Let’s cut straight to the chase. This place is fucking fantastic and you should go. If that’s not enough for you and you want to know why, then read on. I have a feeling this might be a long one though.
We rocked up at 7:30pm on a Thursday and were told that there would be a 45 minute wait for a table, so they took a mobile number and we went to a bar. At this point it’s fairly easy to tell that the place is doing much better than its predecessor in this location which lasted literally 3 weeks before folding.
We got the call 45 minutes later as promised. There was a bit of a wait at the front while people paid their bills so perhaps separating the check-out and check-in functions might be a good idea but it’s a minor quibble and the maître d’ was hot so we’ll let it slide. We were given a seat at the bar which, as it turns out, is a fantastic place to sit. The decor is industrial with polished concrete floors and walls that are a combination of raw brick, corrugated cardboard panels painted black, and flat panels painted with what appears to be a large Japanese Pac-Man character. It is lit with naked Edison bulbs dropping low from the ceiling.
The menu is divided into 4 sections named, with a nod to the arcade game “Mortal Kombat”, Rounds 1 through 3 and “Finish Him”, the desserts section. It is also littered with amusing quotes from Mr Miyagi such as “Mr M says man with one chopstick go hungry”.
We selected the tuna cracker, the black pig gyoza and the Miyagi fried chicken. When the yellow fin tuna cracker arrived it looked amazing topped with its ball of saké sorbet. The waiter effused over how each ingredient added to the total flavour and was greater than the sum of the parts. I tried to take a small bite to sample it but this pretty much led to the destruction of the entire stack and was such a debacle that I forgot to really taste it. Apparently it’s amazing though, particularly the tomato confit. The next to arrive was the black pig gyoza. I’m not sure how much difference the pig being black makes but these were delicious. Full of flavour and excellent consistency, and the dipping sauce had a nice chilli kick. The true winner though was the Miyagi fried chicken. It arrived, along with dish of Japanese mayo, in a cute ‘MFC’ takeaway box lined with Japanese newspaper. If The Colonel had come up with this recipe maybe he wouldn’t have been turned away 1009 times before he found a backer. This really was the shizz.
Sitting at the bar we got talking to the friendly bar staff. Their enthusiasm for their job was obvious and their skill and knowledge of the ingredients was impressive. I definitely came away with more knowledge of saké than I arrived with. The barman wearing a Kamikaze head band (which isn’t racist because he was given it by a Japanese person apparently) offered us a sample of a couple of the sakés before we selected the Umenoyado Gin Junmai Ginjo. It was served cold, and was quite floral. We also drank Orion beer from Okinawa which was very fresh tasting. One of the bar staff also gave us a sample of the white chocolate saké foam used to top one of the cocktails. It was very rich but I put that cocktail on the must try list for later in the evening. It was good to see a bulberator put to a practical use.
Sitting at the bar had given us a chance to see the two chefs in action. The only Japanese staff that I saw, these knife ninjas were very impressive to watch. For round 2 we selected the 21 piece large Nigiri and Sashimi combo. The fish was all top quality and very fresh, and was absolutely delicious. One of the knife ninjas catapulted himself onto the bar in front of us to inquire as to whether we were enjoying it. I asked about one particular cut of sashimi and it turns out it was Japanese Kingfish seared with a blow torch. So so good! I saw the chefs filling water balloons at one point and after inquiring about it I was told that they were frozen and then burst, and used to serve the monster combo on. I wish I’d ordered the monster combo now.
Back to Round 1
We were enjoying the food so much we decided to sample more of it and ordered the Wagu beef tataki. The beef was wafer thin and just melted in your mouth. Each slice was wrapped around shredded carrot and garlic crisps. This dish is a must try.
At this point we’re quite a few beers and sakés in, so the one thing that is calling my name is more of that Miyagi fried chicken. It’s honestly so good! I never thought of using mayo on fried chicken before but it really worked well.
Throughout the night the music had jumped around a bit but was always fun. When I went to the bathroom (which has some pretty amusing decoration by the way) some random stopped me to tell me how impressed he was with the music. It turns out the staff have a tablet hooked up to Spotify so they just play whatever they feel like and were even taking requests from patrons. I got them to play Toto – Africa which seemed to feel right after Kim Carnes – Betty Davis Eyes.
Currently the bar is only licenced until 11pm (application for later licence pending) and the kitchen closes around the same time so we wrapped things up with the white chocolate saké foam topped cocktail although it probably had more caffeine in it than was sensible for that time of night. The bill arrived in an envelope labeled “The Damage” but considering I’d had the best Japanese food I’d ever had, I wasn’t too concerned about the contents. Do yourself a favour and get along to this fantastic restaurant.