Sunday 11 August 2013

Flesh and Buns: Izakaya arrives in London

Flesh and Buns is the new offering from those clever people behind Bone Daddies. Having taken the ramen world by storm, they have now decided to introduce London to the joys of Izakaya dining. What, you've never heard of Izakaya? Really? Neither had I. But, given that it is essentially Japan's answer to a pint of bitter and scampi fries (with the bitter replaced by sake and the scampi by sushi), I thought it was something I should explore.

The restaurant is gigantic, a large high table stretching all the way down the middle. Think Wagamama, but much, much cooler. The menu is made up of snacks, small hot and cold plates and "flesh and buns". Everything is for sharing.

We kicked things off with some "chips and dips" - tasty homemade rice crackers, shiso avocado (essentially guacamole, I struggled to detect any shiso) and tomato jalapeno (for which read salsa). I loved this take on Japanese/Mexican fusion.

Tuna tataki was seared on the outside, served with a tart grapefruit, chili, coriander. If this is food to drink by, pass the sake. Beautiful to look at, even better to eat, this was a splendid dish - all of the flavours balanced perfectly.

Then came the "flesh". A hulking great lump of pork belly, mustard miso sauce and the fluffiest buns you will find anywhere in London. Our waitress tried to pull the pork at the table, sadly for her, she ended up in a bit of a wrestling match - moist on top, it had dried out a little at the bottom, pork has pulled easier before. That said, once she had put her all into it, it came apart fine, with a dribble of the fiery mustard miso and some pickled apple, the buns were devoured in record time.

Surprisingly filling, we probably didn't need anything else. But of course we had done our usual of ordering one more dish than the staff recommend (when the Fashionista is on form, and snacking food is the game, it is quite incredible how much can be devoured). And so we ended up finishing on some chicken yakitori - grilled skewers of perfectly moist, marinated chicken interspersed with crunchy spring onions. A great end.

So let's get back to the premise of Flesh and Buns. Food to accompany sake- there is a great selection (sadly, given it was lunchtime and we had a busy afternoon stretching ahead of us, we didn't get involved). It does that admirably. But to relegate the food to a sideshow would be harsh in the extreme - it's far more deserving than that. I, for one, can't wait to round up a few mates and head there for a sake-fuelled session of Izakaya. The scampi fries may at last have found their match!

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