Posted on Monday, 30th January 2017
Walking along the multicultural and diverse cuisine street of Westbourne Grove, you are spoilt for choice as to what to have for dinner. One of them is C&R Izakaya, a relatively new kid on the block. The location use to house a Malaysian restaurant which has now been transformed into a Japanese restaurant.
The restaurant has a slimmed down, parred back interior design, and so it doesn’t quite induce the buzzy atmosphere that you might otherwise encounter in a central London restaurant, say in the West End. When we entered for our sitting at 6:30pm, modern pop music was playing and there were a sufficient number of tables available with a few other patrons dotted around. The table was set in a simple style with a wine glass, small plate, chopsticks and soy sauce. The lighting was soft, with individual downlights granting appropriate visibility of the extensive menu.
The menu reminded us of similar casual restaurants in Japan, what with its bright colours and photos that teased you with the variety of options available. The pricing is not on the light side, and did make one wary of how much to order, but in the end we decided to go for a varied selection of items from the menu.
The Aki sashimi set (18 pieces, 6 kinds – £25.50) came first which three pieces of each fish, white tuna, tuna, yellow tail, salmon, scallops and sea bass. This was well presented on a bed of ice. The slices were large and substantial – too large to in fact be considered a technically correct cut of sashimi fish. But we didn’t mind as it was all the more for us to eat. All the fish was delicious and fresh. However, the main delight for us was the white tuna. Having never tried white tuna before, we were intrigued as to its flavour and we were certainly not disappointed. The white tuna was excellent, with a softer texture to normal tuna and a longer lingering taste on the palate. If at this point, the meal had ended, we would have all gone home and been happy.
The next to arrive was the Volcano maki (8 pieces – £16.80) which consisted of eel, leek, bonito flakes, eel sauce, avocado and mayonnaise. Apparently this is a local favourite, and when it came out we could understand why. The dish was beautifully presented and vibrant with colour which gave the diner a sense of theatre as the plate arrived. The eel was tasty and combined well with the other ingredients in the roll. The creamy sauce was somewhat sweet and it slightly overpowered the eel. But the sauce was still rather tasty and quite moreish.
Also very enjoyable was the dragon maki (8 pieces – £18.80) consisting of jumbo prawn, avocado, tobiko, asparagus, eel sauce and mayonnaise. Again, this was fresh and came together to produce a lively combination of flavours.
Moving onto the cooked dishes, and the nasu dengaku, grilled aubergine with sweet honey and sesame seeds (£6.80) was pleasant, but not the best that London had to offer. Ebi prawn tempura (8 pieces including vegetables – £8.80) was again pleasant with the vegetables and prawns being nicely cooked. However the batter could have been crunchier and lighter. Chawamushi (£4.80), a steamed savoury egg custard with prawns, chicken and fishcake was set well but a bit bland on the bland side. It needed a great flavour of stock running through it to really lift it.
We hit up the carbs with a dish of Yaki Udon (£9.80), stir-fried udon noodles with chicken and vegetables, a dish that we cannot recommend. It tasted like Chinese stir-fry noodles, rather than a dish of Japanese origins. It did not taste good, and furthermore, it was very oily.
To desserts, and the mochi with grean tea, mango, chocolate and coconut (4 pieces – £7.80) was well made with some lovely ice cream flavours. However, a green tea fondant (£8.80) was terrible. The flavour was not good and it had not risen properly. Simply put, it was inedible.
The highlight of the evening was the white tuna, and having the opportunity to taste this was worth a visit to C&R Izakaya alone because it truly was delicious. The other sashimi and the maki rolls were good too. As for the other items we tried, we found both the savoury cooked dishes and the desserts to be pretty bog standard. Therefore we would recommend that diners limit their choice to the sashimi and sushi and such like items. The staff were friendly and attentive and the drinks menu sufficient for a glass of wine or a cocktail.
1) The white tuna.
2) Sashimi and maki rolls.
1) The yaki udon.
2) The green tea fondant.
Price: About £40 a head, excluding drinks and service.
Food rating: 3.25/5
Service rating: 3.5/5