In Hongqiao there is an enclave of Japanese sake bars and izakayas where many Japanese expats will stop by for a bite and a drink before going back to their nearby homes and houses.
It all started in the 80s, when Shanghai opened up for Japanese investments and many setup shops (and residences) around the international airport of Hongqiao. The airport has since moved, but most of these original drinking holes remained and continued to prosper.
Kyushu Sake Bar Hikozo 九州酒场ひこぞう was one of the earliest entrance in the market. Located at the back of a commercial building, it did not have foot traffic from Hongmei Road, but it did have 2 and half storey of seating space, including this largest private room that can seat 12.
We started with the essential orders for izakaya – edamame 枝豆 (boiled soy bean), ankimo あん肝 (monkfish liver), ei-hire エイヒレ (BBQ dried stingray fins), ika shiokara いか塩辛 (marinated squid). Before the hard food are served, these bar snacks helped to make the drinks go faster. They are excessively salted, especially the squid, so if you are watching your sodium intake, you should avoid everything. Even the edamame are boiled in salted water and sprinkled with more salt.
We came specially for their horse sashimi. Not many places in Shanghai offer the horse sashimi. It may sound gross at first, but these are meat horses that are raised sorely for consumption. So if you think of them as cattle, then it’s fine. Horse meat is slightly acidic in taste, with a lot more bite than beef, but does not taste like chewing through raw meat. The fats are a lot harder to swallow because of the slimy texture associated with all protein fats.
Oden (おでん) is another izakaya favourite, but I was surprised it came without any soup. And strangely, it had lesser served items like chicken drumlets and intestines. My favourite is still the radish.
Their beef intestines hotpot is another favourite and signature of the shop. It can come with two choices of soup – white miso (which has a heavier miso flavour which goes will with intestines) or chicken shio (clear chicken stock, for the connoisseur of beef intestines as the flavours of the intestines will remain). We left the hotpots to be bubbling away, while we ate other items. The entire mountain of vegetables and bean sprouts will release their liquid and the hot pot simmered away with the beef intestines. If you take it too early, the intestines remain chewy. So this is one item that you need to wait.
They are not known for their yakitori, and it showed.
As the night went on, more drinks were poured and the mouth looked for something to go with the drinks. This is the time for more bar snacks – like this very simple grilled mentaiko. The spicy cod roe was torched with a high flame burner and served sliced when a crust formed on the the exterior. Smoky goodness with salty, umami of the mentaiko makes it a perfect companion of drinks.
As a general rule, anything that’s deep-fried and salted makes an excellent accompaniment to booze – and evidently nankotsu karaage (chicken cartilage) is no exception. While the crunchy texture of the cartilage may catch those expecting tender meat off guard, the golden brown morsels are ideal for sharing on a night of drinking. They’re best eaten while hot with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dollop of mayonnaise.
We didn’t have any starch for the evening. Usually Japanese would end the evening with a rice ball (onigiri) or a bowl of ramen. But we had these little sushi ball that was topped with freshly marinated ikura and fresh uni. The difference for the freshly marinated ones versus the processed one was that the fresh ikura was still attached to the membrane and came out like a string of orange pearls. Pretty.
And then we had some wagyu beef tartare that was mixed with a raw egg yolk and simply dressed with shoyu and mustard.
Didn’t know who ordered the grilled pork cheeks but I was so stuffed by the time it was served.
Shirako (white cod milt) was in season, and every place was either serving it as a sashimi or deep fried. I enjoyed the deep fried ones because they reminded me of those pig brains I ate as a child.
You can imagine the surprise on our faces when this giant plate of tai 鲷 (red snapper) sashimi appeared. This was locally farmed red snapper, so the texture was not as fantastic. But at ¥120 per fish, you cannot complain.
The place is now closed for renovation, hopefully not caused by the little “accident” I had in the shop when I visited back in Dec. But it was a wonderful visit, great food, and a value-for-money place for that colleague gathering .
Kyushu Sake Bar Hikozo 九州酒场ひこぞう
3717 Hongmei Rd, Changning District, Shanghai, China, 201103
Tel : +86 21 5422 2559
Date visited : Dec 2021