Posts for the 'Japanese' Category


Kintan

Kintan is the first yakiniku-style restaurant in London, a style of Japanese BBQ where the diner orders a selection of meat, seafood, and vegetables and barbeques the food using a grill set in the middle of the table. In Japanese the word yakiniku means ‘grilled meat’, and it is a concept similar to the better-known Korean barbecues. It is a hugely fun and interactive experience and engages everyone at the table. What’s more you also get to cook the food how you want, which in my case is medium rare for the red meats. The grills at Kintan are smokeless, so you get all the flavour of the food without having smoke in your eyes or on your clothes. It’s hot work though as the heat radiates off the grill, but it’s also a really nice way to warm the soul as we make our way into winter.

Kintan opened in July 2014 and is part of the Kintan yakiniku group of restaurants which also have branches in Hong Kong, Jakarta and Tokyo. The restaurant is very slick and modern and spaciously spans two floors. It is a very professional operation and you get the sense that the waiting staff have been well-trained to guide the diner through the menu and the finer points of yakiniku. Our grills were constantly changed as they got dirty, a service which I appreciated as there is nothing worse that getting burnt bits on your food.

Although yakiniku is the specialty at Kintan, the restaurant also serves a selection of small hot dishes, salads, rice and noodles. We tried the tuna tartar volcano (£7) starter which consisted of some tuna tartar with spicy mayo served on top of a crunchy rice cracker. The tuna was delicious, especially with the creamy mayo, but it was the crunchy rice cracker that really impressed. It resembled a rectangular block of rice that had been deep-fried so that it was really crunchy on the outside, thereby offering up a really interesting textural combination with the tuna.

Kintan - Tuna tartar volcano

Tuna tartar volcano

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Yashin Ocean

Yashin Ocean House, a modern Japanese restaurant located on Old Brompton Road, brings to London a head-to-tail type of dining similar to St John’s. Only here at Yashin Ocean the focus is seafood rather than meat. It’s a refreshing concept and beautifully done by chefs Yasuhiro Mineno, ex-head chef at Ubon by Nobu, Shinya Ikeda, ex-head chef at Yumi restaurant in London and Daniele Codini, a former chef de partie at The Fat Duck. The trio have conceived an inventive modern Japanese menu that not only brings head-to-tail ingredients of the sea world into the forefront, but combines it with glorious Western produce such as truffles and foie gras as well. The result is a lovely harmony of Eastern flavours with Western touches.

Dining at Yashin Ocean House was a pretty faultless experience with our first dish of unagi eel and summer truffle (£12) being particularly mesmerising. The eel was gorgeous and the truffle was fragrant and really enjoyable with the eel. Also delectable was the delicately smoked salmon caviar (£11.80) with a light soy dressing and a shaving of truffle.

Yashin Ocean - Unagi eel with truffle

Unagi eel with truffle

Yashin Ocean – Salmon caviar with truffle

Salmon caviar with truffle

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Yamazato – One Star Michelin Japanese Restaurant, Amsterdam

After a sumptuous dinner at &Samhoud Places, we followed this up with another lovely meat at Yamazato Restaurant which located in The Hotel Okura in Amsterdam. Yamazato is famous for its authentic Japanese haute cuisine, and in fact Yamazato was the first traditional Japanese restaurant to be awarded a one Michelin star in Europe. The restaurant is best known for its kaiseki menu, a multi-course Japanese menu that draws upon seasonal ingredients and a collection of skills and techniques in its preparation. But Yamazato also offers a wonderful variety of classical Japanese dishes from the a la carte menu, a selection of sashimi and sushi, and a more moderately priced lunch menu.

Decorated in a 15th and 16th-century Sukiya style, the décor at Yamazato embodies the essence of a classical Japanese fine dining restaurant. The waitresses were all dressed in kimonos and well trained in the art of fine Japanese hospitality. Surrounding the restaurant is a Japanese garden, beautifully landscaped to exude a sense of calm and serenity. The décor, the lovely service and the garden all went hand in hand in to create a harmonious dining experience.

Yamazato - The Garden

The Garden

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Vox Restaurant – Grand Hyatt Berlin

Vox Restaurant in The Grand Hyatt Berlin is unusual in that it offers a sushi and sashimi selection as well as a contemporary European menu. The restaurant, located on the ground floor of the hotel, is buzzy and modern, and oozes a hip-n-happening vibe helped in no small part by its dark décor and sleek lines. The open plan kitchen is divided into two sections each catering to the two different elements of the menu. A bar graces the entrance to the restaurant which was busy partying away on the night of our Saturday visit.

We decided to try the Japanese side of things first and elected for the nigiri, maki and sashimi collection (€29) as well as an ebi (prawn) roll (€18) with unagi (eel) sauce. In a city not famed for its sushi, our offering proved to be acceptable. The fish was fresh and palatable, although we longed for salmon and tuna which were a little fatter and richer in taste. Also a touch of something sweeter, perhaps some Japanese mayo, would have really helped to lift the prawn roll. A miso soup (€6) was delicious, but we found a seaweed salad (€12) to be disappointing. The seaweed was a little chewy and bland, and the dressing a little too acidic.

Vox - Sushi, sashimi & prawn roll

Sushi, sashimi & prawn roll

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Flesh and Buns

Flesh and Buns is the latest Izakaya restaurant by the people from Bone Daddies, the successful ramen restaurant founded by chef Ross Shonhan who previously worked at Nobu and Zuma. The concept of Flesh and Buns centres around hirata buns, folded steamed buns commonly filled with pork. Here, you have a choice of different fillings, all of which are accompanied by salad, a sauce and pickles. You create your own buns here, filling them however you wish. And as a precursor to the buns, there are also a choice of raw dishes, snacks and small dishes.

Flesh and Buns has a common appeal. Not only is its concept of ‘flesh and buns’ original, the décor is funky and appealing with a buzzy vibe. The centrepiece of the restaurant is a long sharing table, and circling the table are cozy booth seats and round tables.

We kicked off with a tuna tataki with grapefruit, dry miso, coriander (£10) which was truly lovely. The tuna was fresh, the use of dry miso added depth, and the coriander provided a fresh fragrance to the dish. There were also little beads of dried rice which gave the dish a crunchy finish.

Flesh and Buns - Tuna tataki

Tuna tataki

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Tomo Japanese Restaurant at Raffles Dubai

Tomo Japanese Restaurant is a stylishly elegant restaurant located on the 17th floor of the sumptuous Raffles Hotel Dubai. It has an outdoor terrace that offers wonderful views of downtown Dubai which is perfect for pre-dinner drinks. Tomo only opened earlier in 2013 and in that time it has managed to sweep Time Out Dubai’s Best Newcomer of The Year Award.

But while Tomo may be less than a year old, Executive Chef Chitoshi Takahashi has long been recognised as one of the best Japanese chefs in the Middle East having worked in the region for about 30 years. He has an established following, and was recently flown to Qatar to cook for the Prime Minister of Japan when he was there on a state visit. Recognition indeed.

We started with a summer roll salad with tuna and avocado (AED70 – about £11.70) which was fresh and tasty. The combination of the avocado and the tuna was a great match and the tuna was excellent. To complete the plate was a mixture of miso sauce and a balsamic vinegar dressing, both of which were nicely done. However less sauce was needed on the plate.

Tomo - tuna & avocado roll

Tuna & avocado roll

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Buddha Bar

When Buddha Bar opened in Paris in 1996 it took the city by storm. A visionary ultra-chic designer restaurant, bar and lounge serving contemporary fusion Asian food to the stylish set, the blend of East meets West set a new trend in design unseen elsewhere before. Since that illustrious opening, the Buddha Bar brand has gone global with restaurants and bars throughout the world. The brand has also extended to hotels, resorts and spas, as well as downloads of the funky DJ tunes played in its venues.

The London branch of Buddha Bar is located in the equally chic Knightsbridge, and is headed by Chef King Dey who spent three years at L’Etranger as the Head Chef and has also freelanced at Noma and Zuma. As such there are little twists in the contemporary Japanese-centric menu which places a strong focus on maki rolls, sushi and sashimi. The current location is much smaller than the previous Buddha Bar at Temple. But it’s undeniably a Buddha Bar with its trademark look of chic and a classy clientele.

A king crab and prawn tempura roll (8 pieces – £17.50) was gratifyingly tasty from the sweetness of the seafood. But the tempura batter was a bit soft, and a crunchier finish would have given it a greater textural contrast. The spicy mango sauce was sweet and tangy and a perfect fit for the roll.

King crab & prawn tempura roll

King crab & prawn tempura roll

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Umu Japanese Pop Up – Frieze Masters

Umu Japanese Restaurant is a one Michelin starred venue located in the heart of Mayfair. It’s a favourite of those who work at the Japanese Consulate, and understandably so as the food is divine. Chef Yoshinori Ishii previously spent nine years at Japan’s three Michelin-starred Kyoto Kitcho, and his haute cuisine approach to Japanese cooking means his food at Umu is graced with a touch that is both elegant and precise.

I dined at Umu last year (for more on that meal click here), but I also had the opportunity to try Umu’s four-day pop-up restaurant at Frieze Masters recently, a fine-arts exhibition in Regents Park. The pop-up restaurant only offered a limited selection of starters, sushi, sashimi, and mains from the original Umu menu, but it was still a great showcase of what the standard Umu menu had to offer. Umu Head Chef Yoshinori Ishii remained in charge of the pop-up and worked the sushi bar as we ate. Also in attendance was a legion of full time staff from Umu in Mayfair.

Umu’s Chef Yoshinori Ishii hard at work

Umu’s Chef Yoshinori Ishii hard at work

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