If I told you I ate at a Japanese restaurant last night and asked you to guess what I had, you’d probably say sushi, or ramen. At the very least you’d guess that fish played a prominent role. The last thing you’d go for is barbecued meat – what’s Japanese about that? Well, stick with me while I explain.
Although Japanese cuisine has centred around fish and vegetables for hundreds of years, there’s also a strong subsidiary interest in grilled meat. Robata-yaki, (fireside cooking) where meat is grilled over charcoal, has been around for centuries, as has kushiyaki, which are like kebabs. The best known kushiyaki is yakitori (grilled chicken) where the whole of the chicken is used so you can have skewers of chicken hearts, chicken livers, chicken skin and so on. Teppanyaki is where meat is grilled on a steel plate and in yakiniku you grill it yourself on a tabletop grill. Yakiniku very influenced by Korean barbecue cuisine, and will often feature kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) on the menu.
Kintan is a yakiniku restaurant on High Holborn, not far from Chancery Lane tube station.
I thought from the outside that it was just a little place, but once you get inside it’s huge. It opened last August and has clearly got a substantial following of mainly Japanese customers already.
You can order a la carte or choose one of the set ‘course’ menus. We had the premium course menu, which included enough food to feed a small army.
We had a range of starters, beginning with a refreshingly crisp salad, edamame beans and miso soup.
We moved on to a delicious delicately-flavoured seared salmon in citrus sauce, tuna tartare volcanos (spicy tuna served on top of crunchy rice parcels) and garlic noodles served on a sizzling hot plate.
Then came the meat. The grill is set into the centre of the table, and you put the thinly sliced meat on it, turning it once. It cooks very quickly, so it’s no good getting involved in the conversation and forgetting what you’re doing. Also, the heat of the grill makes you very hot, so you don’t want to linger too long.
Our course meal included cubes of filet mignon marinated in yuzu ponzu (a citrus vinegar sauce), rib eye and short rib, both marinated in sweet soy sauce, skirt steak marinated in miso and tiger prawn, scallops and halloumi cheese. Oh, and a plate of fresh vegetables. Among the meats I think it was the short rib that I liked the most, though they were all delicious and very tender.
After all that meat, the little dessert of mochi filled with ice-cream was a perfect finish.
I would definitely recommend Kintan for a fun experience and a tasty meal, though you might want to order from the extensive a la carte menu if you have a small appetite. They also serve beer, sake, shochu ( a bit like sake, only stronger), whiskey and wine.
Kintan is on High Holborn and is open Monday to Friday noon to 3pm and 5pm to 11pm, Saturday noon to 11pm and Sunday noon to 10pm.
With thanks to Kintan for inviting us to experience their cuisine.