Posts for the 'London' Category


Koji

KOJI

Koji Japanese Restaurant in Parsons Green is a joint collaboration between Nobuhisha Takahashi, the former sushi head chef at both Nobu London and Nobu Cape Town, and Mark Barnett, the former proprietor of the now closed Mao Tai Chinese restaurant. The Koji concept centres around contemporary Japanese dining, ranging from fresh sushi and sashimi being carved out at the beautiful sushi bar, to meats and seafood caramelising sweetly on the robata grill. On the a la carte menu is an array of modern Japanese dishes that draw influences from South America and Europe.

Koji offers a sophisticated yet relaxed atmosphere. Towards the front of the restaurant is a cocktail bar offering light snacks and the sushi bar where diners can choose to eat their meal whilst watching the sushi craftmen at work. In the restaurant proper is a buzzy restaurant where diners can relax in well-appointed surrounds.

We started with the summer roll with soft shell crab (£15) which was gloriously fresh and summery. The crab was sweet and meaty with a crunchy coating, and it had been paired with seasonal asparagus, tangy pickled ginger and some fragrant shiso leaf. To hold together all the deliciousness was an outer roll of beautifully made soft Vietnamese rice paper. A yuzu dressing added a citrusy and refreshing touch to the roll.

Koji - London Food Blog - Summer roll

Koji – Summer roll

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Kouzu

KOUZU

Photos and words by Food Porn Nation and I.

Kouzu, which means ‘composition’ in Japanese, sits in a beautiful historical 1850s Grade-II listed period building in Belgravia. Kouzu is a slick, modern affair spanning two levels, with a sushi bar on the first floor and the main dining room on the ground floor. The contemporary décor is further glamorised by a lavish set of chandeliers gracing the entrance area.

Kouzu’s head chef is Kyoichi Kai who hails from Kyushu in Japan where he worked as a chef before moving to London in 1988. Chef Kai has cooked at notable restaurants such as Zuma and most recently at The Arts Club in Dover Street. His menu includes traditional Japanese fare such as sashimi, nigiri and maki. These are moderated by modern twists such as the ‘new stream’ contemporarily styled sashimi, charcoal grills, a range of tempuras, and cooked dishes such as miso-marinated black cod. On the drinks list there are a range of Japanese whiskies, cocktails, Japanese beers by the bottle and a variety of sake.

From the ‘new stream’ sashimi, the salmon with yuzu soy dressing (£11.00) was flavoursome, but the dressing of yuzu soy, ginger, garlic, and sesame seed and hot sesame oil was a little too acidic and salty and therefore slightly overpowering against the salmon.

Kouzu - salmon with yuzu soy dressing

Kouzu – salmon with yuzu soy dressing

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Kanada-Ya

Where: Kanada-Ya

Photos and words by Food Porn Nation and I.

Kanada-Ya on St Giles High Street opened its doors in September 2014 and has since cultivated a large following with its special brand of ramen. Kanada-Ya is the brainchild of the award winning tonkostu broth master Mr Kanada who has been making ramen in Japan since 2009. It specialises only in tonkostu ramen and does not stray into shio, shoyu or miso based broths.

The secret to Kanada-Ya’s success is its specially cooked 18-hour pork bone tonkotsu broth which is tended to overnight. There are three different types of ramen bowls available – the original, the moyashi (a lighter broth) and chashu-men (ramen finished with a chashu collar). The word ramen is taken from the Chinese word ‘lamien’ which means ‘hand pulled noodles’ and the ramen at Kanada-Ya is literally that – hand pulled noodles prepared on site by their very own noodle whiz. Kanada-ya also serve onigiri (Japanese rice balls wrapped in nori) that can be washed down with a selection of Japanese beers, sake or soft drinks.

Kanadaya - Chashu men, 18-hour pork bone broth, secret sauce, hand pulled noodles, chashu, pork, wood ear fungus, nori and spring onion finished with pork collar

Kanadaya – Chashu men, 18-hour pork bone broth, secret sauce, hand pulled noodles, chashu, pork, wood ear fungus, nori and spring onion finished with pork collar

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Roka, Aldwych

The chain of Roka restaurants offer a unique style of contemporary Japanese robatayaki cuisine, a cooking method where items of food are slowly grilled over hot charcoal. The original branch of Roka opened on Charlotte Street to much success and subsequent branches followed in Canary Wharf, Mayfair and on Aldwych. But the menu extends beyond just robata dishes. There is also a delectable selection of sashimi and nigiri, fried options including tempura, snacks, soups and rice dishes such as hot pots with lobster and miso butter. Now how good does that sound?

We visited Roka Aldwych which opened last November. Designed by Claudio Silvestrin who was also responsible for L’anima and Alan Yau’s Princi on Wardour Street, the restaurant is spacious and grand with a sleek, contemporary minimalist look, a style for which Silvestrin is well known. Like all the other Rokas, the robata grill plays centre stage at Roka Aldwych, and in addition to the tables in the main dining room, guests can also eat in the lounge area and at the robata bar.

We started with the yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, mizuna and pickled vegetables (£14.60), and the spectacular scent of truffle immediately caught our attention when the dish arrived at our table. This dish was pure perfection. The quality of the fish and the balance of the truffle yuzu dressing was absolutely flawless. It was an exquisite dish and we enjoyed it immensely. If you only order one thing at Roka Aldwych, this has to be it.

Roka - yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, mizuna and pickled vegetables

Roka – yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, mizuna and pickled vegetables

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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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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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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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