The buzz: This bar's been open for a year, but we forgive you if you haven't heard about it yet. After all, barkeep-slash-owner Masayuki Uchida’s Japanese-style watering hole isn’t the easiest place to find. The venue is ultra-exclusive—not limited to members but literally tiny, seating 20 people at most. Uchida, now 31, began bartending at age 18 after starting out as a nightclub janitor. After realizing that Japan doesn’t offer many entrepreneurial opportunities, he headed to Hong Kong four years ago, learning the ropes at Oriental Sake Bar Yu-Zen in Causeway Bay.
The décor: The tiny joint has a long wooden bar with a vast array of colorful bottles as a backdrop and high stools perfect for lingering in front, and two wooden booths upholstered in gray that fit about four revelers each. There are two quirky touches to this otherwise basic space: the bookshelf at the front housing an old-fashioned shaker as well as a good-bye card from Uchida's Japanese friends, old cocktail recipe books and Japanese magazines devoted to whisky; and the cubbyhole at the end of the bar, where Uchida highlights a different alcohol every month or so.
The drinks: Butler’s menu is extensive—you’ll find everything from tequila to beer to expensive Japanese whisky—but Uchida encourages people to order off the menu. He says he knows 3,000 cocktail recipes by heart, and is willing to create and modify drinks to suit any customer’s taste—whether it’s a penchant for sweet or bitter concoctions, something sour or made from seasonal fresh fruit. Meticulous to the max, he quickly tastes each drink he prepares to make sure it’s mixed to his standards. He recommends his Hong Kong Skyball, made with thyme-infused vodka, lemon or lime, soda or tonic and a dash of Grand Marnier. Or opt for the most popular drink, Uchida’s version of a Moscow Mule, made with ginger-infused vodka, green ginger wine, spicy ginger ale and a little fresh lime.
Why you’ll be back: The bar’s commitment to perfectly crafted, individually tailored drinks and impeccable service make the place worth the trip. Head here to meet Uchida and his small team, who wear ties and vests, bow often and shout Japanese greetings when you enter and exit.
By Hana R. Alberts
Bookings strongly recommended. Closed Sundays.