today we made our maiden foodie club trek to Hampstead, solely based on a recommendation by nic’s (dubious) japanese hairdresser (i mean, just look at the state of his hair…). this restaurant is just a minute away from the hampstead tube station, and is known for its yakitori.
1. japanese newsletters/magazines for customers to take home with them –> LEGIT…
2. sushi bar was manned by japanese chef grilling yakitoris on the spot –> OOOH….
3. spoonless tables –> truly japanese
4. just ONE blond-haired waiter –> #asianpride
5. japanese fishmonger delivering fresh produce for the day
the menu was extensive but nic had preconceived notions of what foods represent the hallmark of true japanese cuisine: miso ramen, tempura, sashimi.
sadly there wasn’t ramen on the menu (but udon and soba were available) so we ended up ordering tempura, sashimi, unagi sushi and a yakitori set.
the yakitori set was first to arrive. while nic was dying to dig in, rach and jo were excited over the prospect of breaking down food for the FIRST time instead of the usual “soooooooo good”. the set included fresh green asparagus with pork, pork with shiso leaf, chicken with onion, minced chicken meatballs, shiitake mushrooms and king prawn.
Asparagus with pork
rach: asparagus was very fresh and there was a good balance between the amount of pork and greens. you can consider ordering just the asparagus- (THEY WERE SO HUGE AND JUICY LOOKING, NIC WAS ALMOST FOAMING WHEN THE WAITRESS CARRYING IT WALKED PAST – at the food, not the waitress)
nic: pork wasn’t crispy enough, but the asparagus was sweet and cooked to perfection
jo: would have liked the pork to be more flavourful, but the blend between the two flavours was divine
Pork with shiso leaf
rach: a bit dry, but the shiso leaf was grilled nicely
jo&nic: there are layers of meat and fat in the pork, so you should eat each piece ALTOGETHER so the juicy fatty goodness can seep into the meat.
Chicken with onion
this is rach’s FAVOURITE skewer of the day.
rach: the chicken was SOOO juicy and the onions were really crunchy and packed with flavour. it was SOOO GOOD.
nic&jo: so juicy, pity we didn’t have it when it was hot
nic: could have even the whole thing, shell and all, if not for the over zealous waitress. (100 marks for efficiency in clearing the table.)
rach: very naturally sweet prawns
nic&jo: the fineness of the mince is the selling point
rach, dissenting: chicken was too finely minced, could do with more bite
(OOOH- first instance of clashing tastes and preferences????)
the sashimi lunch set came with 3 slices of salmon, 2 slices of tuna, 2 slices of seabass and 2 slices of turbot. the star of the platter was the salmon, which converted nic from a maguro lover to a fan of salmon. the initial bite was crisp and clean, yet it melted in our mouths upon chewing. it was so smooth without the stringiness of lower grade sashimi. nic also announced to the whole restaurant (his voice tends to be loud and booming) about just how good the maguro was. it was a public display of affection ^^
the ingredients for the tempura were amazing. the tempura here was all about the sauce (and source, since it was sooo fresh). the sauce had an unidentifiable mystery ingredient that gave it some sort of kick/oomph. nic describes it as ‘an alcoholic surge’. the initial kick of the sauce soon blends into the flavour of the meat/veggie and merges into an organic whole. heaven is a place on earth. like the yakitori king prawn, the meat was firm, juicy and sweet and the batter light, fresh; it was a distinct……(for the lack of a better word) DISTINCTION. the ingredients were also coated with just the right amount of this amazing batter; never tasted anything batter.
the miso soup was pleasant though it seemed that the savoury flavour came from a stock as opposed to the miso itself. not sure if thats a positive or negative thing but it was nice.
there were let downs – the rice and hence the unagi sushi. the rice was too moist and clumpy. possibly reheated from previous days? for the sushi we wanted more unagi and less rice. we would have preferred a crispier seaweed wrap.
Wrapping up, before asking for the bill, we three have a tradition of playing ‘the price is right’ this allows us to share with you what we felt the meal was worth and enables you to compare it to what we actually paid.
Our guess was: £55
Total bill: £54 nett
Ambience: casual, for the family
Service: efficient, though sometimes overly so; felt rushed as we didn’t make reservation;
Who we would recommend it to: small groups of discerning consumers of japanese cuisine; not people looking for a leisurely lunch
Will we return?: Rach: Possibly; Jo: there are comparable alternatives in central london but will go back for the hampstead experience; nic: probably.
73 Heath St London, Greater London NW3 6UG
020 7794 6158