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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JUST EAT Food Delivery

I am not much of a take out girl, preferring much more to eat in a restaurant for the complete dining experience. But with a sister visiting from out of town and the cold starting to bite, when JUST EAT contacted me to try their delivery service I decided it would be novel to take up their offer to ‘just eat’ and veg out in front of the telly.

JUST EAT is a website with a list of over 18,000 restaurants from which you can order take-out to be delivered to right to your front door. Thus it expands your choice of options to beyond the few local take away restaurants that you are familiar with. JUST EAT allows you to search by locality and by cuisine, and it’s a rather user-friendly website. Given the number of options available, its difficult to know which of them is worthwhile ordering from. But the website has a neat little feature which allows previous diners to rate the food out of a possible maximum 6 stars. This helps give you a sense of how dependable the food is likely to be.

We first tried Go Chisou, the take away offshoot of the well-known Chisou Japanese Restaurant with branches in Mayfair, Chiswick and Knightsbridge. We tried a mixed sashimi salad of tuna, salmon and prawn served on some greens (£8.10); a special ebiten maki, a king prawn tempura roll with asparagus topped with salmon and avocado (£10.85); and a salmon maki roll (£3.85). All the seafood was resoundingly fresh and delicious, and it was so satisfying to have such nice Japanese food delivered to my door without having to leave the comfort of my home.

Chisou sashimi salad

Sashimi salad

Chisou prawn tempura roll & salmon maki

Prawn tempura roll & salmon maki

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Shoryu Ramen Soho

Ramen noodles are all the rage at the moment. In the last year or so London has seen the opening of such ramen houses (or ‘ramenya’ as the Japanese like to call them) as Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu. I can’t work out whether these openings have either fuelled the ramen craze or were in response to the craze, but competition can only mean standards remain high and that translates to good news for the diner. Another addition is Shoryu Ramen which is owned by the same people as those who own the Japan Centre on Regent Street. Now these people know a thing about Japanese food, and the success of the first branch of Shoryu Ramen on Regent Street has led to the recent opening of their second branch, Shoryu Ramen Soho.

It’s a no reservation restaurant but there were no queues when we popped along on a Monday night. It’s a lovely little space, modern and comfortable with nice thoughtful touches such as the wicker baskets placed under each of the tables for ladies handbags. And in addition to the condiments on top of the tables, there’s also a basket brimming with fresh garlic and some garlic crushers should you choose to enhance the flavour of your tonkotsu broth.

Garlic to flavour your broth

Garlic to flavour your broth

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Bone Daddies

Oriental noodle dishes are all about the broth. There’s no doubt that noodles are an important facet, but the flavour comes from the broth, and chef-proprietor Ross Shonhan champions this fact with his noodle house Bone Daddies where he serves up noodles in bone-cooked broth as is typical oriental tradition. Shonhan has spent some time at both Nobu and Zuma so Japanese-inspired flavours are old hat for him.

From the starters, a soft-shell crab (£8) was meaty, nicely cooked and very tasty. The spiciness in an accompaniment of chilli and ginger sauce was great, and it added a sparkle to the shellfish. The batter wasn’t thin in a tempura-kind of way, but it really worked with the crab.

Soft-shell crab

Soft-shell crab

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Zuma

Zuma is part of the Azumi restaurant group that also owns Roka. Serving a range of sushi, robata grills and cooked food in a contemporary Japanese izakaya style, the setting befits its Knightsbridge location. It’s chichi and glamorous, and a magnet for some posh clientele as well which makes for some interesting people watching. There’s no hiding from the air of pretentiousness that surrounds Zuma.

It is virtually impossible to get a reservation at Zuma, at least on a Friday night anyway. I have lost count of the number of times I have tried, only to be told that the restaurant is booked out. The alternative is to wait at the bar for a seat at the no-reservations sushi counter and robata grill.

So that is what we did – wait – for two hours. Zuma has an impressive list of cocktails, but even then we still had to wait to be served as the bar service was rather slow. Food can also be had at the bar, and to appease the hunger we tried a couple of items such as the pork skewers (£5.30) which were tasty but extremely fatty and a touch salty. It came with a yuzu mustard miso that was a good match with the pork.

Pork skewers

Pork skewers

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