Sunday 18 May 2014

Chotto Matte: Nikkei cuisine with a side of glam

Chotto Matte is a restaurant in Soho. It serves Nikkei cuisine. Obviously. A heady mix of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, think sashimi with giant corn, it is a cuisine made for London in 2014. Peruvian, heralded as the saviour last year, has become a slow-burning success (Ceviche has two branches, Lima a star). Japanese, and especially Japanese "fusion" (how I do hate that word), continues to be a popular amongst the chattering classes.

There is graffiti, but not any old graffiti, Chotto Matte has anime graffiti. Of course there are the Soho chandeliers - the hanging light bulbs of Babylon. There is a winding staircase and a gaggle of glamorous people waiting to greet you. This place has been designed to fit around the stylish set of Soho - a quick look on the website reveals no less than 190 photos of people who I am sure I should know, but don't, all looking just fantastic. Designer heaven set against a backdrop of anime. 

This is not really my style - I prefer a more simple set up. But I digress, I shouldn't be so shallow. Can they cook? Do they manage to blend their sashimi with their ceviche? That is the important thing. 

Emphatically, yes. I know, I am as surprised as you. Often when this much attention has been spent on cultivating such an on-trend look, restaurateurs forget that they also have to serve up half decent plate of grub. No such loss of focus at Chotto Matte. Bar a couple of slightly less impressive dishes (the gyoza were simply fine, the ox heart a little chewy), we are served plate after plate of food that will make you smile. Beautiful food. Tasty food.

A trio of raw seafood to kick things off: limey scallop with jalapeno, yes please; seabass with that giant corn, crispy and boiled; and yellowtail and yuzu. Fresh fish, bang on flavours, it all worked. And, to boot, it was all just so darned pretty!

Sea bass, sweet potato and corn 

Scallop sashimi

Things continued with some crispy softshell crab and beef heart in a "traditional" marinade - a rousing mix of panca and amarillo peppers, unctuous is the word I think. There were also gyoza, crispy one side, punctuated by garlic.

We finished with a couple of tostaditas. Now maybe this is what Nikkei cuisine is - I have eaten well in Peru and Japan, but I don't profess to be an expert - but it certainly felt as if we had headed a couple of thousand miles north to Mexico when these came out - think the beach at Tulum. Crispy tortilla topped with beef fillet "tataki" (not sure that we had enough of a sear to get us to tataki, but nice nonetheless), and black cod with miso. Great snacking food.

Beef tataki tostadita

Black cod and miso tostadita

Does it serve up genuine Nikkei cuisine? Probably not. Does it matter? Probably not. Chotto Matte is like a student on their gap year, let loose with an STA round-the-world ticket: some truffle from Italy, a stop in Mexico for supplies, a lengthy stay in Peru to "help the locals", followed by some culture in Japan. You know what though, I enjoyed my gap year. And I enjoyed Chotto Matte too, so there!

Chotto Matte on Urbanspoon

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