In Japan, restaurants tend to specialise in a particular cuisine such as tempura, ramen, sushi, tonkatsu or udon noodles. Bincho Yakitori in Soho brings that focus to London, serving a varied selection of skewered meat and vegetables cooked over a traditional charcoal grill. Indeed the restaurant is named for the bincho-tan it imports from Japan – a unique white charcoal made from oak, highly prized because it burns long, slow and even and gives off very little smoke.
Chicken lovers will appreciate sori (chicken oysters), the succulent morsels of meat located at the base of the thighs. Also excellent are cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon, chicken hearts marinaded with a sweet savoury sticky sauce, whole tiger prawns and sweet Japanese peppers. From the other sections of the menu, try grilled salmon steak with a sweet soy glaze and tori yaki meshi, a beautifully savoury chicken and mushroom fried rice.
16 OLD COMPTON STREET, LONDON, W1D 4TL BINCHO.CO.UK, 020 7287 9111
Given the popularity of Thai restaurants in the UK, most of us think we are familiar with this Eastern cuisine, citing curries such as yellow, green, red, massaman and penang, Pad Thai noodles and stir fried rice. But if you want to seek out a wider range of Thai food, look no further than Jane-Tira Thai, a small restaurant focused on bringing popular and authentic Thai street food to Soho. The menu is divided into small and large dishes, noodles and rice, each section listing so many temptations that your first visit will quickly lead to your second and third. An order of the delightfully named Son-in-Law Balls brings a plate of deep-fried boiled eggs in tamarind sauce, a delight of soft and crispy, sweet and sour.
Massaman lamb is an enormous lamb shank, braised until meltingly tender in a coconut curry sauce. The mackerel curry is cooked Southern style and is not only packed with flavour but is so fiery hot that only the fiercest chilli heads enjoy it. There are plenty of choices for the meeker amongst us, looking for intensity of flavour without the heat. Try Moo Ping skewers of chargrilled lemongrass and coconut milk pork, Suki Haeng stir-fried glass noodles with seafood in a fermented tofu sauce or a spicy Thai omelette full of vegetables and herbs, served on Jasmine rice with Sriracha sauce. Prices are impressively affordable and the setting is casual, welcoming and comfortable.
28 BREWER STREET, W1F 0SR JANE-TIRA.CO.UK, 020 7434 3777
DUCK AND WAFFLE
You’d be forgiven for assuming that a restaurant on the 40th floor of Liverpool Street’s Heron Tower pulls in punters for its incredible views over London. But you’d be wrong. Duck and Waffle has garnered a fiercely loyal following for its food, created by talented young head chef Daniel Doherty. Signature dishes such as the eponymous Crispy Confit Duck & Waffle served with a fried egg and maple syrup, and Foie Gras Crème Brûlée with Scottish Lobster are joined by a regularly changing menu of inventive dishes. Egg & Bacon features a Devilled Duck Egg over soft slices of pigs head, cooked long and slow and infused with Korean flavours. Raw Cornish Mackerel is combined with Smoked Vodka Cucumbers, horseradish and apple and served in a bowl carved from pink salt. Baked Alaska looks like an alien life- form; it also surprises the tongue with strawberry liqueur and mint oil. A bar area provides a welcome spot to while away a little time before dinner. Most prized are the window tables, from which London is laid out below you like a map. Best of all Duck and Waffle is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week – you have no excuse not to find time to visit.
HERON TOWER, 110 BISHOPSGATE, EC2N 4AY DUCKANDWAFFLE.COM, 020 3640 7310
Lebanese, and other Middle Eastern cuisines, are often reduced to little more than a source of grilled meats and kebabs (in restaurants with faux-bedouin decor and filligree metal lanterns). It wasn’t until a foodie holiday to Lebanon that I discovered quite how much of a disservice this does the cuisine. The Lebanese love to eat and, more importantly, they love to cook and to
feed others. Many of the dishes at Yalla Yalla will be familiar – glistening strips of shawarma lamb on a generous serving of hommos, smoky chargrilled aubergine baba ghannouj, halloumi with tomato, olives, mint and olive oil and juicy grilled pieces of marinated meat. But Yalla Yalla also offers homemade soujouk – a spicy sausage I learned to make in a house in the hills above Beirut, kibbe lahme, deep fried parcels of lamb, cracked wheat, onions and pinenuts and lamb sfiha, a meat-topped pastry reminiscent of ones I ate hot out of the oven in a tiny butcher- bakery by Baalbek. Best of all is the chicken taouk wrap, filled with grilled chicken, pickled cucumber and toum garlic sauce. Like an honourary Beiruti, insist on extra toum – but make sure you don’t have any meetings afterwards!
12 WINSLEY STREET, W1W 8HQ YALLA-YALLA.CO.UK, 020 7637 4748 (Other branches via the website)
Check out the full feature of – Travel The World Here!
For more of the finest restaurant reviews check out our new issue of Good Things – Out Now!