Thursday, 17 February 2011

Tokyo Part 4 - Dinner Delights

Business dinners can sometimes be awkward stilted affairs but there was no danger of that with my new tomodachi, N and S. After a long day at the office, we went to one of their favourites, Charari Charari for dinner. We were still in Kudankita but unlike some of the places we went to for lunch, this was a proper restaurant.

Skewers of chicken liver and chicken 'meatballs'
I left the ordering to my hosts, and the food soon started coming. To kick off with, there was some salad followed by loads of yakitori skewers. My favourite was the chicken 'meatball' or tsukune.

Assorted skewers
As well as orthodox chicken bits like wing and thigh, we also sampled chicken liver, skin, and heart. I must admit I wasn't a fan of the latter.

Sashimi platter
After the skewers, came a rather excellent sashimi platter. And yes I know I used flash photography, which is a bit naughty, but no one seemed to mind. Honest.

Kara-age - Japanese fried chicken 
As good as the skewers and sashimi were, the star of the evening was the kara-age or Japanese fried chicken. Marinated in a very Asian mix of soy, ginger and garlic, then coated in flour and fried to perfection, Colonel Sanders ain't got nothing on this. With a squeeze of lime and a dip in the accompanying mayo, this was one of the highlights of the trip.

Rice balls
And if that wasn't enough, we finished off with yaki onigiri (crispy rice balls) and the ubiquitous miso soup. I think it's the law to have miso soup with every meal! A great end to a great meal, with my only regret being not having enough space for dessert.

On another night, we went out in Ginza and ended up in a restaurant specialising in the cuisine of the Akita prefecture in the north of Japan. I would like to claim that we went there especially to sample some regional Japanese cuisine, but the more prosaic truth was that it was close to where we were drinking.

I want that tableware!
The menu had pictures and whilst I offered a few suggestions, I left the ordering to N and S. The food again was excellent, my favourite being the beef fillet that was seared on the outside then sliced and served at room temperature. Other highlights included the two types of grilled chicken, Japanese omelette, chicken meatball, and an Akita speciality of fried noodles in plum sauce topped with a fried egg.

The company I work for has two offices in Tokyo, and whilst I was in Kudankita with N and S, my colleague was based in the other office. The guys from this other office were also a convivial bunch, and we joined them on a couple of nights out.

Not wishing to be outdone by N and S, they took us out to the wilds of Roppongi to a shabu-shabu restaurant. I love hot-pot in all its guises, and whilst I prefer the Chinese version, this was pretty damn good. I was particularly impressed by the quality of the meat as exemplified by the marbled beef slices. Less enjoyable was the soy milk that was one of the four 'soups' bubbling away; I much preferred the traditional konbu based broth.

To round off the week, we continued the DIY vibe with a visit to a Korean BBQ joint. We were seated at a table with a proper open grill rather than one of those wussy hotplates that they use in places like Koba. Yet again I was impressed by the high quality of the produce and my final meal in Tokyo was another winner.

This is the last of my series on Tokyo, and whilst I had a great introduction to Japanese food during my visit, that's all it was. I would love to return to Japan and properly immerse myself in the food culture. For starters, there are so many more noodle dishes to try, then there's the fine dining extravaganza that is kaiseki, as well as simpler grub like okonomiyaki. Being a bit of a food geek, I also want to try the Japanese take on western food, as well as their version of Chinese food.

But just because I'm back home doesn't mean I can't tuck into more Japanese food. I'm a fan of Roka, like the noodles at Koya and Ramen Seto, have tried Sushi of Shiori, and Yashin Sushi is on my 'list'. Are there any other places that I should be aware of? I'd love to hear your top tips for Japanese food in London.


  1. Nothing beats the real thing in Japan, sigh! So lucky that your company have offices in Tokyo. Can't think of any other Jap places in London off the top of my head but Yashin is definitely on my list too. Oh, and so is Dinings, this was recommended by the lady from Sushi of Shiori. And a Japanese patisserie around Chalk Farm too if you are interested in sweets?

  2. Oh how I wish I could spend some proper time in Japan, immersing myself.

    As well as the ones listed, I really enjoyed the off-menu skewers at Bincho Yakitori; interesting cuts like chicken neck, ox tongue, chicken cartilege etc.

  3. My favourite place for sushi in London is Ikeda in Brook Street.

    Thanks to you I tried Koya last week and ate the hot prawn tempura noodles; they were excellent. Thanks. I am already a fan of Ramen Seto, in fact might eat there tomorrow.

  4. Kay - I am lucky although I don't know when my next visit to Tokyo will be. Dinings is somewhere that I've heard good things about so I must give it a try sometime.

    Lizzie - skewers! Must try Bincho (it's in Soho right?) although I must confess I'm a bit of a lightweight who only goes for the less interesting cuts.

    Anthony - welcome! It's good to see that my blog has some erudite souls amongst its small readership. Glad you like Koya and Ramen Seto, and I'll be adding Ikeda to my list.

  5. Have you tried Donzoko just down from Ramen Seto on Kingly St? Food is good at the decor / atmosphere is very Japanese. It's my fave in Central London. Asakusa in Camden is also worth checking out. Both are izakaya type places.

  6. Glad to see you getting your teeth into some Japanese noodles and other dishes, that Kara Age alone made my mouth water! I so want to return to Tokyo now....

    Asakusa as Thea mentioned is good and very reasonably priced. It is in Mornington Crescent (as opposed to Camden) so probably nearish to your office.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  7. Thea - thanks for your tips. I haven't tried either place but Donzoko looks very interesting. I need to go.

    LF - you and me both - I'd love to get back to Tokyo.

  8. Hey:)

    Stumbled across your blog and comments. Checked out Atari-ya in Swiss Cottage?

    Asakusa regrettably didn't impress, and Bincho was a total hit-and-miss. But the Dinings is definitely worth the penny. I've booked for Shiori next week, looking forward to it:)

  9. Wingz - welcome! I'm woefully behind on Japanese resto scene in London. Thanks for your insights and enjoy Shiori.

  10. Kara-age is also easy to make. My mom would aften make it.
    And yes, miso soup and rice are essential stuff for the Japanese (me). By the way, you can sip the soup directly from the bowl for that matter. I have seen some foreigners using a spoon to eat it but it's wrong.
    There is one great "Japanese styled Western foods" restaurant in Ginza, called "Renga-tei" (Renga means brick in Japanese.). Their deep fried oysters were supurb. >what a lovely old-school website! Sorry, it's just in on the photo on the home page if you want to explore the site...
    If you want to go a specific type of cuisine, e.g. French or Italian (or even anything!)....Japan (well, Tokyo) is also a great place.

    I have lived in London for two years in total...and I happened to try some Japanese restaurants...Donzoko and Ramen Seto in Kingly St were nice. I enjoyed Asakusa. Satsuma in Wardour st was OK. I heard Sushi-hiro in Earling Common? is good (I may have tried it but was unsure.). Nobu (well, an expencive side)is a kind of fusion but should be good (I had dinner at one in HK which was good.).

  11. Mariko - thanks for your various insights on Japanese food. Sadly, Ramen Seto has now closed but I believe management are looking for new premises.