Titu is a tiny restaurant in Shepherds Market, specialising in gyoza, the Japanese fried dumplings. It opened in March 2018 with chef Jeff Tyler, formerly head chef of Novikov, at the helm. The name Titu, incidentally, is not some clever Japanese pun – it is the name of the son of one of the restaurant owners.
The little restaurant is of Tokyo proportions, seating just a dozen diners at tiny tables that are packed in so tight that it is a struggle to squeeze into the seats. I read that they can seat fifteen here, but I am not entirely sure how. The menu goes well beyond dumplings, offering a “small plates” format. You are encouraged by the waitresses to order 4-5 dishes per person, but even four small dishes was plenty of food even for me, so unless you are starving then five dishes would be optimistic, as well as expensive. There was a short and in place ambiguously labelled wine list, with references such as Yealands Estate Riesling 2017at £36 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £18, The Federalist Chardonnay of mysterious vintage at £68 compared to its retail price of £18, and Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico 2014 at £95 for a wine that will set you back £24 in a shop. This being Mayfair, there was Dom Perignon 2009 at a bonkers £368 for champagne that has a current market price of £137.
A nibble of lotus root crisps appeared, accompanied by a corn and yuzu mayonnaise. These were very good indeed, very thin and delicate, the mayonnaise having a hint of spice as well as the citrus sharpness from the yuzu (easily 14/20). Tuna with jalapeno (£12.50) was prettily presented and was as advertised, the spiciness well controlled and working well with the tuna (14/20). Soft shell crab (£8.90) had a non-greasy batter and came with leaves as well as slices of what seemed like grapefruit but I suspect was pomelo to cut through the richness of the crab and its batter (13/20). Shiitake mushroom rice balls (£7.50), reminiscent of arancini, had a pleasant mushroom stuffing and reasonably crisp coating (12/20). The gyoza dumplings themselves came in several varieties. I tried ones with a spicy prawn filling (£8.60), the dumplings topped by a thin layer of batter, like a pancake holding the individual gyoza together. The dumplings are fried in a pan with oil that is then covered after a little water is added, allowing them to steam. The dumplings were delicate, crisp on one side as they should be from the frying, the prawn filling nicely cooked through. These were classy gyoza that were carefully made (14/20).
Service was friendly enough from the pair of Chinese waitresses at this service, one speaking much better English than the other. Dishes arrived in quite a rush, which was a pity. The bill came to £49 for one person with just water to drink before tip, so if you drank wine then a typical cost per person would easily be £75 or so. This is the main issue with the place, as even by Mayfair standards it is hardly a bargain given the cramped setting and rushed service: central Tokyo is not cheap either, and you would eat a great deal cheaper in a comparable izakaya there. This said, if you are not too worried about budget and are not looking for a long, lingering meal then Titu is a very pleasant little place. You will quickly get to know your fellow diners as you take it in turns to eat given the packed tables, but this could turn out to be quite fun if you are lucky. Value for money is debatable here, but the level of cooking skill was quite high.