Cover The eight-seat yakiniku bar at Yakiniku Jikon (Photo: Handout)

Taking cues from Michelin-starred sister restaurant Tominokoji Yamagishi for a refined exploration of yakiniku cuisine

Hong Kong is no stranger to yakiniku restaurants, yet while many of them hew closely to the traditional model of serving course after unrelenting course of wagyu beef, few ever consider the boundaries to which the cuisine can be pushed. Enter Yakiniku Jikon, a new grilled meat restaurant opening in K11 Musea that takes a wealth of liberties with the medium, playing, twisting and piecing together yakiniku with other facets of Japanese cuisine to create something that is delightfully unique in an otherwise crowded market.

The restaurant comes from pedigree as an offshoot of the one-Michelin-starred Tominokoji Yamagishi in Kyoto. Both the original Tominokoji Yamagishi and its Hong Kong branch—just one floor below in K11 Musea—specialise in cha-kaiseki, a form of rarefied kaiseki haute cuisine that incorporates elements from the Japanese tea ceremony, of which chef-founder Takahiro Yamagishi is an ardent practitioner—alongside ikebana (flower arrangement) and calligraphy. Translating to 'now' in English, Jikon is Yamagishi's first foray into the world of grilled meat, and takes its name from a teaching of 13th-century Zen Buddhist philosopher-monk Dōgen Zenji.

See also: A Guide To The Best Wagyu Beef from Japan

Despite the restaurant's ultra-modern setting within the glass-colonnaded facade of K11 Musea's Sculpture Park and in spitting distance of a KAWS Companion sculpture, nods to the often austerity of the tea ceremony are present in the hewn tree trunk column at the entrance, the chashitsu-style booths, and the itamae-style eight-seat yakiniku bar that places the art of Japanese hospitality, or omotenashi, front and centre, much like a sushi bar would.

Manning the bar is yakiniku expert and okami (hostess), Hiromi Nomura, who trained at the Tokyo Meal Wholesale Market and previously held stints at the one-Michelin-starred Hiyama Tokyo and Yoroniku Ebisu. Taking into account the effects of temperature and humidity on the cuts of meat, Nomura has a deft hand in grilling Jikon's many offerings of A5 Kagoshima satsuma wagyu—sourced from a 100-year-old Tokyo meat supplier to adhere to a 'golden ratio' of meat, fat and umami, and lauded for its frost-like marbling that denotes a delicate balance in succulent fat and flavourful lean meat.

See also: How to Recreate the Yakinikumafia Wagyu Yakiniku Experience At Home

With a myriad of set menus, Jikon is relatively approachable: a whopping 17 options for lunch range between HK$180 to HK$320, while the three dinner set menus start from HK$688. Naturally, the 10-course tasting menu (HK$1,288) is the best place to experience the restaurant's unique brand of kaiseki-inflected yakiniku in all its glory. The opening three-course salvo of caviar-topped smoked beef, seared beef nigiri, and steak tartare begins the meal along contrarian lines, before returning to its core yakiniku offering—each time, Nomura presents the cut of beef before artfully grilling it using a variety of techniques (one involves briefly letting the flames lick the beef for a tinge of sear), and finally, directing diners with which sauce to pair. 

The most anticipated courses amount to the Uniku Dog, an evolution of the Uni Dog at Kyoto's Tominokoji Yamagishi which layered a full row of sea urchin atop a hand roll—the yakiniku version adds a slice of grilled beaf and a whole perilla leaf to temper the fattiness; and the prized Chateaubriand cut, which tenderly melts in the mouth while leaving a sweet and umami aftertaste.

See also: At Newly Opened Masa Hong Kong, Dry-Aged Sushi Is The Star Turn

Throughout the meal, a balance in light and heavy flavours is achieved through the traditional ebb and flow of a kaiseki meal—lean cuts lead into richer cuts, followed by interludes of clear dashi broth or Japanese tomato salad. The beef ochazuke that follows the eighth sukiyaki course is a curious denouement, with tea poured over beef and rice for a lighter alternative to the customary fried rice at this late juncture in the meal. The 'golden ratio' espoused by Jikon really does work wonders, with the beef retaining a pleasing meaty flavour and a range of textures without ever weighing down the palate with excessive fat. The ventilation system of the yakiniku bar is also an unsung hero, discreetly whisking away all odour using an ingenious system that is seamlessly incorporated into the sweeping feature wall.

Beyond an emphasis on provenance, new cuts of meat, and Instagram-friendly service, Hong Kong's yakiniku scene doesn't often see innovation—especially in a manner that somehow incorporates an even older form of gastronomy to create something new. With its hybrid kaiseki-yakiniku cuisine, attentive service by Nomura-san, and smart interiors, Yakiniku Jikon is worth a visit for grilled meat agnostics and purists alike.

Yakiniku Jikon, Shop 603, Level 6, K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong; +852 2868 0929

For more on culinary reinvention of a different sort, read our interview with chef Matthew Kirkley on his direction for Belon 2.0.