So it’s our second week and I’m desperate for some sushi. Easier said than done, at least if you are quarantined and you want half decent sushi. There is good sushi in Brixton, but if you want straightforward delivery and a wide choice you have to go further afield. So it’s Deliveroo and Tsunami at Clapham North. It’s only later I spot on their website that you can order direct, although I haven’t looked to see if it would have been any cheaper. Continue reading →
Ramen is trendy and I’m a great fan. Particularly at lunchtime. But despite Brixton’s ‘foodie’ reputation, it’s not so easy to find, particularly on weekdays. So, for those who share my addiction, here’s a brief guide of what’s available.
Ramen is seen as a classic Japanese dish, although I’ve been surprised to discover that it originated in China and has only become dominant since the second world war, when cheap wheat imports became available. Named for the eponymous type of noodles, it’s served invariably with a tasty stock plus garnishes, usually meat and vegetables.
Here’s four places in Brixton that I considered for my Ramen fix, but you will see that early in the week there’s only one or two of them that are actually open. I might have missed somewhere so don’t hesitate to let me know. Continue reading →
This is a really useful addition to what Brixton has to offer, with simple but tasty Korean and Japanese food from a short menu. It’s aimed mainly at the takeaway market but there’s space at a couple of counters with high stools for those who can’t wait to taste the food. It’s housed in a small shop front that’s had a chequered history. The planned burger bar failed to open because of problems with the ventilation.
You can choose between donburi (Japanese rice bowl dish); bibimbap (Korean mixed rice); or hirata buns (Japanese steamed buns), and all come with a variety of meat or vegetables.
On a bleak Saturday we took the family to Pop Brixton to try some of their new offerings. Sakeya Sushi is definitely new, so with most of us being sushi fans, we settled on that. We do like Pop Brixton but most of the restaurants have only limited places to sit and on Saturday afternoon the place was heaving, with no space at either end in the general seating areas. Iz Sakeya has been creative and provided a ledge to balance the sushi on, but we had to stand, with the result that it was inevitably a quick meal.
The menu is short – Iz Sakeya specialises in two sakes (sparkling (£10) and premium (£45)) and mainly salmon and rice sushi. In fact they say they have head-to-tail salmon cuisine but they do say they can also cater for vegetarians. We had sushi (2), sashimi (2) and what was called a Poke Don salad, with more salmon. The salmon and avocado rolls were lovely. The three pieces of sashimi (a Ngiri set, with salmon, sea bass and tuna) were great, with two being delicately seared via a blow torch. The Poke Don salad had avocado, edamame, salmon, rocket and rice. The rice in all the dishes was really good with the right consistency; far from the mush you get from some of the chains.
We did enjoy what turned out to be a snack, although when one of our party saw the size of the plates, he chose instead to visit the burger bar next door for a rather good looking burger plus a portion of chips, which we all were happy to share. Those of us who had the sushi (without the sake) were pleased with the meal, although don’t go there hungry – just think of it as a potential first course. The bill came to £31 for 4 people, without any drinks.
Afterwards we went off to Parissi in Atlantic Road for coffee and cakes.
There is now plenty of choice for Brixton fans of ramen – basically Japanese style noodles in soup. Oken Ramen, situated in Coldharbour Lane right next to Shrub & Shutter, is a new initiative from the more longstanding Okan Okonomiyaki, which serves Japanese style savoury pancakes in Brixton Village – see our review here. Continue reading →
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.
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.
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.
So.Much.Food. From sushi and brownies to chicken and tortillas and crepes I have actually only recently regained my appetite after our gluttonous evening in preparation for the brand new festival Brixton Flavours. With the actual day not until Sunday 26th October we were invited to see what the whole thing was all about this week and also apparently to eat our whole body weight in food.
Brixton Flavours states that it is a festival to introduce people to the wide variety of cuisines and restaurants that our beloved hometown has to offer. It was clear from the way the organisers spoke that that they were committed to making sure that they didn’t just go to the well-known haunts in town, but to showcase all that Brixton has on offer. This is something that we at Eat in Brixton are always striving to achieve so it’s brilliant to see others with such passion as well. The day ticket holders are invited to sample secret dishes not usually available on the menu from over 22 restaurants around Brixton (full list of those participating can be found here). You will also be given 15 Brixton pounds to spend in any of the participating restaurants, so incorporating the idea of boosting the local economy.
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 →
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.
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.