This is a hidden gem in this gastronomic capital of the world. While the small group of elites concentrates on the Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants, Shobutei 居酒屋 菖蒲亭 (しょうぷてい) quietly serves solid pub food and sashimi to the masses for the last 15 years and would for many years to come.
On the wall scattered handwritten banners of today’s special direct from Toyosu. Mr Yukio receives shipment from Japan three times a week and serves the freshest produce from Japan that can be comparable to the best Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong.
The chef and owner, Mr Yukio named the restaurant after the Japanese iris (アヤメ, ayame, also known as hanashōbu 花菖蒲). On the cover of the menu is the flower language of the Japanese iris – gentleness, confidence, perseverance. He runs the shop with his Hong Kong wife and a couple of Japanese chefs behind the counter. The only local was a waitress who was really knowledgeable about the menu and daily specials.
They have a selection of drinks, but what they are famous for is their homemade umeshu (plum wine). No, that’s not the umeshu, as the alcohol content for the moonshine is a bit too high for my consumption these days. So I stuck to the ice cold Sapporo namabīru 生ビール.
First up, ankimo 鮟鱇魚肝. The monkfish liver in ponzu sauce and seaweed was a classic izakaya starter. It was creamy and not fishy, and the ponzu was not overpowering. Served with momoji-oroshi (grated daikon with chilli oil).
Next up in quite succession, Japanese yam in soy sauce 冷汁拌鮮日本淮山. Because it can get very sticky and gooey, most izakaya would serve this as a mash. I like it this way. However, the soy sauce was not given any special treatment so I find this a bit too overpowering (too salty) for the light yamaimo. The difficulty is in cutting the yamaimo into strips.
Fruit tomato 日本蕃茄 was soaked in a nice plum sauce and sprinkled with a dash of freshly grounded pepper and sea salt.
Oyster with ponzu ポン酢牡蠣 was freshly shucked and served with momoji-oroshi and ponzu tasted just like the ankimo before. Didn’t get the origin of this rock oyster, but it was plump and brine, I would guessed it was Iwate.
Sea whelk つぶ貝 (Tsubugai) was flown in as a daily special, and the best way to eat it is sashimi. The different parts were separated and have a different texture and crunch.
The guts were prepared separately by braising in a sweet soy sauce that brought out the umami and texture.
Sea pineapple 海菠蘿 is a Korean speciality and the Japanese eat this as sashimi. Didn’t like this – tasted like fresh rubber. It has been affectionally called Spongebob by the Chinese (who lives in a pineapple under the sea?)
Another special was the line-caught horse mackerel 釣っあじ (tsutta aji). It can be served as a sashimi 刺身 (sliced), tataki タタキ/たたき (chopped) or namerou なめろう (minced with aromatics).
We ordered a whole horse mackerel namerou style あじなめろう. The fish is lightly minced and mixed with ginger, perilla ad scallions. You may eat it wrapped with a piece of nori (dried seaweed) and torch ginger flower. Yummy.
After all that raw fish, we ordered a fried dish to drink to. The vegetable and sardine tempura was executed very well, none of the old oil smell.
And finally an assortment of sushi that included sake, uni, chutoro, ikura, tamago, hotate and aji hit the spot.
And to washed it all down, the fish miso soup cooked with plenty of fish bones.
Don’t be fooled by the shopfront, it may look run-down and aged, but it has all the making of a great izakaya – cosiness in the atmosphere, what the Japanese called kimochi 気持ち.
And the price is not cheap. The quality of the produce and high standard of delivery made up for the environment. But I liked this because of the atmosphere, the good food, and the neighbourly feel. The dinner was not rushed through. There was a couple of Japanese family who came here for a family meal while a row of old men (not unlike Midnight Diners) sat at the bar counter.
Reservation highly recommended.
Shobutei Japanese Restaurant 菖蒲亭
Shop G&H, Oceanic Building, 26～28 Finnie St, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong
Tel : +852 2562 9600
Date Visited : May 2019