address: Unit 39, Brixton Village Market SW9 8PS
telephone number: ?
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.
Address: 14BC Market Row, London SW9 8LD
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.
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.