Thursday, 27 November 2014

Kintan (London)

It was first sushi that took this town by a storm. Bite-size pieces of seasoned rice topped with raw fish, or rolled and encased in seaweed with an imaginative range of other ingredients, still remain stylish and trendy today. Then more recently, the tonkotsu ramen, with its creamy pork broth and thin noodles, was given the spotlight, and now the Japanese have finally brought their BBQ over here as well. With a mini grill installed onto every table, plates of meat and vegetables are brought out and you, the diner, get to cook away with a pair of metal tongs throughout the meal. Yakiniku, as it’s called in Japanese, and Kintan is apparently the first of its kind in London.
With establishments already in Tokyo, Jakarta, and Hong Kong, Kintan recently opened up their branch in London right on High Holborn. A massive venue that spans over two floors, with large open space, sparse tables, high ceilings, dim lighting and atrocious signal. The staff is largely Japanese and so is the clientele. In fact the socioeconomic profile of 80% of the patrons that evening was middle-aged Japanese businessman in a suit.

There is an a la carte menu including one-bowl dishes but also BBQ set menus. In the Kintan set menu, first came a round of appetizers, most of which one could well do without: there was the compulsory edamame beans, a rather bland plate of stir-fried noodles, a mediocre salad -- but one thing was exceptional and that was the “Tuna Tartar Volcano”. The tuna itself is finely chopped and held together by a light dressing with a spicy kick and plenty of chopped spring onion and chives. That’s topped with salty cod roe and it’s altogether generously piled on top of a ball of fried rice which is hot and crispy on the outside and very well seasoned on the inside.
 Then came the grilled goods.  The main act of the evening were all those prime cuts of beef such as sirloin and beautifully marbled short rib. Thinly sliced and soaked in different marinades - less than a minute on each side on the grill, and it’s incredibly tender, fatty and flavorsome. You dip them in one of two tares: one was this lovely mixture of soy, sesame, mirin and other sweet notes, and the other was unfortunately a disappointing sweet and spicy sauce akin to something out of a stir-fry packet. There was also halloumi, which at first confused me amidst all the Japanese stuff, but then when grilled, it melts and soaks up all the fat and the juices of the beef, and you dunk that into the soy/mirin sauce. I then understood it all.
 Dessert – a pleasant surprise. Ice cream on the menu of Japanese and Chinese restaurants usually means boring black sesame or green tea. However, Kintan served a simple vanilla ice cream with a deep rich Japanese black honey and kinako powder. It tasted of beautiful burnt caramel and malt, and the kinako powder, a roasted soy flour, gave it an umami touch – simply sublime.
 Yakiniku's come to London quite late, but it could be a thing.  The British public is beginning to embrace the whole communal concept of family-style dining and sharing plates, so maybe they are ready for more hands on interaction with their dining companions in the setting of an indoor BBQ.  Kintan had some highs and lows with their appetizers, but what they are about – the actual yakiniku, is excellent. Top quality ingredients, generous portions, good stuff.

34 - 36 High Holborn
020 3150 2501
Mon - Fri: 12:00-15:30, 17:30-23:00
Sat: 12:00-23:00

Sun: 12:00-22:00

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