I am a miso ignoramus. I am that person you see in the supermarket aisle reaching for the cheats’ instant miso soup packets and not caring about the ridiculous amounts of sodium and MSG in them. I can just about tell you that there exists white miso and red miso but other than that… zilch knowledge.
This lack of information (appalling for someone who eats as much Japanese food as I do and drinks miso soup like it’s going out of fashion), was made apparent to me when my food monster friends and I went to this relatively new Japanese place in Causeway Bay.
Toba Nagoya is a compact, chic and modern looking izakaya that prides itself on its impressive sake list and a obsession with slapping on liberal amounts of Hatcho Miso on all their food except their chicken wings (more on that later). The colourful sake jars lining the shelves make for interesting decoration especially as I have never seen sake jars before- at first we thought they were “special” specimen jars, *ahem* whoops.
But before I go on, what is Hatcho Miso? Hatcho miso is one of the 4 most common miso flavours including Shiromiso (white miso), Akamiso (red miso) and Awasemiso (mixed miso). Hatcho miso is darker and browner, is high in vitamins and minerals and has a lower salt and water content.
Right, so now we know what the stuff is, how does it taste and how was Toba Nagoya? The staff were cheerful and friendly and didn’t bat an eyelid when we went wild with the ordering. As an appetizer we were given a tasty melon dish topped with hatcho miso which was devoured by my ravenous girlfriend “Krispy K”. Clearly the miso was tasty. As we are greedy people we ordered 2 of everything: the hatcho grilled eggplant, hatcho miso assorted oden-chicken ball, skewered cutlet pork fillets and homemade beancurd. We also ordered their special chicken wings coated with their secret Toba sauce (mild, medium hot or super spicy)- we opted for 1 mild and 1 medium. To whet our appetites we asked for some sake and eagerly awaited our feast.
We loved the chicken wings- crispy skin, tender meat, tasty sauce. If my memory serves me correctly, you can get either 6, 10 or 12 chicken wings. As we were filled with glee over the taste, my friend “Chiaphuati” asked for another 10, which we later realised was ambitious given how cluttered our table was.
Glazing food with hatcho miso is a clever move. The eggplant went down a treat, so much so that MZ accidentally ordered 2 more and we ended up with an eggplant phobia after dinner. The chicken balls and the assorted veg accompaniment were tasty but if you’re not a fan of soft cartilage then go for the deep friend pork cutlets which were exquisite. The pork was just the right side of fatty, tender and delicious. Their assorted tempura and softshell crab sushi roll were very good too and a tasty break from the hatcho miso dishes. Out of all the dishes, the homemade beancurd was the one disappointment. Perhaps I was missing the point of it but to me it tasted like cheese and was overly fermented.
Considering the amount we ordered, the price per head was very reasonable. I’ll be back again to try some of their other dishes and to educate myself on sake hehe. I’ll probably won’t be eating eggplant anytime soon though….
Chopstick rating: 4/5
Toba Nagoya, 21/F, L’Hart, 489 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bar. MTR: Exit C. Tel: 2891 7188