Imagine, if you will, Blade Runner as seen through the eyes of Brian Wilson, with a soundtrack of Japanese monster movies squealing in the background. Now sidle up to a bar manned by acolytes of Beachbum Berry, grab a bite from the sweltering robata grill, and play a round of Pac-Man on the tabletop arcade machine. At Hojoko, Tim and Nancy Cushman’s irresistible izakaya, it’s East meets West meets East again, with décor that touches on everything from pop Sanrio art to Japan’s prevalent otaku (i.e., “geek”) video-game culture to vintage surfing iconography. Did we mention there’s also poolside al fresco dining?
And that’s only half the fun. To complement the range of technicolor frozen cocktails—as well as the comprehensive sake selection—executive chef Hart Lowry has ratcheted up the smoke, salt, and acid for a street-food menu that is admittedly “neither shy nor timid.” Here, a breakdown of what makes Hojoko one hell of a good time.
Even American ballpark staples have carved out real estate on Hojoko’s exhaustive menu, such as the over-the-top Dogzilla: a deep-fried, bacon-wrapped, American cheese–stuffed Neuske’s hot dog covered with kabayaki sauce and bonito flakes.
A robata grill churns out chef Hart Lowry’s take on Japanese street food like chicken-tail yakitori, tsukune shellacked in a ginger umeboshi sauce, and Alaskan king crab legs basted with spicy momiji mayo.
Hojoko’s “drunk baby” emblem can be seen everywhere in the space: graffitied onto walls, front and center on a mural painted by local artist Michelle Dugan, even stenciled on the surface of cocktails like the “5, 6, 7, 8,” which comes topped with mango foam.
Sake professional Alyssa DiPasquale stocks the bar with 20 different single-serve sake cups. Kaika tokubetsu junmai, for example, comes in a collectible jelly jar festooned with Sanomaru, the cuddly mascot of Sano, Japan.
Unlike its sister restaurant, O Ya, Hojoko has embraced the concept of louche, overstuffed sushi rolls. Don’t miss the deconstructed caesar with grilled romaine, croutons, fried clams, and a drizzle of anchovy-spiked dressing.
Plastic guitars can hold 28 ounces of booze (the equivalent of four drinks), including bar managers’ Daren Swisher and Joe Cammarata’s Blue Hawaiian, a blend of Mizu shochu, rum, pineapple juice, and curacao dyed in house.
DiPasquale worked with a stateside importer to bring in kegs of Bushido junmai, making Hojoko the first American bar to offer sake on draft.
For larger parties and poolside imbibing, Hojoko packs Orion-branded Coleman coolers with bottles of champagne and magnums of sake.
Plastic surfboards balance shots of Irish whiskey or Campari. Bang the Formica bar to plunge the liquor into a pint of house-made shrub, such as this spicy pineapple syrup steeped with Thai chili. Bombs away!
1271 Boylston St., Boston, 617-670-0507, hojokoboston.com.
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