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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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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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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