Cognitive Space

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Best Japanese Restaurants in London

Necco

By on 14/04/2012

I’ve been to a fair few Japanese restaurants in my time, and here are my selection of the best Japanese restaurants in London. They may not all offer the best Japanese food in London, but they are have the special something on offer that is worthy of praise  and my regular attendance. All the places in this selection are all also not too heavy on the pocket

 

Misato

misato11 Wardour Street
London
W1D 6PG

Words cannot describe how much love I have for this restaurant. I have visited this place regularly since 1998 and the prices have not changed much since then. Based on the edge of Chinatown on busy Wardour Street and opposite the W hotel this unassuming restaurant is easy to miss if not the for the fact that there is regularly a huge running outside the door and on to the street. This place is definitely my most visited Japanese restaurant in London.

 

misato chicken teriaki riceDon’t go there looking for amazing decor and seating, this is quite a small tightly fit restaurant, despite the queues the line moves relatively quickly and is worth the wait. This place has the cheapest yet biggest portions of any other Japanese restaurant in London. They have a good selection of bento boxes, noodle and rice dishes. My mainstay dish in the place has to be the chicken teriyaki rice, although there are a wide range of various chicken, seafood, pork and beef rice dishes in the place. Their sushi isn’t the best but I can’t fault it. The drinks are cheap as well – I normally end up getting sake, plum wine calpico & maybe a Sapporo every time I’m there. The range of bento boxes are also wide and huge in their portions. Unfortunately they no longer do the unagi bento which was the bomb.

 

Misato doesn’t take reservations and is a cash only restaurant, but I have so much love and time for this place – I absolutely love it and have never been bored with the place for the past 14 years. Misato you are officially one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in London!!!!!

 

Asakusa

 265 Eversholt Street
London
NW1 1BA

Located in Mornington Crescent & a stones throw from my house, Don’t be fooled by its very unassuming and old looking exterior – this place is absolutely amazing. This place is truly authentic Japanese food.

As far as interiors go also don’t expect anything plush. It reminds me of the interiors of those quite dark Japanese restaurants located in some off street that you see in Japanese movies. A lot of other reviews have mentioned the interior as a down point but personally I think it gives the place character

There is not enough space on here for me talk about Asakusa’s menu – its so extensive, there are dishes in here you’ll never anywhere else. The starters on the old school looking menu run for pages and pages, there is so much to choose from, there is such a traditional to all the food, I’ll also have to say this was the first restaurant where I ever had takoyaki – I have never looked back since – its my favourite side dish – I’m surprised more Japanese restaurants out there don’t serve it up. The time it takes to await for your meal can be long, part due to the popularity and part due to the time and care that goes into the food – the sashimi can take up to 30 minutes to prepare, but its well worth the wait. Speaking of sashimi the place has a sashimi salad which is to die for. Their sushi selection is great and better than most places; there are a great selection of soups; they serve nabemono (Japanese hotpot) which are amongst the most expensive items on the menu but well worth the price; a large number of set meals, deep fry dishes, hot & cold udon  & soba; yakimono and a whole lot more. I am unagi lover and their unagi is the bomb. If space wasn’t an issue I would go pages and pages describing all the dishes they have in this place, its definitely the restaurant which has its most hard to choose from menu because there is so much varied choice and everything is great. Luckily there are descriptions of each dish in the menu making life easier. If you ever want to go to a Japanese restaurant that has everything and has a traditional feel then its all about Asakusa!!!! The best way I can describe it is if my grandma was to make Japanese food – its the one, just writing this is making me think about walking up the road and getting in on some unagi, takoyaki and nabemono!!!!

Due to the popularity of this place pre-booking is essential – you’ve been warned

 

Necco

54 Exmouth Market
London
EC1R 4QE
http://www.necco.co.uk/

One time I stupidly went a year without going to Necco and surprisingly recognised me after all that time and asked if I wanted to sit in the same seat as last time I was there – truly amazing!!!

This place gets the cute award. Everything is super slick and clean, I never thought I would like a restaurant that was pink in its colour scheme, but they really make it work here, they even have these heart shaped tea cozys over their speakers which are amazing. Presentation is everything in this place with the decor and the food.

Located in Exmouth Market amongst a wealth of other restaurants Necco stands out from the others and is my favourite place on the whole street. Part restaurant, part cafe / teahouse, part bar there is something for whatever occasion you want to visit for. Check this video of Necco for an introduction from the manager

The cafe / tea house part has a wide selection of Japanese tea cakes and tea. They have everything from Jasmine flower tea to genmai-cha and a huge selection of delicious Japanese cakes which are made on site every day by the chef which have become so notorious that they are now available in the Japan Centre. They do an afternoon tea selection of tea, cake and sushi for £15 which is amazing. The bar has a wide selection of house & premium hot & cold sake, shochu, Japanese beers (look out for the happy hour serving up £2 Asahi), wine, juices, but where the place excels is in its Japanese cocktails. There is a selection of calpico, yuzu and green tea cocktails which are all amazing – my recommendation is the calpico cocktail which is amazing.

Necco – green tea sponge with strawberry cake

I haven’t even started on the food yet. Whether you want sushi, Japanese style tapas or a full on meal they have it all. In the tapas selection they have takoyaki, gyoza, yakitori, kimchi, soft shell crab and my favourite of all baked aubergine with sweet miso, which is to die for, the sweet miso melts into the soft baked aubergine – its amazing – I have dreams about aubergine drenched in sweet miso regularly and learned to make it myself but its sooooooooooo much better in the store. There is a huge selection of assorted sushi, sashimi and rolls, donburi my favourite of which is the unagi (which they serve is normal and super sized) as well as noodles.

There is so much to choose from here you could visit this place many different times and come away with some very different eating experiences. The staff are super attenitive and the manager is alway around and interacting with customers. Whether you are looking for a few drink, snacks, cakes, tea or a full dinner Necco is the one and on top of that the prices are all really cheap

 

Sushi Hiro / Atari-ya

1 Station Parade
Uxbridge Rd
London
W5 3LD
www.atariya.co.uk/shops/ealing_common.html

This restaurant has been taken over by the Atari-ya chain (the fish supplier for many Japanese restaurants like Nobu and Sushi Hiro at the time). The restaurant is now called Atari-ya although I know it under its previous name Sushi Hiro. I haven’t been there since the takeover but I’m told that the head chef, menu and quality of food are just the same as before and still as good – only the decor has been changed. I’ll be making a visit to there very soon and will update this review if things have changed there.

I never truly had an appreciation of the art and science that goes into sushi making until I visited this place. I had always heard about it through friends so of like the place was some urban legend located in the far reaches of Ealing Common (a fair distance from where I live). There was talk of this place serving up the best sushi in London at really cheap prices. When I finally made it there I became a true believer! Sushi Hiro is a sushi bar – there is no kitchen and the only hot things they serve in there are miso soup, tea and hot sake, if sushi is your thing then this place is for you. The restaurant is really small – there are about 4 tables and then the seats at the sushi bar, so pre-booking is a must with this place.

Watching the sushi chef at work is like watching a great artist complete a painting. The presentation of all the sushi is amazing. There is a wide variety of sets available – the chirashi sets are my favourites down to their presentation and variety. Words cannot describe how good the sushi is in this place, this is place that taught me the true art of the production of sushi and the prices are super cheap. If you want to experience truly great sushi this is the place to, words cannot describe the difference in the quality of sushi in this place to many others it must simply be experienced. Don’t expect any Nobu type prices this place is really cheap. Don’t think about the distance just go there – just don’t forget to prebook!!

 

Koya

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

I’ve been hearing for a while about this restaurant in Soho that specialises in udon noodles that always has a queue coming out the door. The place became a bit an urban legend. I finally recently had a chance to go there and I was blown away – I love this place. I warn you this place doesn’t do pre-bookings and there is usually a queue, sometimes up to 30 minutes to wait but it is well worth it. This very low key looking restaurant is easy to miss – I must have walked past it 100 times over the last few years without knowing it was there. This place are London’s udon specialists. The udon noodles are made in the restaurant daily using the traditional method of kneading the dough – by foot! This is done however by a purpose built hygienic method built into the floor which allows the chefs to knead the dough over a plastic canvas.

Considering they only serve udon there is so much to choose from, there are also a few sides but don’t concentrate to much on these – its better to go in on the udon (although the belly pork is definitely worth going in on). As far as the udon noodles go you can choose between range of hot noodles in broth, cold noodles with hot broth, cold udon with a cold sauce to pour on top and cold noodles with a cold sauce to dip into. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater there is plenty to choose from, I’ve been quite a few times and I feel like I haven’t touched the range of dishes to try. It wasn’t my second time there I realised there was a specials board in the place. This is where the place truly shines – this menu changes daily and always has some amazing dishes, make sure you don’t miss out on these – they are always great and worth a look at. There are many great and some off centre dishes that appear on the specials such as salt beef udon, ox tongue, mapo tofu (aaaaaamzing), wild rabbit udon, miso halibut as well as some special premium Japanese beers. Its worth following Koya on Twitter as they always post up the day’s specials on there. Once you have been there once believe me you will return and with the daily wonderful specials there is always something new to experience

The place has won many awards and was recently awarded 35th place in the National Restaurant Awards

Get down there and join the queue it will be worth the wait!!!

 

Honorable Mentions……

Dotori

3 Stroud Green Road
Finsbury Park
London
N4 2DQ

Located in the middle of Finsbury Park opposite the bowling alley this Korean / Japanese is a gem in its not so great surroundings. This place is super tasty and dirt cheap – we are talking Misato type of prices – you could come out of that place only spending £15 a head. You would never say its the best Japanese restaurant in the world, nor the best Korean (but still high in the ranks), but as a hybrid restaurant it brings you something new and fresh. The sushi selection is wide and great – the spider rolls are super tasty adn the tempura is some of the best I have had, they have that prefect balance between crispness and melt in the mouth goodness. The beef bibimbap is amazing as well are their various omeletes and other korean dishes. This place is most definitely worth a visit, especially at those prices, prebooking is essential!!!

 

Ittenbari

84 Brewer Street, W1F 9UB
http://ittenbari.co.uk/

Located in Soho – this ramen noodle specialist used to be the Ryo restaurant. The menu consists of a 4 different ramen noodle dishes which are all amazing, some set non-ramen dishes and some sides such as gyoza. The place is super cheap and its never too long to wait to get into. If you’re in Soho and want some tasty authentic ramen noodles then this is the joint to hit up

 

Bincho

Various locations (central London)
http://www.bincho.co.uk/

This place is London’s Yakitori (skewered dish) specialist. There are restaurants in both Soho and EC1. There is a massive variety of skewered dishes that you would have to go many times to sample the range. They are all super cheap but if you are like me then the bill could end up pretty large – if you are a Tastecard member then you can get a huge discount on the bill. The food is so good. Its a great place to sit around a table with friends enjoying their wide range of Japanese beers & sake whilst catching up a going in on some skewers

Satuma

8 Fortess Road
London
NW5 2ES
http://www.satuma.co.uk

This little spot (and when I say little I mean little) is located in Kentish Town amongst the growing number or oriental restaurants. The Eatzone Noodle House a few doors down is also highly recommended for a brilliant really cheap Singapore / Chinese / Malaysian noodle house.

 

That’s all for now. Get your food on!!!

Tendai



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