Ichiban – A Revisit

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Address: 58a Atlantic Rd, Brixton, London, SW9 8PY

Telephone: 020 7738 7006

Having visited Ichiban for over 10 years now it is still very clear why it is our favourite for sushi in Brixton. It has had a recent facelift in the kitchen, perhaps a sign of the involvement from the younger members of the family owners.

We visited on a Monday evening after sampling some of the wine from next door at Chix and Bux (which by the way are opening another outlet in Herne Hill later this year!). Monday in Brixton is always tricky and this is one of the few restaurants which is open, so it was a little busier than usual.

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Nanban

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Address: 426 Coldharbour Ln, London SW9 8LF

Telephone: 020 7346 0098

Website: http://www.nanban.co.uk/

This is the first restaurant opened by 2011 MasterChef champion Tim Anderson and … it is in Brixton. This is in the revamped Gyoza (RIP – many an enjoyable evening spent there!) restaurant after some large changes to the décor but keeping some nostalgia from a building that used to be the eel and pie shop. There are regular tables and some “carriages” for lots of people to sit together. There are also long cork low bench-like tables which are OK for two people but any more and you get a crick in your neck as it’s like playing tennis. There was a bit of space when we arrived on a Monday evening but by the time we left it was full and really humming.

The long menu is on their website so we won’t repeat it here but just to say that there are certainly adaptations to Brixton cuisine and we couldn’t find much like the menu we enjoyed when Tim visited Market House last summer  – see our review here. You choose from small plates and big plates. We decided to wait for another trip to try the twice cooked pig tripe, and anyway, we thought our choices daring enough.

There were three of us so one of us chose three small plates: the Ackee and Saltfish Korokke (Potato, ackee, and saltfish croquettes with katsu sauce), Brixton Market Salad (“Whatever looks good in Brixton Market”, which turned out to be avocado with a Japanese dressing) and Chicken Karaage (Deep-fried marinated chicken thighs). All three were fantastic. The chicken was succulent and had the perfect amount of chilli. We couldn’t taste the ackee so much in the croquettes but the saltfish definitely made an impact.nab04

We also went for a big plate of Curry Goat Tsukemen (Curry goat dipping ramen with ½ tea-pickled egg, seafood sawdust, and Scotch bonnet-pickled bamboo shoots). I was warned about the pickled bamboo and was very glad I was. My tentative first bite turned my mouth on fire and I carefully shifted them to the side of the plate – too much of an adventure for me and I hadn’t brought enough tissues. The goat was succulent, with little bone and not to much fat. A really great dish with more to it than West indian curry goat – if only the cardamom pods. It had a real depth of flavour and I would definitely order it again.

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The last guest ordered Mentaiko Pasta (Spaghetti in chilli-cured cod roe sauce with onsen egg, Parmesan, pancetta, aonori, and black pepper). This was a bit like a spaghetti carbonara but with extra umami from the cod roe – unexpected but excellent..

We washed this down with tap water, a Camden Lager and a glass of Sanglier white wine. This is one to add to our list of where to eat on Mondays. The bill came to  £44.15 including service and the drinks.

Nanban at Market House

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address: Market House, 443 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London, SW9 8LN

Telephone: 020 7095 9443

email: info@market-house.co.uk

http://www.market-house.co.uk/

This month the 2011 the Masterchef winner Tim Anderson is visiting Brixton and so your intrepid reviewers sneaked in (incognito as usual) to provide a review to urge … yes we say urge (which is about as strong as it gets) to make a booking. And try, if you can, to go with a party of at least four, for reasons that will become clear. The restaurant for the month is now called Nanban – southern Japanese cooking. But first about Market House. This is just a canvas with a large room, various wooden tables, space outside and noise just on the edge of providing a sore throat the next day. You are greeted by the most divine waiter (his description not ours) who shows you to your table and keeps you entertained throughout the meal. Continue reading

Koi Ramen Bar

Brixton Station Road

Telephone: 07796 463 972

email:  info@koiramenbar.co.uk 

http://www.koiramenbar.co.uk/

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On Friday and Saturday you will find a thriving set of food stall in Brixton Station Road. All sell food to take away but there are now some tables and chairs and the odd stool so you can sit and enjoy the sun. Finding ourselves a bit peckish and with the sun streaming through the clouds we decided to try out this stall – the Koi Ramen Bar.

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Okan

address: Unit 39, Brixton Village Market SW9 8PS

telephone number: ?

email: ?

http://okanbrixtonvillage.com/

Okan is a restaurant in Bricton Village with little decoration except some Japanese lanterns. Half the inside is taken up with a counter on which the two (or sometimes three) chefs prepare your food hot and straight from the griddle. The remainder are tables and stools as there is no space for a chair. Sharing tables is a must, especially at the peak times (7.15 to 8.15)  but that only adds to the atmosphere and allows you to peer at your neighbour’s food before making a decision. There is no chance of not seeing the food and every chance you might put your elbow in it as the space is very, very tight. I must have apologised or been apologised to several times while in there for a little under an hour.

Okan specialises in one type of food – Okonomiyaki.  We were holding back on visiting this restaurant as we have had heard widely differing views and we were also not sure we were up to cabbage omelets.  But this Japanese fast food restaurant actually serves a cabbage pancake which is street food in Osaka. It is served with a special brown sauce (we weren’t brave enough to ask what it was), Japanese mayonnaise, green seaweed and bonito shavings (for added salt we assume) and has a variety of toppings. We chose the “special”- kimchi, prawn, corn and  squid and other was kimchi with pork.

But first we ordered a starter – an Otumami (presumably meaning getting you going). We chose four dishes for two people which included Kimchi (Korean pickles in fish sauce),  Edamame (beans with salt but I was expecting more salt), Onasu (fried aubergine), and tofu salad. The salad sounded boring but it really wasn’t. Lots of green peppery leaves with tiny chunks of tofu and Japanese mayonnaise.  The aubergine was soft and sweet (added honey) and although there was not enough salt on the edamame we could probably have done without any more and looked after our heart a little better. (We’ve already eaten a lot before taking the picture)

This is a fast food restaurant and it lives up to its name. If we hadn’t had the starter we would have made it out in about 25 minutes. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes you want to relax a bit. The main courses came piping hot and it takes time to eat it because it needs a bit of cooling, particularly when you are eating with chopsticks. Again we enjoyed the pancakes. They were soft but with a bit of a crunch from cabbage which isn’t slimy. For those who do not have to courage to break out with a pancake there are safer options like yaki soba noodles which our dinner companions ordered and reported were also delicious.

They have a drinks menu including alcohol. There are three types of Japanese beer, three of saki and three of tea and a variety of soft drinks. The smoky but relaxing tea (Houji) didn’t really live up to its promise but came piping hot in a lovely little teapot. The cranberry and fresh mint was refreshing and came cold with a lot of ice.

Everyone welcomed us and said goodbye (although I did crave a Japanese welcome). The service was attentive, although our first course went to the next table. But we were able to spot it easily as the bemused customers asked what it was. Portions are fairly large but not cheap – £8.25 for the Okan special which had a lot of prawns but not much squid. The total bill was £28.15 for two. We would go again but it isn’t for a leisurely meal and there is no booking. As usual with restaurants in the Village they are only open Wednesday to Sunday and only in the evening on Thursday to Saturday. Bring cash as no credit cards are taken and we had to sort through our pockets before we could order.

KAFF

address:64-68 Atlantic Rd, Brixton SW9 8PY

telephone: 020 7274 5373

email:  info@kaff-bar.co.uk

http://www.kaff-bar.co.uk

Open since September this little cafe/bar offers free wifi and is open across the day and at the weekend offers live music and djs until 2am. It has comfy sofas and small tables and during the day is laid back with laptop users and buggies. It gets fuller in the evenings and particularly the weekend. The service is friendly and helpful. The food is Caribbean but they have an arrangement with Ichi-ban Sushi which is jus down the road to extend their menu at the weekend. The Caribbean food is made by Julie – who cooks off site as there is no working kitchen as yet. This is still a work in progress.

During the week its coffee and cakes (mostly Jamaican) or beer, rum and Brixton brewed ginger beer (hot and cold) and Po-Boys (filled baguettes with salad) and a select Caribbean menu. They serve all the usuals – jamaica patties, jerk chicken, goat curry, rice and peas with cabbage or callaloo in cheap “mini meals”. But we chose a meat plate to share. This is probably something that would go down well with beer rather than our choice of an Americana and banana flavoured hot chocolate but it was after exercise and 4.00pm so not really alcohol time. The plate was easily enough to share and included three different small patties (meat, fish and veggie), barbecued wings, plantain and dumplings  – all served with chilli or sweet chili sauce. All, except the dumpling, were great. There was enough sauce on the wings and they slipped easily off the bone, the plantains was sweet and the patties interesting. But It takes a lot of sauce or liquid to make a dumpling to go down. I won’t be ordering a banana flavoured hot chocolate again either.

This is a cheap place for food – not overwhelming in size or cost. On Fridays they even have two pints for a fiver. It was about £6.50 per person for our meal and drinks. We liked the ambiance and will certainly return probably still for coffee and free wifi but also for the free cake club on Sunday – just take along your own cake to compete.

Curry Ono

Curry OnoAddress: 14BC Market Row, London SW9 8LD

Contact: curryono@yahoo.com

Web: www.curryono.com

I really, really like Curry Ono, which describes itself as a “Japanese Kitchen” and as providing “healthy, home-made Japanese food”. So it’s not really clear to me why there always seems to be so few people eating there, particularly compared with other places in the market. Partly, I guess, is that the Japanese food it serves isn’t trendy, i.e. no sushi and few noodle dishes. Instead, as the name suggests, it focuses on Japanese versions of curry, which it describes as being based on the curries that British sailors introduced to Japan in the nineteenth century. I guess that part of the problem is that this is a description that is unlikely to get people excited. The only solution is to go there and actually eat the stuff.

The place itself is a bit like a works canteen but not unwelcoming. As mentioned, there’s always plenty of room and you get personal service. There are non-curry starters, and we enjoyed edamame (green soya beans) and seaweed salad. Other starters include tebasaki (sweet soya sauce marinated fried chicken wings) and niku-jaga (slow cooked pork belly with potatoes in a sweet soya sauce).

But the mains are what it is really about, with nine different sorts of curry. All of them come with steamed rice, pickles and the same deeply flavoured but relatively mild curry sauce that we are told has been made from a mix of up to 20 different natural spices and has been simmered for more than 12 hours to provide “a truly authentic taste of Japan”. We’ve had the katsu (breaded pork escalope), the menchi katsu (breaded minced beef croquette) and the kara-age (Japanese fried chicken) and enjoyed them all. Other choices available include roast vegetable and prawn, with the latter being an exception in that it also comes with yuzo-koshu (Japanese chilli paste). The only real non-curry option is cold udon noodle, which is a favourite of mine, particularly when served with seaweed salad. Desserts are limited to a choice between green tea, red bean and vanilla ice creams.

The prices are reasonable compared with other places in the market. And unlike the places in Brixton Village it is fully licensed. I will keep going back and urge other people to go there, if only to ensure that it stays open.

Ichiban Sushi

Address: 58a Atlantic Rd, Brixton, London, SW9 8PY

Telephone: 020 7738 7006

This small Japanese restaurant serves the best sushi in Brixton and rivals Kulu Kulu as our favourite Japanese restaurant in London .  The decor of wooden benches and tables are simple but do not accommodate  large groups. There is a rather odd green colour on the walls with, also odd, pictures of something japanesey which were a bit offputting. When it is heaving you really didn’t notice the decor but tonight as it was relatively empty it seems a bit on the bleak side.

The sushi though are fantastic, with a  wide variety of different types. We ventured into unknown territory this evening with the addition of vegetable tempura and gingery dipping sauce which made a change from the maki. The Phad Thai was one of the best I have eaten. Lots of different flavours with an edge of heat and lime and not too many noodles. It is definitely cheaper and much, much better than your average Yo Sushi. Most of the occasions we have visited have been in the evening when it has been heaving and we have to literally squeeze in, but tonight (Thursday) it was relatively quiet so perhaps Brixton Village is pulling away its custom. It also used to be open during the day but now only in the evening.

Ichiban sushi has been a family favourite and now we have extended our menu choices I think for us it will still be able to hold its own against Brixton Village down the road. I just hope others don’t desert this gem of old Brixton.

Fujiyama

FujiyamaAddress: 5-7 Vining Street, Brixton, SW9 8QA

Telephone: 020 7737 2369 (booking)   020 7737 6583 (take away orders)

http://www.newfujiyama.com

This is an old Brixton favourite and always full in the evening.  It is tucked away in a road – well little more than an alleyway – off Atlantic Road in the heart of Brixton. It describes itself as a Japanese noodle and sushi bar but so far we have not tasted the sushi as there is such a good sushi bar just round the corner in Atlantic Road (Ichiban, see above for a review).

The restaurant consists of two rooms filled with benches and rough wood tables and sharing is a must. It also give you the opportunity to decide what you might like from the menu as you ogle the other dinner companion’s choices. The menu is extensive, so a bit of help in making choices is essential. There is a series of all in one meals – Bento boxes, Don Buri (rice with toppings, miso soup on the side), rice dishes including curry and vegetarian options, Ramen (noodles in the miso soup with toppings – beware the temperature!), fried noodles including Yaki soba (thin ones) and Yaki Udon (thick ones) and various curry noodles – and that’s just the top-level categories so you probably see the choice problem. There are ten Bento boxes so a pin might be a good accompaniment to a meal here.

As well as an extensive food menu it also has an extensive choice of drinks. As well as the usual Asahi and Kirin there is also wine (including Japanese wine) and a list of soft drinks which they make up on the spot. We saw carrot and apple, mango and other healthy looking five of the day type things being concocted while we were there. We stuck to beer which is an ideal accompaniment to the Ramen with roast salmon and Oyako Don  (chicken on top of the rice).

All that we tried was lovely with the proviso of being aware that any noodles in soup will be very, very hot. The ambience is buzzy and it is open every day for lunch and dinner although all our trips have been for dinner.  The service is friendly and swift. They want to get you moving so it is not a place of rest but fast food Japanese style served efficiently. We would definitely recommend this for before or after the Ritzy when you are working to a timetable.

Gyoza

Closed

GyozaAddress: 426 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8LF

Telephone: 020 7274 1492

This place has been a restaurant since we can remember. It used to be an Eel and Pie shop which had an advert which said “Why stand outside and be miserable when you can come inside and be fed up” and we  feel that it  is still true now. This Japanese (hence the name – fried or steamed dumping) and Chinese restaurant is not a gourmet delight but it is a homely place for a cheap, fast, good meal. The staff are warm and friendly and the food comes in record time so even if you thought there was no time to spare before your film begins at the Ritzy you still get the chance to see the adverts if you eat here.

We usually have the hot and salty squid, prawn gyoza,  fried seaweed and a quarter of duck to start and then a free for all for the main courses. Thick noodles, thin noodles, hot soups and your choice of meat fish or tofu – however, be warned that the main dishes all extremely generous. This is a Japanese style restaurant so chopsticks are assumed but you can ask for a fork if the seaweed gets a bit risky for your neighbours.

The alcohol is good beer – Asahi is our usual choice. They have others but why roam…