A little bit of Soho comes to North London – Chotto Matte to my Door.
On a grey, cold Friday a mere few hours before London went into Tier 2 restrictions, my mood was as dull as the weather. A knock on the door revealed a delivery from a man who wished me a great weekend. The box he handed to me was elegant, embossed with the word ‘Chotto’. I opened it carefully and as if the sun had burst through into my kitchen, the lid opened onto a bright yellow crepe paper covering. It was my Chotto at Home delivery.
Inside an envelope were recipe cards for the ingredients that lay packed carefully below. Alongside sealed bags of chicken, beef and black cod were purple potatoes and corn. The sauces I would need to cook these ingredients into a Nikkei feast were contained in small bottles, lined up in their black box like the jewelled rows of nail polish in a manicurist’s bar. I could not have been more excited about my dinner. I felt my mood lift for that is what great food does for me.
This is Chotto at Home, recently launched by the renowned restaurant in Soho, and not a moment too soon. All through lockdown restaurants converted to takeout service to keep their eateries afloat. There was a brief reprieve with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme but then a 10 pm closing time and now further Tier 2 restrictions are set to make the survival of restaurants even more challenging. Chotto at Home is takeout for those who like to cook. Increasing numbers of restaurants are now trying out this scheme. I get to score the brownie points for literally serving up restaurant-quality food at my own table.
Chotto Matte has branches in several countries and specialises in Nikkei cuisine, celebrating the fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cooking. The restaurant menu is extensive. The Chotto at Home box is priced at £60 and serves two people. It includes some of Chotto’s most popular dishes, ones that can be prepared at home without any special equipment. Reading through the recipe card instructions, I realised that for anyone with a little experience in the kitchen there was nothing challenging about the cooking I had to do. Some dishes needed minimal prep while others needed a brief time in a pan, a bit of a roast or simmer. Of course, the fabulous sauces were already made and, as any home cook knows, that’s where the time in the kitchen is often spent.
What I liked immediately about Chotto At Home is that I got to decide when each dish came to the table. One of my pet peeves in restaurants that serve multiple dishes – as opposed to the traditional three-course meal – is that the food is served as suits the chef, in other words, when it is ready. I have sat at such dinners and eaten a fabulous dish of charred broccoli before the fish arrived or a superb roasted aubergine long after the rest of the food was eaten. Sometimes all the dishes arrive at once and I can neither savour each properly nor prevent half the food from getting cold before I eat it. So Chotto At Home had me nicely relaxed and I cooked one dish at a time. As suggested on the envelope cover, I put on some vibey music, mixed the cocktails and got cooking. I ended up having a leisurely meal which was very relaxed indeed. The flavours of these dishes really do merit taking time over.
I started with the Padron Peppers which always goes well with a cocktail. I have eaten these gorgeous, emerald green peppers in many a Spanish tapas bar and recently had an Indian meal with Padron peppers in the starring role. This is the first time I have had them served with miso and jolly good they were too. The peppers were packed in a brown paper bag and a generous portion found their way into a hot pan for three minutes as instructed. After a two minute rest, the miso sauce was added to the pan and lightly seasoned with sea salt. Biting into the first pepper brought a wave of umami goodness. Then came sweet, salty and buttery, a wonderful whetting of the appetite. The miso sauce was fabulous. We went off-piste and mopped out the pan with a brioche type bread.
The next dish was very different. Choclo corn with rocoto butter and coriander was hot! Choclo corn is Peruvian corn, also known as Cusco corn, has far larger kernels than the local sweetcorn eaten in the UK. It is also starchier and chewier. A wonderful pairing is to spice it up with rocoto butter. Rocoto is a Peruvian pepper, one of the hottest Peruvian spices. At first, I found it too spicy for my taste but then I found myself picking out the large kernels from the bowl and suddenly they were all eaten.
The third dish was Black cod aji miso – black cod with a chilli miso marinade, yuzu and chives. The prep involved laying out the fish on a roasting tray and cooking in a hot oven for 20 minutes. On removing the cooked fish, the large bones had to be extracted. I don’t have a fish tweezer but the bones slid out easily from the perfectly cooked flakes. I was rather proud to bring this to the table, it looked beautiful in its mustard-coloured sauce, flecked green with chopped chives.
Black cod is a misnomer as this fish is not part of the cod family, but rather a different family of fish, going by the name sablefish. It is very buttery and the sauce added umami and extra richness. The yellow anticucho miso sauce had me googling to find out more about what we were eating. This sauce is made with aji Amarillo paste (made from the Peruvian yellow chilli pepper), yuzu juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar and grapeseed oil. This was such an excellent dish, that it would be first on my list when revisiting Chotto.
The fourth dish was Pollo Picante, chicken with red and yellow anticucho, yuzu juice and chives. I placed two boned chicken thighs onto a roasting tray and while they roasted and were then sauced to caramelise the skin, I heated a sachet of green causa in a pot of simmering water. This made for a visually appealing dish, the chicken was cut into slices and served on top of the green causa purée. Causa, I discovered, is a Peruvian mashed potato dish, served here as the base for the chicken. Topped with red and yellow anticucho sauces, the flavours were spicy and citrussy.
By this time we were rather full but the look of the final dish was just too good to delay. Asado de Tira was slow-cooked BBQ beef with purple potato purée, teriyaki jus and chives. All the hard work had been done and all I had to do was warm a pouch of meat and another of potato in a simmering pot of water. After 20 minutes, during which we enjoyed a glass of red, this gorgeous dish was served. The purple potato is beautiful to look at and had been smoked which gave a wonderful layer of taste to the overall dish. The meat was glorious. I say this as someone who rarely eats red meat for health reasons, but I was happy to fall off the wagon for a dish of this quality. The cliché ‘melt in the mouth’ should be reserved for meat this luscious. It could be cut with a spoon and had that wonderful juicy mouthfeel that beef has when the slow cooking has broken down the collagen into gelatin. The teriyaki sauce was perhaps a tad salty but overall the dish was one to remember. The beef was slow-cooked in a robata, a traditional Japanese method akin to a BBQ where food is cooked over coals. Robatayaki translates as ‘fireside cooking’. Robata charcoal burns at a very intense heat and is pure and has no smell. It is made from oak trees. The chef has to be skilled in cooking the food at the correct height and length of time on the grill. This dish is not very photogenic but looked good on the purple potato, the flavours were wonderful and the meat delectable.
In these travel-free times, it is good to be able to keep our minds expanding beyond our immediate environment through what is on our plates. Chotto At Home enabled me to do just that. The food was well priced, elegant, easy to cook and very tasty. Best of all, I had the opportunity to try some new ingredients and flavours which is what travelling through food is all about.
Chotto At Home can be ordered from the restaurant on www.chotto-matte.com
The restaurant in Soho has a wonderfully extensive menu and is open for diners who wish to eat out. Others from the London-Unattached team reviewed their newly launched Chotto Matte Harajuku Brunch, sharing some of the same dishes in Chotto at Home – they loved it as much as me!
11-13 Frith Street
London W1D 4RB
T: 0207 0427171
Disclosure: Our Chotto at Home box was free of charge for the purpose of review but all content is editorially given.