Pakuri's izakaya fusion gets balance right
Pakuri secretly opens its door on the stretch of Shaanxi Road N. between Beijing Road W. and Xinzha Road, next to the popular 8Pints beer bar.
This modern izakaya is well hidden, and customers enter the restaurant through a low-key street-facing door, which leads into its space on the second floor.
Compared to its cold-colored front door, the inside is a chilled, homey space where eating and drinking with laughter is encouraged.
There are several bar counter seats facing an open kitchen, offering diners’ a close-up view of the kitchen staff’s preparation work.
Izakayas to Japan is what tapas bars are to Spain. Dating back to the Edo Period (1603-1868), these vibrant institutions offer patrons sake, beers, highballs and casual bites.
The humble concept has spread beyond Japan and there are now dozens of izakayas throughout the metropolis.
Pakuri, with limited seating, mirrors a local trend toward casual dining where people are looking for a nice place to eat with good quality and at a reasonable price.
The restaurant doesn’t stick to the Japanese izakaya blueprint because it branches out with some fusion bites.
The menu is a fine balance between the classic Japanese izakaya bites and their own creative dishes. Ordering several small appetizers and grilled skewers to pair with Japanese sake, beer or highball is popular amongst customers.
The monkfish liver was my first order. Its melt-in-the-mouth texture and natural, sweet flavor was enhanced by the house-made sauce with a touch of lime juice that gave it a more complex taste.
Another simple cabbage dish, with delicious sardine flavors melted into the leaves, yielded pleasantly combined flavors and soft crunch texture.
Mentaiko mushroom in hot chili oil was my favorite plate: Simmered inside the hot oil, flavored with dried chili and leeks, each piece of white button mushroom is topped with mentaiko that has a rich umami flavor.
It was simply the right dish for a cold winter night.
The quintessential Japanese soul food goes to the grilled skewers, and Pakuri has plenty of choices.
I tried several, including the grilled eel, chicken meatballs and chicken tenderloin with yuzu pepper.
Those skewers are generally a good match with any beer.
Opening hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-11pm (closed on Monday)
Address: 457-3 Shaanxi Rd N.
Average price: 200 yuan (US$ 30.9)