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Chotto Matte Soho – Nikkei Cuisine for the Made in Chelsea set.
If Nikkei cuisine has one potentially flaw it may be that the menu options are not simple. Most Brits have at best a vague understanding of Japanese food and might not generally wander further into the realms of Peruvian dishes than ceviche and quinoa. So what hope do we have of navigating a menu of dishes that are a fusion of the two as we are asked to do at places like Chotto Matte? Although the term Nikkei simply means ‘Japanese immigrant’ in Japanese, Nikkei cuisine in London refers to the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian dishes created from a history of around 120 years of Japanese immigrants in certain coastal areas of Peru. If you’ve eaten at any of London’s Peruvian restaurants (Coya, Lima and Ceviche for example) you’ve probably already tried Nikkei dishes like tiraditos, though you might not have picked up the Japanese influence. At Chotto Matte, it’s made obvious because the menu is set up in sections including ‘sushi and sashimi’ and ‘tempura’. It does result in four pages of options – and although the faint-hearted can pick Nikkei sharing menus, on my recent visit I was with The Hedonist – who doesn’t eat meat so generally finds set menus challenging. So, we picked a whole range of sharing dishes with the help of our waiter. And while we waited, enjoyed a cocktail each, some Padron peppers and cassava and sweet potato chips with yellow tomato salsa and guacamole. None of this particularly challenging, although the Padron peppers came with a miso dressing that looked slightly strange but tasted delicious. Chotto Matte does have something of a Made in Chelsea out in Soho for a night feel. Full of beautiful young things drinking champagne and sharing delicate plates of sushi, the decor is urban chic with anime ‘graffiti’ and the music is a level that I’d have loved in my twenties. But, in my experience, the food makes it worth a visit, even if you are not an itinerant people watcher like me. For appetisers, we picked two cold dishes – Nikkei Sashimi and Scallop Tiradito. The scallops were delicious and I wanted more. At £7.95 for a tiny portion, this isn’t a cheap option, but a fragrant and delicate treat. Scallop sashimi, coriander, jalepeno, black salt, lemon and lime juice. Lovely flavour combinations. Like the scallop tiradito, the nikkei sashimi was a perfect fusion of cuisines. The Peruvian influence is in the heat, the addition of chilli to the sashimi. And, the result is in many ways easier to eat than a Japanese sashimi. At least for a fire-head like me. Black cod is becoming a mandatory order for me when I spot it on the menu. Here it was served with yellow chilli miso. A generous portion, perfectly cooked, the yellow chilli miso was a good accompaniment. I rather liked the tentaculos de pulpo too. A very pretty presentation of a dish that can look rather unappetising; in fact the plates used to serve the dishes throughout were a pleasant mix of stylish pottery. The lighting was quite low and as it got darker, my photography suffered a bit. The octopus was one of the dishes from the Anticucheria Barbecue, with a traditional Peruvian marinade chargrilled over hot coals. At £8.95, this particular option is a good example of how you could order selectively and end up with a reasonable bill. By comparison, Tiger prawn teriyaki (camaron tigre nipon), seemed expensive at £11.75 for three admittedly good-sized prawns in a delicious Asian sweet barbecue sauce Now, as it happens I was quite full by this stage. We’d had a quinoa salad and I really didn’t need dessert. The-Hedonist indulged in a Pisco baba, which for £6.50 was quite a substantial dish with poached nashi pear and dulce de leche ice cream. Instead, I chose the petit fours – which were lovely, tiny morsels that perhaps suffered just a little from having been kept in a chiller for a few hours. The Hedonist, who has been on a sake tasting event recently, decided to try The Cloudy One Sakura Nigori Sake. I think he was secretly hoping I wouldn’t like it, but while it was like no other sake I’ve tried before, it worked very well with the meal All in, I had a splendid evening eating Nikkei food and drinking sake and rather wanted to be in my twenties again so I’d have a good excuse to keep hanging out at Chotto Matte. Of course, it’s NOT just for a young clientele, it’s the sort of place that I’d have wanted to take all my friends in the days before they got married, had kids and settled down to cosy suburban life. Now I’m resigned to borrowing my friends’ children. And my wallet always suffers the consequences of a visit to this type of place on the pretext of treating impecunious students. Perhaps I’ll just have to try a solo lunch.
11–13 Frith Street,
London, W1D 4RB
Telephone: 020 7042 7171