Two of the tastiest and most popular cuisines around the world have got to be Japanese and, most recently, Peruvian. Merge these together and you have Nikkei cuisine, which is being served at funky London restaurant Chotto Matte on Soho’s Frith Street.
I love this part of London, as it’s fun and lively at the best of times. Add to this the energy of underground Tokyo, plus the colourful South American buzz of Peru, and you know you’re bound to have a fun night. You can hear the fun before you see it, as you approach the ground floor lounge area, complete with a huge cocktail bar, cut from lava stone. Head up the spiral staircase to where fun meets tasty: the restaurant, a lovely spacious area with an open Robata grill and sushi bar.
The menu is admittedly just a touch overwhelming. Spanning three large pages, it left us completely baffled as to where to start and what to order. Thankfully, our excellent waiter (Paul) came to our rescue and gave his personal recommendations. He advised us that it would be wise to order no more than 10 dishes total for our table of 4…
When there’s a section of the menu titled ‘while you wait,’ it doesn’t really matter what you’re waiting for, or indeed if you’re even waiting for anything at all, but I see this as an excuse to order food that doesn’t necessarily count towards the total dish count. Therefore we didn’t include the padrón peppers or the cassava and sweet potato chips (served with yellow tomato salsa and guacamole) as part of our 10-dish maximum, and yet we devoured them, savouring every last morsel. The yellow tomato salsa was particularly tasty, but sadly there weren’t quite enough chips to go with it.
We were told we weren’t allowed to leave without trying the Nikkei sashimi. We weren’t in any rush to leave, yet we did do as we were told. And thankfully too, as this beautiful medley of yellowtail, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño and yuzu truffle soy was absolutely delightful.
The Nikkei Gyozas were also apparently a must-order, and I would have to agree. These pork, prawn and cassava dumplings were super tasty, served on a bed of aji amarillo and butternut purée that had a sweet, yet slightly spicy tinge.
From a separate snack menu, we couldn’t resist trying a couple of ‘tostaditas’ (which again I omitted from our 10-dish max rule) – one veggie friendly one with heritage tomatoes, kumquat, coriander cress, and a minty huacatay aburi dressing; the other with salmon sashimi, guacamole, jalapeño and citrus soy salsa. Both were absolutely delicious – a sort of tortilla pizza with melt-in-the-mouth toppings.
From the robata menu, although a little on the salty side, the tentaculos de pulpo (octopus tentacles) were cooked to nowhere-near-rubbery perfection, marinated in aji panca and aji amarillo, and served with yuzu purple potato.
The purple potato also proved popular in the vegetarian tempura dish – corn, green bean, avocado and spring onion fritters, served on our new favourite coloured potato with daikon sauce.
Since Japanese cuisine accounts for 50% of Nikkei cuisine, it would have been rude not to try some sushi, our favourites being the 4-piece aburi sushi, which is grilled with a blowtorch at your table, and the spicy tuna sushi rolls. I often think that when the quality of the seafood is so good it shines on its own, yet sometimes it’s also fun to play around with flavours and create something you weren’t expecting.
Sides of yuca frita (cassava wedges with panca dip), mazorca de maíz (Peruvian corn with chilli, butter and coriander) and Miso aubergine were all tasty but completely unnecessary, given the amount of food we had already consumed. Perhaps Paul was right after all…
That said, there is always, always space for dessert, and neither the mango and passion fruit sorbet, nor the Peruvian chocolate pot with honeycomb disappointed. The sorbet was deliciously fresh and light, whilst the chocolate pot was anything but light, yet wonderfully decadent and comforting.
For more food than we could physically manage, a round of cocktails (try the Flor de Manzana) and a bottle of wine, we each paid £52 (around HKD600); I dread to think what a similar bill in a similar establishment would amount to in HK, but I’m certain it would be a lot more than that! Service was exceptional (I have to give another big shout out to the amazing Paul, who helped us pick some delicious dishes and laughed at all our jokes!), which is definitely something that HK restaurants could really learn from. If you love Japanese and Peruvian food, there is little you won’t love about Chotto Matte.
11-15 Frith Street
London W1D 4RB
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7042 7171