Gishiki Lounge, the intimate cocktail bar on the basement floor in Tai Kwun is attached to Japanese restaurant Sushi Zo, but certainly deserves its own review. The newly revisited fifteen-cocktail menu is split into the three stages of Noh theatre: Jo, meaning beginning; Ha, meaning development; Kyu, meaning climax.
Guests entering Gishiki Lounge are first greeted by flickering noh masks which line the walls. The space is reminiscent of a colonial-era living room — plush, dark emerald velvet upholstery, heavy curtains, and black marble with gold and bright turquoise accents. The menu is presented in the form of three fans, each representing a different stage of noh theatre. Every drink on the menu is priced at HKD 138 (USD 17), and each offering is tied to a mask used in noh, with its story reflected in the tasting notes and conception of its corresponding cocktail.
The space is reminiscent of a colonial-era living room
Gishiki Lounge’s starting portion of the menu is presented in the first fan, Jo: a presentation of five drinks that signify the beginning of a performance. Easy-to-drink, crushable cocktails are the stars here. Those who are looking for summery cocktails will find offerings such as Juroku, a clarified piña colada with a thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel, or O-tobide which tastes like a pink jolly rancher made with champagne acid and strawberry air. Cocktails featuring ingredients like soursop pulp, sobacha — a roasted buckwheat tea — and mochigome, a sweet Japanese rice, create light-bodied flavours which are easily enjoyed by all. These are also the most dangerous; it’s too easy to overindulge and stumble out of the bar, not knowing what hit you — not that it’s entirely a bad thing.
The second act is Ha, where the plot develops and thickens. The five cocktails in this segment of the menu at Gishiki Lounge represent Ha with complex flavour profiles and transformative properties. One cocktail that stood out to us is based on the Hannya mask, which tells the story of a woman who, eaten up with rage and jealousy, slowly transforms into a demon over time. Hannya is depicted with a slow transformation cocktail which is poured over a sphere of hibiscus ice — as the ice melts, the flavour of the cocktail evolves. Other offerings include Fudo, wood-smoked with cherry wood chips, and the Tsuri-manako, named after the golden mask and presented with gold flakes and a saffron garnish.
The final act, Kyu, is the climax of the play. The cocktails which represent Kyu are spirit-forward, with aggressive and experimental flavours like blue cheese, habañero, chestnut, and mushrooms. Not for the faint of heart, these are the strongest drinks of all the offerings, which also make them the most interesting. Yamanba, named for a children-eating witch, is full of earthy notes like onion aroma, shiitake mushrooms, and winter truffles. The warrior mask, Heida, is a dainty peach and pink cocktail which features persimmon, dragon fruit and blue cheese — but looks are deceiving. Because of the blue cheese, it has a pungent smell, offering a cheesy aftertaste and nose.
Bar Manager Billy Lau of Gishiki Lounge has put together an incredibly cohesive and innovative cocktail menu which tells the story of noh theatre through conception and distinctly Japanese flavours. The brave can try and work their way through all fifteen drinks, which Lau or anyone on his mixology team are happy to accompany with the back story to each. Or, one can simply choose based on the types of cocktails one prefers — light, complex, strong. Or just pick and choose. Noh-one is judging.
Semimaru: Made with mochigome sweet rice, soursop pulp, and sesame oil. This tastes like a sesame espresso martini with a creamy and rich texture, yet still light-bodied.
Tsuri-manako: A version of the whiskey sour featuring beeswax, gold flakes, the Japanese citrus sudachi, and saffron garnish. Pine tar lends a smoky aftertaste.
Shojo: The last, and strongest, drink on the menu which Lau describes as a “gentle martini.” A nod to the classic 50/50 martini made with gin and vermouth. Has a rice-y, cheesy taste and topped with cherry blossom saline oil.
Great for a small group of friends or post-dinner drinks as Sushi Zo is just beside. The dark, cosy ambiance is great for long conversations and first dates
Price for two:
All drinks are priced at HKD 138 (USD 17).
Shop 01, LG103, Tai Kwun, Central
Mon-Thu 3pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 3pm-2am
This story first appeared here