Tuesday, 28 October 2014

LONDON RESTAURANT FESTIVAL: JAPANESE JOURNEY

On the final day of the London Restaurant Festival Japanese Journey, Wilkes and I grabbed our 'passports' and set off to visit six of London's best ramen bars, sushi restaurants and Japanese Izakayas.


We started off at Shoryu Ramen on Denman Street, which specialises in tonkotsu ramen from south Japan. There are currently four locations in London, which includes Shoryu Go on Air Street, and they are best known for serving up bowls of piping hot pork broth noodles created by Hakatan native Kanji Furukawa, a chef dedicated to championing his hometown's signature dish.

The first dish was a taster size Kotteri Tonkotsu - their signature ganso ramen with a richer, thicker, fattier tonkotsu broth made with pork back to help keep the soup hotter for longer.
And the second was the Wagyu Beef Hirata Bun - the bun was quite fluffy and not too chewy, and the meat was nice and tender.

For drinks, we had the option of the Suntory Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve highball, or the Suntory Hakushu Distiller's Reserve highball - both of which were served in all six restaurants for this event.

| Suntory Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve Highball |

| Taster size Kotteri Tonkotsu |
- hosomen noodles, char siu bbq pork, nitamago egg, kikurage mushrooms, spring onion, sesame, ginger, fried shallots, nori & mayu caramelised black garlic oil - 

| Wagyu Beef Hirata Bun |
- succulent wagyu beef yakiniku with shiso, daikon & shimeji in a fluffy steamed bun -

Our second stop was Tonkotsu on Dean Street. Opened in Soho in 2012, Tonkotsu specialises in ramen and Japanese small plate classics along with Japanese and London Beers.

There was only one dish to choose from which were the home-made gyoza dumplings, filled with pork, prawn or shiitake - a tasty and light dish to snack on.

| Suntory Hakushu Distiller's Reserve Highball |

| Fresh home-made gyoza dumplings |

Third stop was Sticks 'n' Sushi in Covent Garden, one of the two branches in London that opened in November 2013. Founded 18 years ago by brothers Jen and Kim Rahbek and Thor Anderson, Sticks 'n' Sushi are known to serve high quality, fresh food based on a unique combination of traditional sushi and yakitori sticks from the grill.

There was a bit of a wait for our food, which threw us off our pace a bit...but we eventually got our food along with the rest of the row of guests who were also doing the Japanese Journey.

There were two different options, so we ordered one each of the Sushi Plate and Sticks Plate. Both had a nice variety and were tasty, but being a huge sushi fan, I personally preferred the Sushi Plate.



| Sticks Plate |
- Sasami chilli (chicken breast topped with chilli dip, teriyaki, and spring onion), Asparamaki (bacon wrapped asparagus), Tsukune (chicken meatballs in teriyaki), Edamame with spicy miso sauce - 

| Sushi Plate |
- Salmon sashimi (2 pieces of salmon served with supreme soy), Hells kitchen roll (2 pieces of tempura shrimp, avocado, spicy sauce, tuna and barbecue sauce), Ebi panko roll (2 pieces of tempura shrimp, spicy sauce, avocado, sesame, tsume soy), Monte Carlo roll (2 pieces avocado and cucumber topped with cray fish and miso aiolo and trout roe) -

Our fourth stop was the recently opened Kanada-Ya, a ramen bar based at St. Giles High Street. Founded by Kanada Kazuhiro in Yukuhashi, Japan, this is the brand's first UK opening, and specialises in serving authentic tonkotsu ramen.
The venue is pretty small, and after a half hour wait, we eventually got in.

We both ordered the Chasiu Men, which consisted of 18 hour pork bone broth, deluxe charsiu pork collar, wood ear fungus, nori and spring onion. Both bowls came as full sized portions, which was extremely rich and filling! I had the hard noodles which were nice, and the pork collar was extremely soft and tender, and literally melts in your mouth...so good. Considering that we still had a couple more restaurants to visit, I sadly had to leave half of it unfinished... I did eat all the pork and ingredients though.
It is however with no doubt one of the best ramen noodles that I have had in London so far, and is of no surprise that there will always be a queue of hungry customers outside...

I will definitely be back again soon, and this time I will go on an empty stomach.

Our fifth stop was a bit of a distance away from the rest of the restaurants - Kurobuta on Kendal Street, close to Marble Arch. This Marylebone venue takes its inspiration from the Izakayas of japan, where tapas-style plates are served to accompany drinks in a casual setting.

We were served a variety of little samples to nibble on, some of which I had tasted before when I had dinner there a few months back. 

| The Kurobuta Sampler |
- Nasu dengaku with caramelised walnuts, BBQ pork belly buns with spicy peanut soy, Jeruselam artichoke chopsticks with truffle ponzu, Salmon nigiri with bearnaise salsa and fries, Smoked duck tataki with burnt ginger amazu -

And finally our sixth and final stop - Chisou in Mayfair. Opened in 2002, Chisou Mayfair is known for its reputation for traditional and authentic Japanese cuisine, making it one of London's most popular izakaya style restaurants.

It was about 5.45pm by the time we had arrived, and had thankfully missed the crowd of earlier customers.
We were served a dish of Gyu tataki and Spicy Hamachi Carpaccio - both really fresh and very well prepared, and a pleasant end to our Japanese Journey.

| Gyu Tataki |
- thin slices of seared rare beef fillet with ponzu sauce and daikon -

| Spicy Hamachi Carpaccio |
- Kagoshima line caught Yellow tail carpaccio in a spiced dressing - 

Despite starting an hour later, we still successfully visited all six restaurants within 5 hours!
It was nice to be able to sample the different dishes from all six restaurants - some with dishes more impressive than others, but overall a pleasant experience.
 I know which places that I'll definitely be going back to....

The Cheekster, signing out x


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