Homegrown izakaya Shukuu Izakaya on Stanley Street continues its winning formula of offering a spread of familiar Japanese classics and well-priced sake.
The menu at Shukuu Izakaya, like most proper Japanese-style izakayas, was ridiculously extensive. Recommendations were needed.
The server paused, thinking for a moment before replying.
“Probably one of the newest items on the menu is our Pork Jowl Charshu. Then there’s the Kinpira Gobo, which is back by popular demand.”
We ordered them both, as well as a slew of other quintessential classics after studiously poring over the menu. Regular izakaya goers will know these well. Tempura Moriawase. Oden. Tori Kara-age. Some Maguro tuna sashimi.
Unimaginative, but comforting.
“Another recently introduced item is Shirauo Nanbanzuke. We take Japanese silver fish, deep-fry them, and then marinate them in a house-made citrus sauce. It’s perfect paired with sake,” Shukuu’s co-owner Mario Choy, tells us.
“We do try to introduce a few new dishes once in a while, but our regulars come back for all their familiar favourites so we try to retain those to keep them happy,” Mario adds. It’s true. We first visited Shukuu back in 2017, and the menu doesn’t seem to have changed all that much.
And after eight years in the business – and in a brutally competitive industry at that – the homegrown Japanese eatery has attracted many regulars. Mario and his business partners have built a solid base of customers, every one of them hankering for Shukuu’s hearty comfort Japanese fare and drinks that’s offered at reasonable prices. Our visit on a Monday evening saw the joint packed out doing a roaring trade, in comparison to the more muted affairs along the rest of the normally bustling Stanley Street dining stretch.
It became so busy over the years, they’ve even expanded to the adjoining unit a few years back.
The silver fish, as Mario recommended, was delectable. The subtle acidity in its marinade burst with every bite, accentuating the floral notes in our Innocent 60 Junmai Genshu from Iwate’s Kikunotsukasa. The Gyu Ponzu – another menu stalwart that sees torched slices of wagyu beef steeped in tangy ponzu – paired well with the sake too.
Not that Shukuu Izakaya isn’t inventive. You’ll spot among the many menu entries a number of dishes you’re unlikely to find in other izakayas. The Rosti Mentai, for example. This appeared as shredded potatoes topped with creamy mentaiko sauce, a curious hybrid of Swiss rosti and Chinese-style 土豆丝. It’s easily one of Shukuu’s best-sellers.
The recommended Pork Jowl Charshu, featuring Iberico pork jowl slices that’s first slow-cooked then flash grilled for some charred goodness, is excellent. Take your time to chew – along with the accompanying an unctuous onsen egg and some beni shoga pickle – and you’ll find yourself in porcine heaven.
Mario, a certified sake sommelier, tells us that the right glassware for sake is important. Some accentuate the right flavours you want from certain sakes. But he admits a lot of it is down to trial and error, so it’s really up to diners to experiment.
And so we did. With over 100 sakes and almost as many izakaya dishes available, it’s too easy falling down that rabbit hole here at Shukuu Izakaya.
Eight years. Don’t change the formula, Shukuu. And don’t you dare take away our new-old favourite, the Gyu Ponzu.