Tag Archives: Japanese

Myeongdong Donkkaseu

Address: Myeongdong
Directions from website:  From exit 6 of Euljiro-ipku station (subway line 2) walk about 200m until you reach a tourist information office. Turn left and walk about 80m until you reach McDonalds on your left. Turn left at McDonalds and you’ll see the restaurant sign.

Myeongdong Donkkaseu serves tons of tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets) everyday, and their secret is aging thick slices of seasoned pork fillet for 3 to 4 days before serving it to customers, to make the meat more tender.

We ordered a tonkatsu, and a cordon bleu, which is basically the tonkatsu, but with cheese, onions and peppers. After being in a couple of restaurants in Korea we realize that very often, their menu tends to be simple and basic, and ordering is usually an uncomplicated process. When we were in USA we would sit at a table, and be given a menu to look at while our server goes away doing some other thing, to later come back and take our orders. In Korea, we’ve always been able to order our food the moment we sit down, because there’s really not much to look at in the menu, if there is one at all. Every restaurant specializes in one item, and everyone in the restaurant has that one item, which is something very different from other countries we’ve been to.

The pork cutlets are incredibly crispy on the outside and wonderfully moist and tender on the inside. There is a side of chopped up lettuce on your plate as well, which is to be eaten with this lovely miso dressing, and is essential to counter all the oil from the frying, which tends to be sickening after a while, and cleanses your palate.

The cordon bleu was pretty good as well, though the focus of the cutlet is the cheese and all those frills rather than the pork.

Overall this is a really nice specialty restaurant to check out. Problem is, you end up smelling like fryer oil after your meal, so try not to hang around too long so your clothes absorb as little of the oily air as possible.

Service: 6.5/10
Food: 7/10

Hanamizuki

We were starving by the time we got to Orlando, and had planned to have dinner at Hanamizuki, which is supposed to be very near our hotel. We hadn’t had Japanese food for the longest time, and were seriously craving some tempura, sashimi and udon soup.

Hanamizuki is supposed to be one of the more authentic restaurants in Orlando. It was pretty quiet when we got there, partly also because its location isn’t very prominent. Even our taxi driver had never heard of it before. We ordered 2 dinner sets and some Matsutake mushroom tempura, as they’re in season now, and we have never tried them before.

 

There was seriously a lot of food. The Matsutake mushrooms are a very meaty kind of mushroom, with a very delicate flavor. We’re not sure if tempura is the best way to showcase the mushroom, as it robs it of its flavor a little. Nevertheless it was very nicely done, and served with a small dish of very fine salt to compliment the tempura.

Our dinner sets were huge. They came with salad, pickled vegetables, sashimi and chawanmushi. All were competent, but not spectacular. K’s main of grilled salmon was decent, and A’s udon soup was piping hot and very satisfying.

Overall it was just an ok dinner, helped along by the fact that we were starving, so pretty much anything would have tasted good.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6.5/10

Nuocmam

35 Great Portland Street
London W1W 8QQ
0207 631 2099http://www.nuocmam.co.uk/

It was the last day of the academic year, and it was the day we all handed in our summer project reports and gave our final presentations to the lecturers in our department. After a whole year of hard work a celebration was definitely called for. Nuocmam was chosen because it was running a 50% offer on toptable. For some reason we (read: the powers that be) negotiated for a different deal instead: 25% off food and 50% off bottles of wine – which might seem like a fantastic offer if you’re a huge wine drinker, but considering the demographic: poor college students, many of whom don’t even drink in the first place (for various reasons), this deal sucked. But the rest of us (read: those with less say in the way things are run around here) went ahead with the sucky deal anyway, since everything had already been arranged and it was too late to make alternate plans.

The above was just a rant, and has nothing to do with the restaurant, but everything to do with the undemocratic decisions, but I should move on now.

Nuocmam is a rather new Vietnamese/Japanese fusion restaurant near Great Portland Street Tube Station, and it trying very hard to establish itself it seems. Restaurants like Noucmam are a dime a dozen in London nowadays, and to be honest, it’s becoming quite a tired concept now. The selection of food items is what you would come to expect in a restaurant like this, so we didn’t find anything too exciting in the menu. Since we were there to hang out with our coursemates, food was secondary in the whole experience, so we weren’t bothered at all by the uninspiring choices or the quality of the food, which we’ll come to in a minute.

Anyway, we had to order an appetizer and a main in order to enjoy the 25% offer (oh don’t get me started again), so we went with the Dynamite Roll and the Yuzu Squid. The Dynamite Roll was basically a soft shelled crab maki roll, which was nice, but that’s about all we can say about it. It was definitely not as dynamite-ish as its name would suggest. The Yuzu Squid fared a little better. The squid was nice and crispy and the yuzu sauce gave a good tangy burst with each bite.

For our mains we had the Kimchi Miso Lamb and the Slow Braised Pork Belly Broth, with a Stir Fried Egg Noodles as a side (personally we don’t think Asian restaurants should charge extra for serving staples like rice and noodles. They should come included in the meal). The lamb was quite tasty, but nothing special. I suppose with the 50% offer (that we should have got dammit) it could be considered quite good value for money, but on the other hand I think for a truly ‘wow’ experience, go to Roka, or even Tsunami.

The pork belly on the other hand was outstanding. Visually, it got major envious looks from everyone – it was served perched on top of its own little fireplace, and just looked amazing. Tastewise it hit the spot as well – the pork belly was beautifully tender and the broth was very flavourful. Definitely something we would order again. The egg noodles were nice, but oily.

One of our coursemates had the Pan Fried Fillet of Seabass, which was quite delicious as well, the fish very nicely cooked with good flavours, and something worth a try if you ever find yourself in Nuocmam.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6.5/10

Koya

49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SG
http://www.koya.co.uk/

Koya is a rather new restaurant in Soho, serving Japanese udon. They have a couple of rice dishes (donburi) and side dishes as well, but the star of the whole restaurant is their udon. We’ve read many mixed reviews about Koya. The good reviews were just glowing – raving about how wonderful the udon was. The not so good reviews however, were a lot more tentative in their criticisms. None of them seemed to say outright that the food at Koya is bad. There seemed to be a kind of regretful lack of cultural/food awareness that explained why the author didn’t enjoy their meal. Most of such reviews would mention something along the lines of ‘perhaps we didn’t order the right dish’, with a note to return for a second try.

Our opinion: we think the food at Koya is really good. We had Buta miso (Pork and miso) udon and a Ten Curry Don (Prawn tempura and curry with rice). The Ten Curry Don came with the single largest piece of prawn tempura we have ever seen, and the curry was really nice. There was a very generous portion of curry, and it was full of flavor. The prawn was slightly over-cooked and a little underwhelming taste-wise as compared to the curry, but that tends to happen with extremely large prawns – it’s hard to cook them perfectly.

The star of the meal was the udon. The noodles were slippery and fresh, and there was a very nice ‘bite’ to the udon – almost like a good pasta done al dente. The udon came in a nice clear broth, which quickly became incredibly tasty once the miso was mixed in. The broth was far tastier than the miso soup, which was like a throwaway side that came with the curry don. That was definitely the best udon that we’ve ever had, and judging by the largely Japanese clientele that day, it’s probably one of the most authentic you’ll find in London.

We also had a side of Onsen Tamago (poached egg), and it was delicious, though K would have liked it slightly more runny. Another side that we had was the Kakuni (Braised pork belly with cide) which was also really good, but not as tender as the one we had at Asakusa.

Service at Koya is generally really good and courteous, just like what you would expect of a homely Japanese restaurant, but sometimes we struggled to get their attention, especially when it got quite busy. Overall this is definitely one place to check out. The udon isn’t cheap, but as far as we can tell, it is very authentically Japanese and undiluted by the need to pander to Western tastebuds.

Service: 7/10
Food: 7.5/10

Asakusa

265 Eversholt Street 
London NW1 1BA 
0207 388 8533

We’ve heard nothing but praise for this little restaurant serving good traditional Japanese food at really bargain prices. There are only a couple of seats in Asakusa, and being as good as they are, reservations are absolutely necessary. We’ve made reservations on numerous occasions, but for whatever reason we’ve always had to cancel on them. (I’m sure my name and contact details are stored somewhere on a black list.) When the day came that we were finally going to honor our reservations, we were super excited. We went with MS, a friend of A’s who was staying with us for a while, and J, who would very kindly lend us his room for the period of time when we would be homeless after our lease ends (long story).

 

Asakusa is indeed a very small restaurant, and judging by the reserved signs on every table around us, it was a good thing that we heeded all the advice given to us and made our reservations in advance. In fact, making your reservations way in advance would be highly recommended.

Anyway, since there were 4 of us, we managed to try quite a good range of the dishes in their menu. First up was the Agedashi Tofu, which was pretty competent, though nothing to scream about.

The braised pork belly which came next was absolutely divine. The fat was just simply melt-in-your-mouth-scream-in-ecstasy good. The unagi (BBQ eel) was also very nice.

The grilled mackerel was outstanding – easily one of the best we’ve ever had. K also loved the skewered chicken livers (which only he ate, since the rest of us did not like chicken livers at all), and said that they were well seasoned and perfectly cooked.

 

The sushi platter was competent, though we’ve definitely had far better sushi at Kikuchi and Atari-ya. We also made the mistake of not telling them to keep our food wasabi-free, and so we had to pick the wasabi out from between the rice and the fish, and this distracted us from enjoying the food. Another competent dish was the cold soba noodles (which are quite hard to screw up anyway).

 

Not quite as successful was the assorted tempura. The prawns were absolutely overcooked and dry and hard as a result, and the batter was a little too heavy.

Also, the miso black cod was a huge disappointment. We were really looking forward to eating this, and were shocked at how cheap it was. However, when it arrived it already looked quite miserable, and unfortunately tasted really bad as well. The fish was overcooked, and lacked the silky smooth quality that a well cooked black cod should have. The seasoning was also quite strange. Well, I guess you get what you pay for. This was shockingly cheap, and as a result, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when it was shockingly bad as well.

Overall, we really wanted to like this place so badly. Unfortunately, there were so many glaring misses, and not enough spectacular hits that we left quite disappointed. We don’t think we’ll be in a hurry to rush back to Asakusa for another meal, but we can definitely see why it has so many fans and is ever so popular. Perhaps the secret is in knowing exactly what to order and what to avoid. 

Service: 7/10
Food: 7/10

Japanese Canteen

162 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 11:30 – 10pm.

In short, Japanese Canteen serves clichéd Japanese food like ramen and bento box meals almost like a fast-food chain, probably owned by non-Japanese, cooked by non-Japanese chefs (probably an insult to chefs to call the cooks at Japanese Canteen chefs), patronized only by undiscerning non-Japanese customers, and the food probably sucks.

 

Surprisingly, not all of that is true. Well, at least, the last bit isn’t true – the food doesn’t suck. That this isn’t true is probably the most surprising of all, but the food really doesn’t suck. That’s not to say that it’s the most mind-blowing gourmet discovery of the year, but it is as it is written – the food doesn’t suck.

We had the Chicken Curry Donburi with noodles (extra 50p for noodles instead of rice) and Pork Curry Donburi (with noodles as well) and they were both very satisfying, much to our surprise. The udon noodles were more than enough to fill us up, and the curry was actually pretty good, though slightly too watery. K really liked the little pickles added on top of the curry as well.

Overall, not bad if you’re looking for a quick and filling lunch. It won’t tick any gourmet boxes and there’s absolutely no service to speak of (it operates more like a take-away), but it is decent, and well, the food doesn’t suck.

Service: NA
Food: 6.5/10

Inamo

134-136 Wardour Street
London W1F 8ZR
020 7851 7051
http://www.inamo-restaurant.com/

 

After reading Pig Pig’s Corner’s review of Inamo, K really wanted to go there. It was quite strange how we’ve never heard of it until recently, even though it’s been around for about 2 years now. According to our server it’s been only recently when they’ve had an increase in media interest and public awareness. We think one of the best ways to get the word out is via food blogs, in this tech-savvy world.

 

Dining at Inamo is a lot of fun. There are no menus to flip and browse, and you have minimal interaction with your server. Instead, above every table is a projector, and your table is the screen. The menu is projected onto the table and you have your own little touch pad to scroll through the menu, or change the funky displays, or play games, or even to see a webcam of the kitchen at work! You order your food by clicking at the appropriate dishes and send your order directly to the kitchen. It’s one of the coolest restaurant concepts we’ve ever seen. (And you can’t complain about lousy service, because, well, there isn’t much service at all. Though a service charge –was- included in the bill.)

The food at Inamo is modern Japanese, very similar to Tsunami along Charlotte Street, but far more limited in their selection. (We also noticed some Thai influence in some of their dishes, and especially so in their sauces.) It was a struggle to find any sushi dishes, and any of those standard Japanese fare like udon or ramen. Nevertheless, we had so much fun with the interactive display that none of this bothered us.

The food came quite quickly. We were one of the few diners that afternoon, so it was no wonder that service was extremely efficient. It could be as well the way the restaurant is run – with the peopleless ordering system so there’s less to do on the part of the servers, so things run smoother.

Anyway, our first dish was the oyster shooter – and it was heavenly. Based on first impressions – Inamo gets an A+. The oyster was fresh and the lemon ponzu sauce was very refreshing.

 

Next up were the scallops – unfortunately these weren’t as good. They were a little too overcooked and slightly burnt on the outside. Our baby crispy prawns were also quite disappointing. We couldn’t taste any seasoning, and it was an overall very bland dish. The accompanying sauce however saved the dish. There was a very clear Thai influence in the sauce, and it brought the entire dish to life. However, we felt that the prawns shouldn’t have had to rely on the sauce to give it any taste, so overall this was a lackluster attempt.

 

Our Black Cod arrived next. With the toptable discount, this cost us just £7, which was probably the most unbeatable price ever for this dish in any restaurant. Unfortunately, there’s a reason to why this dish is so cheap at Inamo – it can’t compare at all to the same black cod dish at Nobu, or Roka, or even Tsunami. Firstly, the fish isn’t well marinated – in the middle it just tasted bland, and required the sauce to give it some flavor. Next, the fish was overcooked, so texture-wise it was way off. We suspect as well that the fish wasn’t exactly top-grade, so it couldn’t be too lightly cooked or it would show. The fish was not smooth and melt-in-your-mouth, like it should have been. Also, the dish wasn’t very refined – we could see bits of chili sauce in the spicy miso sauce, so clearly the sauce wasn’t very well made, and there were bones in the fish. Well, the argument may be made that for such a price one shouldn’t expect too much. That is definitely true, and it may be so that most people will be happy to settle for the black cod at Inamo since it’s way more affordable than at, say, Roka. However, the flaws in the dish were so apparent that we had to make a note of it.

 

We ordered a soft shelled crab roll, which was mediocre at best. Perhaps to satisfy the ‘fusion’ brief, rocket was added into the roll, which didn’t go well with the soft shelled crab at all. The soft shelled crab had too much batter as well, and wasn’t seasoned. It was overall bland, strange, and boring.

Other dishes we had:

Black faced lamb – overcooked, hence too tough, and not marinated well, but the accompanying vegetables were really nice.

 

Wild boar rolls– asparagus wrapped in a thin slice of wild boar. This was rather tasty. However, the meat was overcooked, but the asparaguses were delicious.

 

Ribs – the glaze was full of flavor, and everything was tasty (for once), but once again, this was a rather unrefined dish. The sauce was stringy and had strange bits of fiber in it.

Wagyu Bavette – Completely disappointing. The beef was tough, and uninspiring. The mushrooms were way too salty.

 

Tiger Green Prawns – these were very nice. The prawns were well grilled, and it smelt lovely.

Clearly we ordered a lot of food. We have a tendency when we go to a restaurant that we’ve never been to, to feel like we have to try everything in their menu that catches our eye, because we might never come back. In Inamo there’s really no need for this, since the interactive menu means that you can order as and when you want, but we completely forgot that we could do this, and ordered to our hearts content the first time round.

Overall it was a very amateurish attempt at modern Japanese food. The quality of the food isn’t very high, but the presentation is pretty good, and the price is unbeatable (with the 50% toptable discount). The interactive display adds to the appeal of the restaurant as well, so it’s one place that we think will do really well, despite the food. (Well, to be fair, the food wasn’t at all bad, it was just very amateurish and underseasoned.)

Additional note: 50% off if you reserve via toptable.com

Service: 8/10 (not a lot of service involved in this restaurant, but whatever service we got (ie food delivery, small talk while waiting for the card to process etc) was really polite and friendly
Food: 6.5/10