I toss and turn pondering if I should write this post or not. Ok, I exaggerated but selfishly I was hoping to never mention this restaurant to anyone because it’s such a tiny place and the meats – well you will find out soon enough.
I finally make my way to a “new” Yakiniku (grill meats) restaurant in Hong Kong, which has been opened since December 2012 and has stayed quietly under the radar. As I have tried terrible Yakiniku in Hong Kong before, I am excited to visit 298 Nikuya in Sheung Wan. Is this restaurant worth it? Let us find out!
Situated in the narrow Hillier street, this small yet quaint establishment seats roughly 22 people. The decor is very simple, and although I am seated to a full house it does not give off a cramped feel. I am greeted by not only the friendly manager, So - a Japanese MC who moved to Hong Kong to open and manage this restaurant, but also by the marvelous smell of different meats cooking all around me. I am ready to sit down and see what 298 Nikuya has to offer.
The chef is a Japanese man named Gen. I ask him some questions about the establishment and their menu. He is very kind to answer my questions at such a busy time. He tells me that 298 is a Japanese homonym that sounds the same as Nikuya: 2 is “Ni”, 9 is “Kyu” in this instance “ku” and 8 literally is “hachi” but sometimes can be referred to as “ya”, together resulting in the word Nikuya – which means meat store or butcher shop. Very clever stuff.
The meats from 298 Nikuya are brought in from different parts of the world. But most of the meat cuts are from Japan, ranging from Kagoshima Prefecture all the way to Hokkaido Prefecture – that is literally from both ends of Japan. The seafood is also brought in from Japan and as well as from local markets in Hong Kong. This brought a smile to my face as this is starting to feel like a true Yakiniku restaurant in Hong Kong. (Fingers crossed)
Gen mentions of a special menu that is served on 29th (playing off of the 2, 9 numbers: “ni-kyu” or “Niku” meaning Meat of the Month). They recently held this event and are still testing it out. He states that they will try to roll it out once every 2 months with a secret menu and reservations are the only way to get in on this. So be on the lookout for this as Gen says last month they served a mouth-watering special premium wagyu beef sushi (raw beef on top of rice that resembles sushi).
As the gracious chef goes back to work, I look back at the menu and finally decide on what I want. I start out with the 298 Butter Lettuce Salad, Beef Tartare with Egg Yolk, Marinated Thick Cut Ox Tongue, Pork Neck, Australian Wagyu Harami, Small Intestine, the Zabuton Premium Marbled Wagyu Beef, clams, oyster and tiger prawns.
298 Butter Lettuce salad is a cool, refreshing start to the massive grilling that is coming up. The Beef Tartare with Egg Yolk is delectable, the meat is soft and smooth and the egg yolk is fresh and coated the seasoned beef in harmony.
Now let the grilling begin! The marinated meats start to arrive in succession. The thick cut Ox tongue arrives, I cook it medium rare, and the sure joy it brings to my taste buds is unexplainable. The meat quality is excellent: the texture, the flavor, everything meld perfectly. Followed by the Ox tongue, comes the Australian Harami, Small Intestine, and Pork Neck, along with flawlessly cooked Japanese rice, there is nothing I can find to complain about.
The one cut of meat that is beyond amazing is the Zabuton (the premium marbled wagyu beef), this has to be meats sent from the gods. Everyone in their right mind should try this astonishing cut of meat. The unfortunately thin slice of meat cooks very fast and once it hits your mouth it melts like butter. My endorphins light up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza in NYC. I see the light and it is beautiful. It is, however, the most expensive dish on the menu, but you will definitely not be disappointed.
Since this is a meat shop, the seafood offered here is limited. The tiger prawns, clams and oysters are fresh and have no sand residue in them, the taste is exquisite. If you have a friend who likes seafood more than red meat they will surely not be disappointed with the quality.
Finally, I have my go-to Yakiniku place in Hong Kong – that is until one can unseat 298 Nikuya’s quality and excellent service. I will definitely go back to 298 Nikuya more than my doctor would recommend. Seats are limited so definitely reserve a table before going there.
298 Nikuya – G/F, 15 Hillier Street , Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Tel:852-2799-2818