When Max Levy – the man behind Beijing’s Okra 1949 – was looking for a spot for his new venture Okra Hong Kong, he narrowed his search down to the Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood. ‘We didn’t want a location that’s going to get commercial too fast,’ says the New Orleans-native, by way of explaining why he settled for the four-storey building built in 1852 that rubs shoulders with contemporary art galleries, Buddhist incense shops and traditional herbalists.
Working with the interior designer Sean Dix, Levy, who also runs the kitchen, has kept the narrow interiors spare, with warm timber table tops and just 12 bar seats and six standing tables that front the open kitchen. Stretching along the length of the restaurant is an eye-catching Toshio Saeki mural.
The MO here is firmly tachinomi, which explains the paucity of seats. All the better to enjoy Levy’s Japanese slash modern small-plates menu. The combinations are intriguing – wild Sicilian seaweed tossed with soy salt and dashi jelly; smoked anchovies with salted Buddha’s Hand fruit, tofu skin and shiso; and Black Angus prime chuck seasoned with burnt olive oil.
Pair it all with an impressive list of sake that’s headlined by a five-year-old Wakatakeya Genrokshu Junmai Koshu.