Deemed ‘the original Japanese restaurant’ of Lan Kwai Fong, Tokio Joe has been around for over two decades and, to this day, remains as popular as ever. This Central stalwart has stood the test of time through a combination of factors: quality fish, humble prices, and a fuss-free atmosphere, welcoming everyone from those dressed in shorts and sandals to those in a three-piece suit.
Men and women in suits crowd this part of town – the restaurant is located right smack bang in the heart of the city’s financial and business centre and is surrounded by high rises, housing Central’s 9 to 5 crowds. At the end of the day, those looking to unwind from a tough day at the office head straight to Tokio Joe for an instant cure to weekday blues.
Step through the shoji doors and down into the dimly lit sushi bar, where guests are encouraged to loosen up with a carafe of sake or a cocktail before making their way to the main dining area. If you prefer to be right in the thick of the action, plop down at one of the counter seats, where you can watch the sushi chefs prepare your meal before your eyes. The backlit wall is lined with rows of premium sake from junmai to daiginjo and before the end of the night, it’s likely you’ll have discovered your new favourite brand.
Tokio Joe serves up modern Japanese food, curated by Chef Wah, who joined not long after the sushiya opened. Over many years, Chef Wah has created his own brand of Japanese cuisine at Tokio Joe – playing off both Eastern and Western elements to conceive and execute dishes that are grounded by Japanese ingredients.
Take the spicy toro tartar – a generous portion of minced premium tuna mixed with a homemade spicy sauce and served on romaine lettuce cups for a refreshing cross between sushi and salad; or the Gyu Don, with fried slices of US beef arranged with onion and fried garlic on a bed of fluffy white rice. Boldly flavoured and generously portioned, this is comfort food at its best.
The house special rolls are not to be missed: try the Mango Star, a mix of spider crab meat and avocado lifted with a tropical mango sauce; or the Crystal Roll, a crunchy mouthful of tempura shrimp, garlic chips, cucumber and dried chillies rolled in rice paper and drizzled with sweet miso. Before dessert, a piping bowl of hot udon noodles is an excellent way to realign the palate before you turn your attention to the selection of ice creams and fresh fruit on offer.
Tokio Joe doesn’t try to compete with the rigorous Japanese fine dining temples of the city, but it excels at what it is – a downtown, honest-to-goodness eatery which provides an instant fix for anyone craving the flavours of Japan. Step in for a quick bento box lunch or linger over an extended meal fuelled with sushi and sake. Whatever you’re looking for, Tokio Joe makes sure to dish it up with an extra helping of comfort and creativity.