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A Japanese Beverage Bar and Shop in Covent Garden – Moto
I’m really excited by the way small independent operators are bringing a sense of gastronomic diversity and authenticity to Covent Garden. We loved the Lady of the Grapes wine bar and now recently opened in the same street is Moto.
Describing itself as the ‘UK’s first independent Japanese beverage bar and shop’ Moto is situated in historic Maiden Lane, ideally situated for Covent Garden shopping, the Royal Opera House and the theatres on the Strand.
It has a bright and bijou interior, with white tiles, a wooden-topped bar for perching and ranks of saké bottles neatly displayed. The name ‘Moto’ is derived from the fermentation starter for saké as well as meaning ‘origin’ in Japanese which is fitting for a joint specialising in sakés as yet unavailable anywhere else in the UK.
One of the excellent things about Moto is that they offer saké ‘flights’, allowing the saké novice an easy way in to explore the wide variety of styles that exist. The first saké I tried is the Okuhida brewery’s competition saké; Hatsumidori Tobin Kakoi Daiginjo is brewed using the labour-intensive Tobin-Kakoi rice polishing method and the result is a deliciously delicate drink with clean green apple notes – it makes a great aperitif! Shinomine Yamadanishiki Junmai Kimoto is made by the traditional method of pounding the saké with long wooden poles creating a greater intensity of lactic acidosis. The resulting saké is full-bodied with well-balanced acidity and a distinctive green flavour – a perfect match with food. My final tasting was a shot of Shinomine Yamadanishiki Junmai. From Nara prefecture, this saké has grape and melon aromas but also a surprisingly dry and saline taste. If you’re a Dirty Martini fan you’ll enjoy this.
To accompany the sakés Moto serves snacks and small plates. As well as the Otsumami Platter (an assortment of crisps, cheese, and charcuterie) I tried some crunchy and refreshing pickled cucumber, the ideal palate cleanser, a bowl of Nasu N0 Nibitashi, simmered aubergine in a comforting broth which was great with a bowl of plain rice. Chicken Fry, chicken breaded with tempura crumbs and sake, is Moto’s take on chicken karaage and was tender and grease-free.
Miso Salmon was tangy, richly flavoured and grilled to perfection.
After finishing the food, a glass of the restrained, elegant sweetness of Umeshu plum wine was the perfect send-off as I headed around the corner to the Royal Opera House to see La Bohème. The charming staff at Moto let me know that they will be adding desserts to their offer soon! Moto is a worthwhile and reasonably priced addition to the Covent Garden gastro scene. They run intimate bespoke tastings and private events, it’s perfect for both pre and post-theatre and the saké flights are a lot of fun. I will be back soon.
7 Maiden Lane,
020 8076 9512