A Taste of Tokyo: 7 Great Local Places for Japanese Food
A TASTE OF TOKYO: 7 GREAT LOCAL PLACES FOR JAPANESE FOOD
ENJOY A TASTE OF THE TOKYO OLYMPICS AT ONE OF THESE TOP JAPANESE EATERIES IN SOUTH WEST LONDON AND SURREY.
Top image: Food and drink at Kibou Battersea by Nic Crilly-Hargrave
Words: Imogen Willis
Although travel to Tokyo to see the 2020 Olympics was not possible this summer, there is still a way to celebrate the host city as we near the closing ceremony. For a taste of Tokyo closer to home, visit these fantastic Japanese eateries in South West London and Surrey, offering a flavour of Japan’s traditions, cuisine and culture. Enjoy!
ITABASHI JAPANESE IZAKAYA
Chef/owner Haidong’s mission is to bring the unique flair of Tokyo’s Itabashi district to Teddington. Itabashi is named after a historical wooden bridge and has a distinct market style with many Izakaya’s – informal food and drinking spots – which are popular after work meeting places for drinks in Japan. At an izakaya it is traditional to find many smaller dishes that come as and when you order, without the set starter, main, dessert format. Haidong has replicated this with a relaxed menu including dishes from the kitchen such as yakitori, prawn tempura and agedashi tofu alongside dishes from the sushi bar. Their bar also serves a wonderful selection of beer, sake, wine and Japanese whisky, perfect for chilled after work drinks with friends or a meal out.
Named after the traditional Japanese festival that is used to celebrate the spirits of the ancestors with dancing, food and offerings, Obon is a celebration of another kind – of flavour and delicious Japanese dishes. Located on the Richmond Road in Kingston, this small restaurant has a cosy atmosphere that puts you instantly at ease. The sashimi and sushi lunch sets are perfect for a quick meal, or if you wish to make an occasion of it, dine from the main menu, with expertly rolled sushi such as hosomaki, uramaki and hutomaki or more adventurous options including raw fish donburi or unagi (grilled eel).
The much-lauded South Wimbledon restaurant combines traditional Japanese dishes with Mediterranean influences. The chef and owner Takahashi formerly worked as head sushi chef for Nobu, and some tributes can be seen in the menu including a take on the famous miso-marinated black cod. His wife Yuko runs the front of house, creating a lovely atmosphere with simple and elegant interiors where the food is the focal point. The menu mainly focuses on sashimi and sushi using locally sourced fish and seafood from Cornwall and organic Japanese and English vegetables from East Sussex, their A5 grade wagyu beef is imported all the way from Japan for its flavour and is not to be missed. For parties of four or more there is a set menu consisting of 20 or so dishes designed by the chef using the finest quality ingredients available on the day, and including sashimi, nigiri, soup, hot meat and seafood dishes, dessert and organic herb teas.
Self-acclaimed as the ‘taste of Tokyo in Battersea’, Kibou offers a wonderful selection of staple Japanese dishes from hot bowls of ramen, to katsu curry and poke bowls, with sushi and sashimi available handmade to order. The interiors are colourful and vibrant, featuring a geisha mural painted on exposed brick walls behind dining tables, and in the centre an izakaya which loosely translates from the kanji as a ‘stay-drink-space’ or informal bar. Here is the perfect spot to sit back and sample the extensive menu of Japanese whisky, cocktails, Yuzu, Plum wine, and Sake.
Images: Kibou Battersea by Nic Crilly-Hargrave
Originating in Korea, Yakiniku – or Japanese BBQ – is now seen as a primarily Japanese dish. This immersive dining experience centres around a grill in the middle of your table where you cook your meat, fish, or vegetables. At Sakura Yakiniku the meat arrives at your table raw for you to grill on the specialised Japanese grills which suck the air away from the table so you can enjoy a smoke-free meal. This makes for a fun and memorable dining out experience, with a menu where you can either choose by item or by set which includes rice, miso soup and salad – the Ocean Breeze set is perfect for fish lovers. For those looking for more familiar Japanese fare, or for dishes to complement their BBQ, the a la carte menu features recognisable hot and cold classics from Katsu curry to sushi.
Left image: Cafe Mori Matcha Latte with Strawberry cake. Right: Rich Matcha cake.
This Japanese tea house in Wimbledon offers a calm atmosphere to enjoy Japanese teas, coffees, pastries, and cakes alongside savoury lunch dishes. Treat yourself to an afternoon dessert with a slice of one of their freshly baked cream cakes, or dorayaki, a traditional Japanese pancake stuffed with red bean paste. To drink, the bubble teas with sweet tapioca balls are intriguing and refreshing, and their matcha lattes, using matcha powder specially made in Japan are divine. If you’re still peckish the rice and udon dishes also make a perfect meal to enjoy with a friend.
Left image: Private dining space at Nori. Right: Selection platter at Nori.
Nestled on the first floor above a pub and off the Highstreet this is a bit of a hidden gem. If you are looking for somewhere to enjoy a Japanese home-style lunch with an assortment of pickles, salads, miso soup and sushi rolls, this is a lovely spot. Equally, if you are looking for a high-end modern Japanese restaurant, this is also the place. The natural designer interiors feature soft lights and wood ornamentation that create a zen atmosphere, the food is beautifully presented and there are gorgeous private dining spaces to hire for special occasions.
Heating up the BBQ? Check out this guide to your new favourite local butcher: