Nobu revisited

Saturday, January 26th , 2013

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Cinnamon Soho is a more casual variant on the successful Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen. The same style of modern Indian cooking is to be found, and generally the food worked quite well, though there was some variation in quality between the dishes. A black dhal was particularly good and tandoori prawns were carefully cooked, though breads were less impressive. What I was a bit surprised at was the lacklustre service, which is out of character given the slick service to be encountered at its sister restaurants. Doubtless this can be addressed, and certainly the food was very pleasant.

Andrew Wong has opened an eponymous restaurant in Victoria after travelling and studying in China, in Sichuan province in particular. What I liked about the restaurant was that the dishes do not follow the usual formula seen in London. Most Chinese restaurants in the capital are Cantonese, and offer vast menus where obviously many of the ingredients cannot be fresh. The pure Sichuan places that exist tend to blast the palate with chillies and Sichuan peppercorns, often conveniently disguising very cheap cuts of meat. The A. Wong restaurant has an unusually short menu based on fresh ingredients, and mixes and matches Chinese regional approaches. A chicken dish made with subtle use of Sichuan peppercorns was a particularly good example of this approach, and indeed there were several very good dishes. As a bonus, portions were large and prices low, while service was unusually good by the admittedly low standards set by most Chinese restaurants in London. It is really good to see someone following a different path, and I hope it prospers.

Odin’s is one of those restaurants that Twitter forgot. Related to the better-known Langans, it was as famous for its art collection as its traditional food (a mix of French and British dishes).  The original art collection has mostly been sold now, but there are still some David Hockney originals on the walls. The dining room is attractive and the service pleasant, the food itself decent rather than thrilling. However it is nice to see that not everywhere has to follow the latest fashion, and you won’t find any sea buckthorn or live ants to disturb your equilibrium on the menu here.

Nobu (pictured) was the first European branch of the now very extensive global chain of Japanese restaurants set up by Nobu Matsuhita. It is still smart and successful, attracting a moneyed set with its western-friendly take on Japanese food (no awkward animal parts, but more familiar dishes like black cod with miso and prawn tempura). The cooking is objectively quite good, though at my lunch this week the sushi seemed less than top notch, but to be fair the other dishes I tried were very capable. However the bill quickly mounts up, and it would be possible to spend a great deal of money with remarkable ease here. With mineral water at £6, service at 15% and the most expensive wine list that I have seen in London, it is hard to feel warm towards it.