Well, that’s it then. Christmas is over. New Year is over. The new year starts in earnest this week and you want something to eat that is nothing like all the rich food you’ve been scarfing down over the holidays. Something different – healthy, light and interesting with subtle flavours, high on fish and vegetables and low on meat. What you want is Japanese food, and you’re in luck – London is full of great places to eat Japanese. Here’s my top five recommendations for the coming year.
Top for ramen: Kanada-ya
This tiny restaurant on St Giles High St only opened in September but already it’s attracted a huge following, evidenced by the constant queues outside. It’s not their fault – Kanada-ya only seats twenty four people and many times that number cram themselves in over the course of a day. The attraction is great Hakata Tonkotsu ramen, in a light, bright golden broth. That’s all they do and they do it well. They’ll cook your noodles just the way you like them, and you can add a soft-boiled egg if you want – I always do.
Top for udon: Koya
Sometimes, especially in January, only the comfort of thick white udon noodles will do. Then go to udon specialist Koya in Soho’s Frith St. Their dark, thick and spicy curry udon is perfect for warming you up on a cold winter’s day. It’s another small but insanely popular restaurant so go early if you want to beat the queues.
Top for teppanyaki: Matsuri St James’s
Teppanyaki is meat (often high quality steak), fish and vegetables cooked on a stainless steel hotplate before your very eyes and served to you sizzling hot and bursting with flavour. Venerable teppanyaki specialist Matsuri St James’s had a makeover in 2014, bringing it bang up to date. Its cosy basement restaurant has large horseshoe-shaped tables with the hotplate built in and a teppanyaki chef for each table. It also features a sushi bar.
Top for summer salads and temaki sushi: Tombo Deli and Café
Yes, one day summer will come and when it does you’ll be glad you know about Tombo Deli and Café. It’s situated between South Kensington tube station and the museums and offers a range of fresh Japanese-style salads and sushi. Temaki sushi are hand-rolled cones of seaweed and rice with a variety of vegetables and fish inside. They also do a good range of cakes and pastries – try the aduki bean chocolate cake.
Top for the authentic Japanese experience: Kirazu
Another tiny restaurant in Soho – something of a theme going on here. But Kirazu is different in that it offers an amazingly wide range of tapas-style dishes for such a tiny place. Behind its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it frontage are two long wooden tables where everyone eats together and you’ll be drawn into conversation with your Japanese fellow customers before you know it. There’s a focus on miso in all its forms – I recommend the miso aubergine.
You’ll find more restaurant recommendations on my Japanese restaurants page. I’m always on the lookout for new places to include so keep your recommendations coming!