Roka Mayfair – Japanese fine dining W1

Robata at Roka – fine dining for treat times

For a special occasion this evening, K and I headed to Roka for some seriously special Japanese robata (charcoal grilled) food. We chose this branch for its menu (see Roka Mayfair menu) which includes black cod, a favourite of mine.

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Tuna tataki, beef gyoza, tenderstem broccoli + chicken skewers

We ordered a bottle of dry white wine by La Croix Belle wine estate @ £34.00 – appropriate for a mild Spring evening, and spicy dishes and fish.

While the premium tasting menu looked quite appealing (10 set dishes @ £88.00 each) it seemed like a lazy option. We preferred the enjoyment of reading all of the menu and ordering exactly what we wanted.

As food was arriving at the neighbouring table, it was quite a challenge not to simply copy what they had – it smelt amazing. We took their recommendation for the fried aubergine salad, and were glad we did.

For starters, we shared these plates:

Age nasu no goma-ae @ £6.60
fried aubergine, sesame miso and katsuobushi

Yakitori-negima yaki @ £5.90
chicken skewers with spring onion

– Broccoli no shinme, shoga to moromi miso @ £5.60
tenderstem broccoli, ginger and moromi miso

Beef gyoza @ £9.30
with pickled cucumber and a soy based sauce

Nigiri unagi @ £6.90
two pieces of freshwater eel sushi

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Fried aubergine salad with sesame miso + katsuobushi (tuna flakes) –  @ £6.60

This fried aubergine with sesame miso was a recommendation worth sharing. Absolutely gorgeous. And the eel nigiri (pictured below) was the best I’ve had in the UK – we ordered two portions.

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Two pieces of nigiri unagi – freshwater eel sushi @ £6.90

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Yellowfin tuna tataki – with apple mustard dressing @ £12.60

For main course, we shared:

Kihada maguro no tataki @ £12.60
yellowfin tuna tataki with apple mustard dressing

Gyuhireniku no pirikara yakiniku @ £24.30
spicy beef fillet with chilli, ginger and spring onion

and, saving the best ’til last…

Gindara no saikyo-jaki @ £37.60
black cod marinated in yuzu miso

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Spicy beef fillet – with chilli, ginger and spring onion @ £24.30

Just divine. This black cod may seem a bit pricey @ £37.60 but it absolutely blew me away. And you can’t put a price on that.

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Black cod marinated in yuzu miso @ £37.60

The kitchen is open plan in the centre of the restaurant, so you can see the food being cooked on the robata grills. It’s a bit like posh BBQ-ing really.

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Men at work: robata grills in the centre of the restaurant

 

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Roka Mayfair interior

Our total bill for two came to £185.21 including service.

 

The verdict: Perfectly prepared and beautifully presented food that’s so incredibly tasty, it blew me away. Full marks to the kitchen. Service was at odds (either too much – we went from different servers descending on us one after the other, to non-existent). If you like Japanese food, you’ll love Roka.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Japanese, Robata
– Address: 30 North Audley Street, London
– Postcode: W1K 6ZF
– Nearest station: Bond Street, Green Park
– Website + menus: Roka Mayfair website
– Roka Mayfair photos: Roka Mayfair photos on flickr
– Location: Roka Mayfair map

Roka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Okonomiyaki at Abeno Too – Covent Garden WC2

Turn away now if you’re tormented at the idea of having a big fat tasty Japanese pancake cooked right in front of you, ready to eat all steaming hot and covered in tuna flakes, kewpie mayo and Japanese trimmings…

We tried and loved okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) while on holiday in Japan last year. Somehow, I only recently heard about Abeno, okonomiyaki specialists in London, so was keen to visit.

At the original Abeno restaurant in Bloomsbury, you can book a table. Our visit last night was to Abeno Too on Great Newport Street (off Leicester Square) where there are no reservations. It’s a small restaurant and being a Saturday evening, we headed there early after a shopping spree.

Abeno Too in 43 seconds:

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Okonomiyaki menu at Abeno Too

We started with a couple of refreshing drinks: K had a kirin beer @ £4.75 while I had a summery miyako odori with berries @ £8.50.

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Kirin Ichiban , Miyako odori and kyo geiko

For starters we shared kyo geiko @ £8.50 (dried prune? not that exciting) and beef kara-age @ £13.80 – really tender (as in Granny’s-slow-cooked-beef-stew tender).

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Beef kara-age – crispy nuggets of organic fillet beef, with a garlic, ginger + soy seasoning

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Mio sake – light + refreshing at only 5% alcohol but not cheap @ £14.00 for a small bottle

On to the exciting bit. This restaurant specialises in okonomiyakis, so that’s what we ordered.

Okonomi-yakis are Japanese pancakes, and the ingredients vary based on the region of Japan. However they vary, the basic ingredients are cabbage, egg and dough with spring onions, ginger and bits of tempura batter (in Hiroshima for example, they include soba noodles).

K ordered an Osaka mix – pork, kimchi and prawn, and I ordered a Tokyo mix – pork, squid and prawn. And we went for the deluxe (regular) size @ £14.25 rather than the super deluxe (large) @ £16.25.

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Two okonomiyaki pancakes in the making – Tokyo mix left, Osaka mix right

Watch it cook:

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Steaming and a-sizzling – time to add bacon

The pancake is flipped over when it’s done on the first side, and sprinkled with Katsuobushi or bonito tuna flakes (so light, they dance in the steam) and aonori (powdered seaweed).

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Nearly ready…  topped with Kewpie mayonnaise + okonomi sauce before serving

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Inside Abeno Too

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Queueing outside Abeno Too  – a line had formed by the time we left at 7.30pm

The bill for this fairly quick meal for two, which included a couple of drinks each, came to £94.75 before service.

The verdict: Authentic Japanese experience, it’s not cheap but it’s something a bit different in London. And very tasty too. What’s not to enjoy about having a pancake cooked in front of you, containing a load of ingredients of your choice?

Abeno Too restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Okonomiyaki, Japanese
– Address: Abeno Too, 17-18 Great Newport Street, London
– Postcode: WC2H 7JE
– Nearest station: Leicester Square
– Website + menus: Abeno Too website
– Abeno photos: photos on flickr
– Location: Abeno Too map

Abeno Too Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Check out this ‘sakura-yaki’ special at Abeno in Bloomsbury, London:

Petal-shaped pancakes, a cherry blossom season special at Abeno, May 2017 
(a 20 second timelapse)

The five mini-pancakes are: beef, bacon, squid, prawn + mushroom, around a central egg yolk (pistil), with a kewpie-mayo ‘blossom’ outline, dusted in powdered seaweed and sprinkled in tuna flakes @ £20.80 (shared between two).

Murakami – Japanese in West End, WC2

Creative. Stylish. Comfortable. Downright tasty.

If you want to get straight down to it, these are the words that describe Murakami appropriately.

I arrived early and was immediately excited by the Japanese themed cocktail menu. A Lost in Translation (a tiki of El Dorado rum, Kraken spiced rum, quiquiriqui mezcal, pineapple, elderflower, cardamon for a subtle spicy flavour and fresh lime) @ £9.00 slipped down far too easily. I ended up recommending it to the couple who sat down at the neighbouring table – the restaurant was empty and tables closely spaced (private conversation could be a downside here, if you’re after some privacy).

 

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Black cod – ‘stand out’ dish from the robata grill menu

J ordered a Japanese whisky sour (so good, made of Nikka from the barrel Japanese whiskey, shichimi spices, pineapple syrup, lemon juice and whites) and then we moved on to beer from the main drinks menu, which offers a load of sake, Japanese whisky and wine too.

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Cocktail – Lost in Translation

We chose a selection of food, from the varying menu sections with a little help from our waiter: salted edamame @ £4.00 from the starter menu; volcano roll @ £12.50 from the signature rolls menu; crispy baby squid @ £9.00 from the hot plates; grilled cauliflower @ £4.50 and black cod saikyo @ £25.00 both from the robata Japanese grill menu.

 

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Volcano roll – deep fried in tempura with salmon, tuna, yellowtail, tobiko, avocado and spring onion

 

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Grilled cauliflower – from the robata Japanese grill menu served with peanut and goma dressing (highly recommend this)

 

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Black cod saikyo – marinated black cod on saikyo lemongrass miso with mango salad (the two robata dishes stood out as the highlight of the meal)

 

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Crispy baby squid – large portion of baby squid with chilli, coriander and lime @ £9.00 (definitely for sharing)

 

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new Gyoza Bar next door – next time…

 

The verdict: Creative, interesting and very tasty Japanese food; the robata grilled dishes were the highlight for me. Comfy restaurant despite the tables being so close together. Service was a bit hit and miss. Our total bill for two came to £112.84 including service (and a cocktail and couple of beers each).

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 63-66 St Martin’s Lane, London
– Postcode: WC2N 4JS
– Nearest station: Leicester Square, Covent Garden
– Website + menus: Murakami website
– Photos on flickr: Murakami images
– Location: Murakami map

Murakami Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pacata – burgers, curries, Asian fusion street-style

After a cultural Sunday outing in London – visiting the Soundscapes exhibition at the National Gallery followed by a coupla beers in a (fairly scuzzy) traditional pub – H, K and I wanted to eat out somewhere.

After much deliberation (over another beer of course) we decided on a Thai restaurant in Covent Garden that we’ve been going to for over 15 years. Initially disappointed that it was closed, we were – ultimately – delighted to stumble across Pacata while aimlessly wondering what to do.

Situated on New Row (a quaint, narrow side street just off St Martin’s Lane) Pacata’s shop-front is small and unimposing. A printed menu propped up in the window caught our eye – an Asian fusion menu serving dishes as diverse as burgers, Thai curries, steaks as well as ramen and pasta, all with an Asian twist and in the currently trendy ‘street’ style. Something for everyone, deliberations sorted.

The restaurant interior was appealing from the moment we stepped in, with its mish-mash of wood furnishings and eclectic lamp collection.

 
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Restaurant interior – downstairs space, creative lighting, wood wood wood
 

Ordering a bottle of Chenin Blanc, Stormy Cape 2013 (South Africa) @ 16.00, we chose these starters to share from the bar-snack menu:

~ Tod mun fishcakes – Thai fishcakes with chilli sauce @ £4.50 (slightly anaemic, under-flavoured and disappointing – the only weak link in the meal)
~ Popcorn chicken in larb powder – bite-size chicken snacks in a spicy coating @ £6.90
~ Beef skewers – with roast mushroom, spring onion and soy sauce @ £4.50 (yum!)

 

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Starters – Tod mun fishcakes, popcorn chicken in larb powder, beef skewers
 

For main course, H and I both chose grilled chicken breast served with mushrooms, green beans and Jasmine rice @ £12.95. There’s a choice of curry sauce (green Thai, Massaman or Japanese) – we both chose green Thai.

The presentation of the sauce was such that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience choosing how *you* want to eat this unconventional Thai green curry.

 
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Chicken green Thai curry – as served

 

So do you:

a) pour your green Thai curry sauce over the chicken first
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Sauce over whole chicken (H’s option)

 

or

b) cut up the chicken and remove bones before pouring your sauce (so more of the chicken is coated in curry)
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Chicken strips coated in curry sauce (L’s option)
 

Either way, it feels like a good and different experience, that engages you (the eater) to customise your Asian curry food in the way you want to eat it. Simple but effective.

K chose this tom yum chicken ramen with a twist: a complete chicken breast on the bone served in a tomato cream soup with egg and spring onions @ £12.95.

 
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Tom yum ramen – spicy tomato cream soup with egg and chicken

 

We were having such a relaxing, comfortable experience here we felt like lingering. And so ordered a round of digestifs (our waitress was unfamiliar with Courvoisier and took several attempts to serve it with “no ice” but at room temperature as it’s meant to be). Altogether, our bill for three people came to £127.00 including service.

I’ll be back. Probably for a ‘burger n beer’…

Restaurant info:
Sample menus:
~ Bar-snacks
~ Burger n’ beer @ £8.50 deal

~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Thai, Korean, Asian
~ Address: 4 New Row, Covent Garden, London
~ Postcode: WC2N 4LH
~ Nearest tube stations: , Leicester Square, Covent Garden
~ Website: Pacata website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Pacata food
~ Location: Pacata map

 

 
Click to add a blog post for Pacata on Zomato

Habibi Sushi Spitalfields – CLOSED

Conveyor belt sushi in East London

Habibi (an Arabic term of endearment, like darling, baby or love) Sushi is a small Japanese-style restaurant on an alley (or ginnel) near Spitalfields market, where you can pick small plates off a conveyor belt and order hot dishes too.

L and I met for lunch here today, our last meet up before Christmas (taking care to avoid yet another turkey dinner) and it was fairly quiet.


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Tempura on conveyor belt, spicy aubergine @ £1.95, mixed sashimi @ £5.05


Current plate prices:
~ silver @ £1.95 – the likes of veggie temaki rolls, spicy aubergine salad
~ pink @ £2.60 – prawn nigiri, California rolls, etc
~ orange @ £3.50 – tuna nigiri, chicken katsu
~ yellow @ £3.95 – spicy tuna maki, mackerel or seabass sashimi
~ blue @ £4.75 – mixed nigiri, tuna sashimi, crab tempura temaki rolls
~ purple @ £5.05 – assorted salmon + tuna nigiri, Habibi sashimi mix


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Conveyor belt sushi – octopus nigiri, California rolls, etc


It may not be authentic Japanese but the food was mostly good (aside from the tuna sashimi which was a bit tough and stringy, and partly inedible) and delivery was very speedy – our hot dish orders (vegetable gyoza @ £1.95, chicken gyoza @ £3.50 + chicken katsu @ £3.95) arrived almost immediately.

The verdict: one of very few independent sushi places in the area (getting my vote – in part – for this reason) where you can dine in or take away. Good choices, good service. I’m most likely to return for take away.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Japanese, sushi
~ Address: 7A Artillery Lane, London
~ Postcode: E1 7LJ
~ Tel: 020 7247 5290
~ Nearest station: Liverpool Street, Aldgate
~ Website + menus: Habibi Sushi website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Habibi Sushi food
~ Location: Habibi Sushi map


Habibi Sushi on Urbanspoon

Asta at Sozai – Japanese in Shoreditch – CLOSED

C and I stepped into Asta at Sozai yesterday lunch time, mostly because it was pouring with rain and we wanted to get inside where it was dry. We were heading to a Japanese cafe anyway and Asta was closer.

The interior is fairly spacious with high stools positioned along long steel benches. And if you’re not familiar with Japanese food, they helpfully have some artificial dishes laid out to explain what the different options are, including a range of bento boxes and ramen noodles.


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Even the demo dishes look appealing


There’s a different special every day, and it’s worth checking their website for promotional deals and coupons.


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Tom yum-yum! soup with tofu ramen noodles

Perfect for a cold, wet day, I had a tom yum soup base (Thai, with a spicy kick) with tofu – along with ramen noodles, sweetcorn, mushrooms and chilli @ £8.50, while C had a chicken ramen in tom yum soup also @ £8.50. It’s a meal in itself and at £8.50 is good value, and not overly filling.


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Tom yum soup with chicken ramen noodles


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Cooking’Scool – at Sozai


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Japanese
~ Address: 5 Middlesex Street, Shoreditch, London
~ Postcode: E1 7AA
~ Tel: 020 7247 7065
~ Nearest station: Aldgate, Aldgate East
~ Website + menus: Asta at Sozai
~ Photos on flickr: images of Asta food
~ Location: Asta map


RELATED LINKS
More East London dining:
~ Fora – Mediterranean restaurant, City branch
~ Japanese Canteen – great ramen, don + katsu curries around the City
~ Kastner & Ovens – great salad selection
~ Mama Thai – Indian + Thai take-away curries + noodles
~ Momo’wich – outstanding Thai + Malaysian
~ Needoo Grill – BYOB Indian grilled meats


Asta on Urbanspoon

E+O – Ladbroke Grove

An Asian-fusion restaurant in yummy mummy W11 (Ladbroke Grove), E+O is part of the Ricker group of restaurants.

It has a formal feel, with its pristine white table-cloths and overly attentive service. We were asked if we’d like to order a “bottle of sparkling water for the table” and some edamame as we were being seated. We declined both, saying we’d prefer to look at the menu first.

Within minutes a big bamboo steamer dish filled with salted edamame was served to our table. Ah well. We were hungry – we chose not to say anything but accepted them and enjoyed nibbling while reading the menu.


Camera Roll-50 Pristine white table-cloths in yummy mummy E+O


For starters to share, we ordered chilli salt squid @ £7.50 and pork and ginger gyoza @ £6.00. Both were nice enough (nothing out of the ordinary): the squid was packed into, and spilling out of, a small cup – perhaps to give the impression of being a larger portion than it actually was.

Our attentive server whipped away the starter dishes, before we’d quite finished the salted squid. She seemed eager to serve the main courses that were now ready.


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For main course, we both had prawn phad thai @ £10.50: a generous portion with chillis, lime and crushed peanuts served on the side so you could add as much or as little as you like. A nice touch.

I was still chewing the last mouthful of my prawn pad thai when our server took my plate away. I took the hint and put down my knife and fork for her to clear.


Camera Roll-48 Prawn pad thai


Good food but the over-eager service was off-putting, and the restaurant – on the whole – felt unnecessarily pretentious.


Camera Roll-51 Meal for two @ £73.13


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Japanese, Chinese, Asian fusion
~ Address: 14 Blenheim Crescent, London
~ Postcode: W11 1NN
~ Tel: 020 7229 5454
~ e: eando@rickerrestaurants.com
~ Nearest station: Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Park, Notting Hill Gate
~ Website + menus: E+O website
~ Photos on flickr: images of E+O food
~ Location: E+O map


RELATED LINKS More nearby dining: ~ Ariana II – Afghan in Kilburn, NW6


E&O on Urbanspoon