful recommendations, which makes me pretty fucking excited for my meal. Fuck yeahhhh, waiter homies who give a fuck.

Our first dish is the Carabinero Prawn Soup (HKD78 +10% service charge) which our waiter recommended not only for the sweet, delicate flavour of the red Spanish prawn but also the fact that OKRA smoke their own Buddha’s hand (a citrus fruit that looks like a yellow claw) and then incorporate it into a dashi stock, which is poured over the prawn.  He does point out that a reason he likes it is because it “makes a cool photo”.  Ohhh, cause that’s why I order dishes:

kanyecoolphoto

However, when our dish arrives we realise that while the menu claims is “Red Spanish prawns with smoked buddha’s hand dashi” it was clearly not drafted by some particular as fuck pedantic asshole because it’s a singular prawn chilling out elegantly in a no doubt, carefully selected ceramic bowl.  Which surprised us a bit, given that the menu claims that ALL dishes are built for sharing and at no point did our waiter point out that perhaps we should order three prawns, given that there’s three of us eating.  While I’m not that into photos, I was definitely into this sweet, sweet prawn which we dissected into three pieces, its sweet, raw body gently cooked by the hot dashi broth that is poured over it.

Our serve of Sashimi Ume (HKD178 +10% service charge) is the closest to a traditional Japanese dish that we ate all night and consists of “three types of fish” from Fukuoka and is everything you can hope for from sashimi.  I bristle at the menu drafting because I am a pedantic asshole, as one of the sashimi items is a cherry prawn.  OKRA, Y U say fish when it’s a crustacean?! But inaccurate copy aside, it’s still fucking delicious and off the charts sweet, which I guess is more important than imprecise menu descriptions.

The Bafuni and Smoked Anchovies (HKD160 +10% service charge) was fucking magical, combining flavours that I’d never had before, even if it was firmly in food for ants territory.  OKRA Hong Kong use some shit hot bafun uni imported from Hokkaido and pair these creamy fuckers with paper thin slivers of salted buddha’s hand, anchovies, shredded pieces of tofu skin and shiso.  The anchovies are purposefully not particularly salty or strongly flavoured which allows each component to sit quiet and confidently in fuck yeah territory.  If only I’d had this entire bowl to myself instead of having to politely share it with my dining homies.

We move into the B-Sides and despite the claims of it being larger, I’m already contemplating the high chance that I’m gonna have to make a bang-bang stop after OKRA Hong Kong to ensure I’m not going to bed hungry.  The Unakyu Foie Gras (HKD238 +10% service charge) is a predictable fuck yeah because how can combining house made BBQ unagi (eel), honey miso duck liver and sanbaizu sauce (dashi, rice vinegar, soy sauce and mirin) not be major fuck yeah love?  The Roasted Beef Love Handle (HKD188 +10% service charge) also resonates with me and not just because I affectionately grab my own love handles while contemplating how this Black Angus Prime Chuck Tail Flap served with burnt olive oil and soy sauce is fucking delicious but how I deeply wish that my love-handled cow had really committed harder to being a fat fuck, so there’d be more fuck yeahhh roasted beef love handle for me to smash into my desperately wanting face.

The Unagi Fun (HKD168 +10% service charge) is a new menu item and it’s roasted eel over crispy sushi rice and pickles, which sounds simple as fuck but it’s executed perfectly.  I am still dreaming about the crispy sushi rice and the rich, just fatty enough, caramelised eel.  It’s at this point, I start to throw some serious shade at the menu’s claim that dishes are meant for sharing.  Maybe sharing between ants who fucking love precisely prepared and thoughtful Modern Japanese influenced cuisine?  Or perhaps for sharing between homies that don’t really eat and sustain themselves on a mixture of cocaine, cigarettes and black coffee?

As our waiter’s suggestion on the number of dishes to order was clearly off (perhaps because he isn’t a unrelenting eating machine like I am), we added some more dishes as I was still far closer to hungry than full.  We ordered a serve of the Hentai Quail Tatsuta (HKD108 +10% service charge) which sounded so fucking tiny on the menu, described as a “half baby quail marinated in a secret sauce of 2 herbs and spices and fried with preserved ginger and spring onion” but was tasty as fuck.  But let’s be real, after sharing this with three people, one-sixth of a quail is not really gonna make me the Mayor of Satiety Town.

However, my insatiable desire for MOAR FOOD paid off because if I hadn’t piled in for additional dishes, I would have missed out on the Chicken Fried Buri (HKD258 + 10% service charge).  I’m at imprecise menu drafting fever pitch now because there’s no actual chicken in this dish and it would be more accurately described as yellowtail fish/buri prepared in the style of fried chicken.  FYN Fun Fact:  Yellowtail is known as hamachi if it’s under three kilograms but it’s only when a yellowtail really commits to being a big fucker of at least five kilograms does it earn its big boy stripes as a buri.  

Japanese nomenclature aside, this dish was fucking unbelievable and it may be one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year.  The buri is coated in a super thin, subtly spiced batter and deep-fried til it’s all crunchy and shit.  However, the buri is all white and still slightly cool and raw in the middle, served on top of a tangy, “crystal sauce”, grated fresh white daikon radish and some peppery micro-daikon sprouts.  I’m awash in fuck yeah feelings because this dish is just throwing multiple contrasting texture, temperatures and flavours at me and I’m feeling it so hard.  It’s the contrast of the temperature of the hot deep fried batter vs the cool middle of the buri.  It’s the contrast of the textures – fresh green micro-sprouts vs the buttery flesh of the buri vs the crispy batter.  It’s how all the flavours combine, the buri, piquant sauce, the batter, the peppery micr0-sprouts and the cool daikon radish.  All I know is that I’m caught in a tsunami of fuck yeah emotion and the tidal waves of buri love crash down upon me until I know that my life is now better for knowing this fuck yeah dish.

oprahcrying

After the epic chicken fried buri, I would have fucking loved a dessert to round off this meal and declare it THE END.  Unfortunately, OKRA Hong Kong didn’t have any sweeties going which meant that we flagged down the bill and went to find somewhere else for fuck yeah cocktails and chairs.

So when thinking about the whole deal, if not for the whole NO BOOKING palaver, I’d be so into recommending OKRA Hong Kong because these cats are doing something which they clearly believe in and are executing the fuck out of it.  The staff were passionate as fuck, knowledgeable and completed invested in making sure you were having a fuck yeah time  The food was so fresh and while clearly Japanese in origin was modern but utilised subtle flavours or techniques which were additive to the experience vs some sort of gauche frankenfusion bullshit mish mash which tries to drag well established cuisines into something imaginative.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah for the inventive but tiny food but fuck no with the no bookings unless it’s at 6pm reservations policy.  I’m just too old and lazy to be messing around with that hipster, no booking bullshit.  But trust me, when the omakaze-style private dining room opens upstairs and I can make a glorious and certain booking, I’ll be most def rounding up some like-minded homies to check OKRA’s shit out and see what else they can do.  I just wanna do it from a seat and without the chance that I’m on my feet for the whole meal or even worse, desperately combing the backstreets of Sai Ying Pun with a furious hunger in my belly,  searching for a Plan B because I got jammed at OKRA.

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