Head to Chotto Matte on Frith Street for a delicious journey from Japan to Peru (with some Latin flavours thrown in for good measure). This is Nikkei cuisine, and Chotto Matte covers a spectrum of dishes from the two geographies, with everything form sushi to ceviche, bento to barbecue. Nikkei is the result of Japanese workers migrating to Peru over 100 years ago, and blending Japanese cooking techniques with local Peruvian ingredients.
The Chotto Matte cuisine is not the only dichotomy, it seems, with calm and sophisticated daytime Chotto Matte being something quite apart from the heaving, full volume, party scene that unfolds in the ground floor bar on Wednesday to Saturday evenings. There’s no such thing as a quiet, secluded dinner table on these nights – only crowds of suits and glamazons and pumping bass – so a lunchtime visit is definitely a good choice if you want some peace and quiet with your Nikkei.
We popped in for a weekend lunch earlier this month.
We took the winding staircase to the first floor restaurant, with great views of the Soho streets and plenty of light from the full-height windows. There’s a manga-style mural along one wall, low-slung and squishy yellow leather furniture, and an open kitchen at the centre.
Our waitress was knowledgeable and keen to make suggestions. The Bento Box was apparently a good option if you wanted to try a bit of everything and at a fair price (£20), so Richard plumped for that.
A sizeable two-tiered box turned up, plus a bowl of salty Miso soup, and Richard proclaimed himself full by the end (though he still helped himself to my dishes too!).
I had followed the instructions to order 4-5 plates per person, and had tried to cover all flavour bases. With the waitress’ help and some smart selection, it seemed I had struck gold. First up was an architectural wonder in a rainbow of eye-popping hues: Paperthin Vegetable Ensalada (£5.75) – daikon, carrot, beetroot, broccoli, quinoa, physalis and lime have been compressed in a dressing overnight, and then arranged in the most photogenic fashion. Raw veg never looked or tasted so good.
Eight pieces of cut Sake Dragon Roll (salmon and avocado maki rolls – £9.75) arrived next – probably the best maki rolls I’ve ever eaten, with a delicious sweetness and incredible freshness.
Next up were five Nikkei Gyoza dumplings (£6.95) – pan-fried dumplings stuffed with pork, prawn and cassava, served hot on aji amarillo and sweet potato puree. A combination of novel ingredients, each dumpling was delicious.
And finally, the pièce de résistance: Black Cod with Yellow Chilli Miso (£23.50) with a side of fried vegetable brown rice. With punchy flavour and succulent texture, my only criticism is that the portion size was on the small side for the price – I could have eaten much more!
We finished the meal on a sweet note, with mango and yuzu Mochi ice cream (£6.95) – a favourite of mine, the flavours were strong and the pounded sticky rice shell was satisfyingly squishy!
Shrinking violets would do well to visit Chotto Matte for lunch, if keen to avoid the PM party animal vibes; during daylight hours, the volume and pace are dialled right down, and you can give the delicious fusion cuisine your full attention.
Lunch for two with service but no alcohol: £85
11-13 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4RB