FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Koi, the only Japanese restaurant within the Renmin Square hotel compound, caters to diners from Sofitel, Grand Mercure and Mercure, as well as guests from the Sofitel Convention Center and Grand Theater. It also attracts walk-in traffic in the commercial district, where Renmin Square is located.
The restaurant is strategically placed near the hotel’s main entrance. Seating for lunch or dinner is for 118 people, with a choice of the main dining area for à la carte, teppanyaki area, sushi bar and private tatami rooms. The décor is traditional Japanese style, enhanced by sleek furniture and muted lighting. Spot lighting in the main dining area set the mood, although I found the lighting above our table a tad too glaring.
THE FOOD: At the helm of the restaurant is Chef Jiang Jiyong, who has 18 years of experience in Japanese cuisine. For lunch and dinner, diners can choose from a menu of deep fried dishes, hot plates, soup, noodles and rice bentos. Hot pots are popular during the winter and highly recommended. Until the end of November, a sake menu is available at CNY488 (US$72) for eight courses such as Alaskan king crab clear soup presented in a teapot, the chef’s creation of fresh sashimi and sushi rolls, grilled cod fish fillet and prawn tempura with spicy mayonnaise – all paired with different types of sake.
I had two companions for lunch so we ordered a variety, such as broiled unagi (eel), an assortment of sashimi and seaweed salad. My favourite was the unagi – moist with just the right amount of savoury sauce. If we hadn’t ordered enough, I would have asked for another serving of the fish.
DRINKS: Ranging from Japanese cold sake, shochu, plum wine and sake cocktails to Western selections like whisky (Scotch, Single Malt, Canadian and Bourbon), gin, vodka, rum and tequila, as well as beers, coffee, tea, juices and soft drinks.
SERVICE: Service staff were efficient and pleasant. When we asked for recommendations, they however failed to suggest any.
PRICE: Set menus cost CNY188 (US$27) to CNY268 (US$39); sake from CNY110 (US$16) a bottle.
VERDICT: A relaxed ambience excellent for entertaining.
CONTACT: tel 86 29 8792 8888 ext 4689; www.renminsquare.com.cn. Open 1130-1400 and 1730-2130.