Musubi Hiro: A Hidden Izakaya Gastropub Secret in Soho
July 05, 2022
Musubi Hiro fronts itself as an approachable izakaya-style Japanese fusion gastropub, with an emphasis on nurturing a gathering place for salty Japanese bar snack consumption and boozy Japanese beer and sake drinking.
Nearing a cheerful one-year anniversary, Musubi Hiro opened its doors in July 2021 to an F&B scene that previously lacked an izakaya-style diner joining sake, beer pre-drinking and salty, spicy Japanese-Hong Kong-inspired bar snacks.
The Soho pub is headed by epicure chef and consultant Arturo Sims of Vantage Hospitality Consultants, conceptualising the escalators-side restaurant as a space for eating and competitive drinking. Chef Kelvin Yuen runs kitchen operations, innovating constantly with in-trend food items Hong Kongers want and love.
Located in the shadow of the Central Escalators on Cochrane Street, Musubi Hiro is well-positioned for a Soho watering hole, the beginning of your Saturday night, refuelling with spicy and tangy Japanese-inspired Hong Kong-fusion snacks and wetting your tongue with fizzy alcohol.
Musubi Hiro’s theme de principle comes in the restaurant’s primary format: a neighbourhood watering hole fit for raucous pre-drinking, known professionally as the Musubi Games, a monthly drinking and eating competition with bar games and popping tracks.
Lunches at Musubi are spent hidden from the beaming midday sun, but as night arrives, Musubi Hiro bursts with light and laughter. The window seats draw the hustle of Soho into the diner and usher a party atmosphere, whilst the downstairs area is where chatter and spicy smells are multiplied.
Food and drink
“We wanted a space for early night drinking with Japanese food to snack on,” chef Kelvin told The Beat Asia. Behind the menu, recipes, and gastronomical rules Musubi Hiro beckons by, Kelvin directs a menu that leaches Hong Kong inspiration of local spices and sauces, with the backbone of Japanese izakaya classics.
The remarkable thing about Musubi’s menu is that customisation is key: you can order a couple of starters and sake and call it a night or sample a selection of everything and share with a friend. We did just that and recommend ordering this way.
For starters, we ordered two Brooklyn IPAs and started off with three tangy starters: Miso Eggplant (HK$68), Marinated Firefly Squid (HK$78), and Shishito Peppers (HK$68). Nutty, tangy, and salty, these starters worked excellently with a cheersing of a beer and sake shot to begin our lunch eating.
The Miso Eggplant, drenched in salted egg yolk, furikake, seaweed, and a sour miso dressing, kicks in an umami explosion, emulating the soft texture of a sweet-sour slice of pork with the soft texture of the eggplant insides. The squid’s freshness hits deep with a splice of yuzu lemon bringing in acidity, whilst the peppers deliver sweetness from the Mayard-charr and salt from the healthy coating of sodium chunks.
With Musubi Hiro’s draw of inspiration from Hong Kong-style cooking, the Fried Rice Cakes (HK$78) and Eel Musubi (HK$98) hit the nostalgic home with locally sourced and cooked dishes with Japanese twist, drenched in that classic sweet teriyaki sauce.
The fried rice cakes, a plentiful serving for two people, are instant Musubi-classics. Smothered in finger-linking honeyed-teriyaki, each rice cake boasts of a supreme crunch, before the sweet and salty juices flow into the soft cakey insides. The eel has a solid consistency and gives umami, nutty, and woody afternotes with a bite.
Onto an izakaya high-performer, the Karaage Chicken (HK$98), an affordable six- piece of thinly potato starch-breaded chicken balls paired with an acidic mayo-base sauce and a bed of cabbage, shines as a star in the restaurant's menu.
Among Hong Kong’s Japanese diners, Musubi’s karaage tops the list. Its buttery insides melt on the tongue, with a saltiness penetrating within to coat the tongue with starch. The lemony sauce exists on the plate to cut the overall creaminess of each bite, introducing acidity to assist the tenderness of the chicken.
Ending our tasting with a bang, we were prepared the 30-Days Snow-Aged Wagyu (HK$580), a delicate Japanese skirt steak slice, aged for a month in the Nippon mountains under packed snow to increase tenderness of the beef and sweet flavours.
What results with each bite is a wagyu slice that melts upon contact, releasing a strong beef flavour that trickles down one's tongue. You will receive pleasant notes of peanut, salted butter, grass, and a slightly burnt toast. It holds all the hallmarks of a great wagyu steak: delicate to touch, melting quality on tongue contact, and extremely beefy.
Musubi Hiro masquerades as two distinct faces within its one location: a casual dining spot for exploring an exciting fusion combo in Soho, and a new watering hole for competitive chugging, sips of fine sake with friends, and a new watering hole in anyone's rotating night-out list.
Its location befits the diner’s principles of food and drink. Planted into a building on one of Hong Kong’s most popular Soho roads and with a detailed graffiti mural atop of its windows, Musubi Hiro is designed to beckon diners with an open façade and the smells of burnt wagyu, citrus, cooked chicken, soya sauce, scallion, alcoholic rice drinks, and Asahi emanate out and invite people in.
Whilst not hidden away from the sight of many commuters and Soho locals, Musubi Hiro deserves to be discovered by the city’s hungry epicures and gourmands, simply for its simple yet punchy starter selection, meaty musubi rolls, refreshing and innovative mains, and a fun, bouncy atmosphere the precedes any dining experience in the Cochrane venue.
We recommend you venture with a friend or two and order the Truffle Egg Potato Salad (HK$78), Shishito Peppers (HK$68), and Miso Eggplant (HK$68) for starters, a Classic Musubi (HK$68) and Wagyu & Truffle Musubi (HK$158), a sharing of Karaage Chicken (HK$98), and absolutely the 30-Days Snow-Aged Wagyu (HK$580).
This food review is based on a complimentary media tasting provided by Musubi Hiro in exchange for a truthful review and no compensation. The opinions expressed within represent the views of the author.
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