If you're hankering after a dose of Japanese food to add some variety over the festive season then read on - because we've got you covered. Danish-born Sticks ‘n’ Sushi continue their foray into the UK market with two new openings; founders of Tonkotsu Ramen bring us classy yet affordable teishoku in the form of newly-opened Anzu; Japanese and Italian cosy up together at Sumosan Twiga; venerable St. James’s grillhouse Matsuri is reborn as modern Onoderu; Nobu branches out into the UK hotel business with an idiosyncratic new Shoreditch development; and Kasute 100 serves up a welcome hot cuppa Japanese-style in a quiet corner of Islington.
Sticks ‘N’ Sushi - 2 New Stores in Victoria and Oxford in 2017
This Nordic Japanese food chain founded 20 years ago by Danish-Japanese brothers does what it says on the tin, serving sushi alongside skewers as well as a whole host of other mouthwatering Japanese-inspired dishes. Next year they are opening up two new stores - one in London’s Nova development in Victoria (February) and another in Oxford’s long-awaited Westgate redevelopment - almost doubling their UK presence.
The Copenhagen-based brand unveiled its first London site in 2012 and has been steadily expanding into the UK dining scene ever since both in and outside the capital. It is currently going from strength to strength, as it will also open its first German store in Berlin this winter, meaning that by 2017 it will operate 19 restaurants in 3 countries, 12 of them in its homeland of Denmark.
What it may lack in authenticity (sushi and yakitori is not necessarily a traditional combination) Sushi ‘n’ Sticks more than makes up for in terms of its broad choice of delicious, approachable food and winning interior design - think minimalist Scandi style, with swanky designer furniture and dramatic bare brickwork and lighting.
To stick (no pun intended) with what they do best, top recommendations for ‘sticks’ are the juicy scallop teriyaki and panko-breaded duck, while for ‘sushi’ try the spiced ‘coal crab’ roll with crunchy soft-shell crab, black rice and sweet unagi sauce.
Anzu - Affordable Teishoku by Tonkotsu Ramen
Opened in November, if you love Tonkotsu ramen then this is sure to hit the spot for a dinner treat. Brought to you by the same people behind the successful London-based ramen chain, while Anzu also serves their popular ramen, the house speciality is “teishoku”, or Japanese traditional set meals composed of a main dish, rice, miso soup and pickles.
Varieties include the classic panko-breaded pork tonkatsu (not to be confused with tonkotsu, which means pork broth) and King oyster or Label Anglais chicken teriyaki. There are also some more big-ticket mains in keeping with the ritzy environs of St.James Market such as seabass, grass-fed Irish beef, and Madagascan prawn. However if your wallet can handle it then the star of the show is said to be the not-to-be-missed delectable tataki-style Wagyu carpaccio.
It’s not just Anzu’s menu that is more upmarket than Tonkotsu: its spruce charcoal grey chairs and wall sofas, full-length windows, and oodles of warm natural wood make for a smarter and more elegant space that feels almost more Scandinavian than Japanese.
Sumosan Twiga - Japanese + Italian, a Match Made in Heaven
According to the owners, Japanese and Italian food are a match made in heaven, as both cuisines place heavy emphasis on using the freshest seasonal products and ingredients. This new venture ultimately sees Sumosan make a short hop from its previous abode in Mayfair to team up with Italian restaurant Twiga in a new home in Sloane Square.
The restaurant specialises in serving award-winning sushi, sashimi and other high-end Japanese food alongside classic Italian dishes, with different chefs in charge of the two different cuisines: Konstantin Tskhay for the Japanese fare, and Ferdinando Palomba for the Italian side of things. If you haven't got long then they also do an express lunch bento box for £29.
Spread across three floors, the restaurant includes a lounge and a bar serving a selection of Japanese whiskies and sake alongside Italian liqueurs and aperitifs as well as a specially designed cocktail list which aims to complement both cuisines equally well - another match made in heaven, you could say.
Onodera - Matsuri to be Reborn in Spring 2017
New name, new menu, same enviable location - it’s the self-proclaimed “end of an era” for this long-standing St. James’s institution, as Japanese grill Matsuri St.James’s reopens following a 2.5 million makeover as a modern Japanese restaurant called Onodera.
The makeover was motivated by Matsuri’s management’s recognition that a major refurbishment and rebrand was vital to keep up with the rapidly evolving Japanese London restaurant scene, where “food trends change at an alarmingly fast pace”. General manager Masahito Hori said, “We felt that we needed to really consider what direction we wanted the restaurant to go in. With new restaurants popping up in London every day, we recognised that we’d need to up our game to be successful in such a competitive industry.”
The revamped restaurant’s menu will depart from its predecessor’s trademark fare of teppan-yaki (meat and vegetables grilled on a hotplate in the centre of the table) to offer more refined Japanese dishes with a modern twist in a smart casual setting, along with an extensive wine and sake list.
Nobu Hotel Willow Street - 2017
A new hotel/restaurant development by Nobu is slated to open in the trendy Shoreditch area in early 2017. Part of an aggressive global expansion plan by Nobu Hospitality, the new hotel in London will be its first European property. Boutique hotel developer Meir Abutbul explains, “The Nobu Hotel Shoreditch is a critical and valuable chapter in the ongoing evolutionary tale of London….The demonstration of beauty, drama and instinctive elegance has found a perfect home with the Nobu Hotel Shoreditch.”
Like its other offerings worldwide, Nobu Hospitality aims to deliver a “fun-luxury experience with unique Nobu DNA touch points for the guests” via its new hotel in Shoreditch. The five-storey hotel complex will have 150 bedrooms and numerous other facilities such as banqueting and meeting rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, and an intimate landscaped garden with terraces, seating and planting providing access to the hotel’s piece de resistance. This will be its stunning triple-height basement restaurant serving up famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s legendary contemporary Japanese cuisine with a South American twist to up to 240 diners. It will also have a sushi bar, private dining for up to 24 guests, an outdoor courtyard split over two levels, and a DJ booth. Food and beverage menus will of course be developed “specifically and uniquely for the hotel” by the man himself, Nobu.
The unorthodox building design is by industrial designer turned architect Ron Arad, and aims to “balance privacy and exposure”, with the hotel’s five floors fractured into angular concrete balconies which are combined with steel beams to form a seemingly frayed edge on the northern façade in a bold architectural move that more than a little resembles a Hokusai-inspired wave. The avant garde design is certainly eye-catching, though whether visitors will warm to it is another question. We can say one thing though - you are guaranteed to like the food.
Bob Bob Exchange - Bob Bob Ricard Moves into the Cheesegrater
The owners of iconic luxury Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard, equipped with its fabled “Press for Champagne” buttons at each table, is famous for pouring more champagne than any other restaurant in the UK. Its new incarnation swaps its Russian/English menu for Japanese, but keeps the opulent environment - and of course those all-important champagne buttons!
Owner Leonid Shutov says, "The restaurant will break new ground in both design and culinary offering and will deliver an interior that is both urban and contemporary.” Bob Bob Exchange (or BBX for short) will be housed in the Leadenhall Building, better known as the Cheesegrater, one of the City's most recognisable new skyscrapers - albeit only on the third floor, so no new sky-high dining for the City just yet.
The menu will focus on seasonal meat, fish and vegetables cooked on an open grill or smoked on-site. Like the Soho branch, the new restaurant will have mainly booths and will seat 180 diners with private rooms for a further 120, and rooms available in either Standard or Executive class.
There will also be a couple of quirky extras: a mini ‘‘restaurant-within-a-restaurant’ serving sushi and sashimi for just 9 diners at a time - guaranteed to be London’s newest hot ticket - and display screens showing bids for live auctions in which diners can compete to buy fine wines starting at cost.
Katsute 100 - Tea and Cake, or Something a Little Stronger
Unwind amongst the cobbled streets, quaint houses and antique markets of Camden Passage, just a stone’s throw away from bustling Upper Street, while sipping on a Japanese-inspired brew of your choice at new Japanese tea cafe Katsute 100.
Japanese tea first-timers may feel slightly overwhelmed at first, as Katsute 100 offers an enormous menu of tea served by the pot and flavoured tea by the cup. The most familiar item on the menu for many people will be the Sencha green tea, though even a decision to opt for a simple green tea is complicated as they offer multiple varieties, such as delicately flavoured Asamushi Sencha and nutrient-rich Fukamushi Sencha.
For those who are already up to snuff on their Japanese teas or who are simply more adventurous, there are plenty of more unusual brews to choose from. Try the Caramel Hoji-cha or Sakura-cha, made with pickled cherry blossom and served with a side of sakura mochi, or take a punt on more unusual iterations such as Kuro-cha black bean tea, Ume Shisho Ban-cha (plum and perilla leaf), or Japanese vegetable tea, made with onion peel, corn, carrot and kabocha (Japanese squash/pumpkin).
For those who have a sweet tooth or "need" a small snack to "aid their digestion", there is a sizable selection of home-baked traditional cakes and sweets such as matcha cake, while for those who require something a little stronger to float their boat, they also stock a respectable range of whiskeys, shochu and sake. Follow Katsute 100 on Instagram @katsute100
Yamagoya Popup Ramen at Shuang Shuang
Ramen chain Yamagoya was founded 47 years ago in Fukuoka, southern Japan, by truck-driver-turned-chef Masatoshi Ogata. Ogata reportedly made a point of sampling different ramen from all across Japan during his stint as a truck driver in preparation for fulfilling his longheld dream of opening his own ramen shop. This dream was realised in 1969, when he built his first ramen shack using his bare hands from scrap wood from a local school. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Yamagoya has taken up residence in Chinese hotpot restaurant Shuang Shuang in Shaftesbury Avenue, where diners can sample several dishes from Yamagoya's tried and tested ramen menu, including the signature "Yamagoya", which is made with thick and creamy tonkotsu broth and topped with pork chashu, Burford brown egg, wood ear mushroom, bamboo shoots, and spring onions.
Other notable varieties include "Tori Paitan", topped with chicken; "Tobanjan", infused with a shot of spicy chilli paste; and that rarity among ramen dishes - the veggie-friendly "Tofu Miso", made with miso kombu (kelp) broth and topped with tofu, sweetcorn, wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Yamagoya's London pop up is for a limited run only - reservations are currently being accepted for up until early April 2017.
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