It is a hotchpotch of Japanese dishes, with Korean and Chinese elements lurking around, but to call it an izakaya would be completely missing the point. It’s not an izakaya, in the same way that The Ivy is not a pub, even though they both serve safe, generalist classics such as Shepherd’s Pie.
In addition to the meat + buns main event, their offering ranges from sushi to yakitori, with plenty in between. Our chicken yakitori was sweet, faintly pink and absolutely charred to Tokyo yokocho perfection, but without the fag fumes. The fried squid, which at best I am ambivalent to, was zingy, light and lacked any rubbery texture at all. A first for me.
Beef tataki was vinegary, tangy and frankly divine:
But on to the buns. The idea is to order from a range of predominantly meat dishes which come with hirata buns (similar to the bleached-white char sui dim sum buns but in halves) to fill. Cucumber and hoi sin-esque dipping sauces feature heavily, and so it’s fair to equate this with something in between the rituals of Peking duck and making your own sarnies.
Many meals fundamentally boil down to DIY sandwich-making (observe us Brits in a tapas place) and so I have no doubts about its enduring popularity here.
Both of our dishes were fantastic. Top marks went to the Flat Iron steak – exquisitely cooked and sliced. The pork belly with mustard miso was also excellent, and a much bigger portion.
The venue itself is long, open and woody – not hugely different to Wagamama I’m afraid, but I’m unsure how else to have done it differently, and it works. I remember this as some sort of dreadful pre-craft, Belgian-style microbrewery which itself was a MASH rip off.
Service was super keen and friendly. My date, the inimitable Grace Dent, kept to her inimitable punctuality and although I only waited about 15 minutes and was more than happy guzzling my Asahi, the Japanese waitress sweetly and sympathetically asked me if I wanted to order, but now for one. I’ve never been stood up in such a manner, but having experienced a taste of the accompanying pity, it’s not a morale booster…
I absolutely loved the food here. Charred, sweet, smokey and meaty. Meat. Carb. Sauce. All you ever really need.
In these heady days of opening-chasing, endless soft launches, 'pop-up pop-ups' and the perpetual hunt for the next thing, I can safely utter some endangered words in London’s 2013 food scene: “I will actually come back here.”