Wednesday, 3 January 2018

JUST JULIA TRIES: Chotto Matte (London)

I'm very lucky in the respect that I get to travel with my job. Every day is different and the places I've experienced to date have been awesome. It also really helps that my boss is a massive foodie too so when the team is away we always try to visit new places to experience different foods.

So it was only natural that when we visited London for work a few weeks ago for the Fashion Awards and a trade show, we scouted out some great places to eat.

Chotto Matte is one of the biggest restaurants in Soho and specialises in Nikkei cuisine. For those  unfamiliar with Nikkei, it is a combination of both Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, bringing together the elegant art of Japanese dishes with the fresh, spicy, zestiness of Peruvian food. The cuisine originates from South America (Peru specifically) and is now a global phenomenal. With both cultures using a lot of fresh fish within their cooking and by taking inspiration from Japanese dishes and combining them with limes, corn, chilies/peppers and yucca/other potatoes, Nikkei cuisine was born. Now recognised across the world, the cuisine is used as a basis for culinary experimentation and Nikkei restaurants can be found in most major cities.

The restaurant itself is fashionable and colourful, just like the food. The decor is contemporary with an urban touch, bringing a piece of modern day Tokyo to London. There's a DJ booth at the main bar on the ground floor and there's plenty of space for parties big and small to bag a table and try out the restaurant's a la carte menu in the cocktail lounge. It's dark, but the neon lights bring a taste of Tokyo's futuristic, vibrant city into the space.

Upstairs (where we ate) was really fun and edgy, with feature walls sprayed with graffiti. This is where the 10-seater exposed Robata Grill lies. A hot, open grill, the chefs serve smoky Japanese barbecue specialties straight onto diners plates and it is said to be one of the best seats in the house.

Following my boss' lead - he'd visited prior - we enjoyed a margarita in the cocktail lounge before heading upstairs for some grub.
The restaurant was heaving, but I shouldn't have expected anything different for a swanky restaurant like this, especially when it's situated in Soho. Scanning the menu I wanted it all. Every dish sounded delicious and I started to panic slightly as to what to have. My boss suggested trying out the Nikkei Sharing Menu - an eight-course tasting menu which didn't disappoint.

All of the dishes at the restaurant have been designed for sharing in the middle of the table, majority of which are small plates. The waiters also organise the order your dishes are served to adhere to the owner Kurt Zdesar's philosophy of eating colder, light flavoured dishes first, graduating to hotter, fuller flavoured dishes and finally ending with sushi.

It's the quality and flavours of the ingredients are hugely important to the chefs here. They've worked long and hard to create a stunning array of dishes which not only compliment one another, but also work well with the drinks available.

To start, we were served canchas, otherwise known as Peruvian corn puffs. These were very much an enjoyable snack to keep us going until our first dish arrived.
Shortly after, we then received our tostadita which came cold with beef, smoked aji panca, shiitake mushrooms, Spanish peppers all tossed in a yuzu sauce and served on a small tortilla. A perfect bite-size, the flavours of the pepper and the well marinated beef were punchy, with a subtle warm finish and were devoured in seconds.
Up next was the sea bass ceviche. A tropical looking dish, it was packed full of exotic flavours including coriander, chive oil, sweet potato and Peruvian corn. Not to mention the beautifully cooked sea bass sashimi which melted in my mouth. Topped with freshly chopped onion, the different elements of the ceviche dish complimented one another as the explosion of flavour evaporated in my mouth.
The ceviche dish was quickly followed by the spicy tuna inside out sushi rolls. The eight pieces were very large and came with fresh tuna and Peruvian chilli. The sauce on the side was delicious but unfortunately I can't remember the name of it. I must have been pre-occupied with the table next to us watching their food get flamed at the table when the waiter was explaining this dish. It was delicious nonetheless.
Moving on to the hot food now, the Nikkei gyoza was up first. The hot and slightly crispy gyoza's boasted pork, prawn and cassava in the dumplings which were served on a bed of aji amarillo and sweet potato puree. The puree was sweet with a spicy punch to it and it paired extremely well with the gyoza, especially with the white meat and the juicy prawns inside.
One of my favourite dishes, the One of Ebi harumaki was absolutely divine. Loaded with big pieces of prawn, this was a spring roll like I had never had before. Firstly, I don't think I've ever had prawns in a spring roll, and secondly, I don't think I've ever had one that isn't still greasy after coming out of the fryer - that was until now of course.

The prawn was incredible and still very juicy besides it being cooked in the batter of the roll. The shiitake mushrooms were delicious, as was the citrus of the yuzu and the refreshing taste of the shiso, but it was the poznu salsa on the side (which strangely reminded me of a spicier version of a take on pico de gallo) that really captured my tastebuds attention. That salsa, paired with the prawns alone made a cracking dish, never mind the accumulation of all the other flavours.
We were now starting to get seriously full. We'd definitely underestimated how filling the food would be, and it wasn't until we'd lost track of how many dishes we'd tried that we had no clue as to where we were in our tasting experience.

Thinking we were on out final dish before dessert, you can imagine just how relived we were. That was until our waiter had informed us we had another 3 hot dishes to go (including the Langosta Trufa my boss had ordered on the side - a must-try he'd said).

Braving what was to come, he ordered some sake (a first for me) and we resumed. The Pollo den miso dish was chicken cooked in miso, topped with shaved pieces of carrot, daikon and yellow chilli salsa. The chicken was phenomenal. It was like butter in my mouth and the shaved vegetables were so delicate and light, adding that extra bit of crunch and flavour to it which was ideal.
The final dish of our tasting menu (minus dessert of course) was the tentaculos de pulpo - octopus with yuzo and a purple potato puree. This dish not only looked fantastic but it tasted unbelievable. The octopus was well cooked and my knife glided through it as I cut into it. It wasn't chewy like previous octopus I've tried, but reminded me of a soft perfectly cooked scallop, it was sublime. 

The purple puree was really good and added a fun element to the very instagrammable dish.
Finally we moved on to our final dish, the langosta turfa. Containing numerous big deep-fried pieces of lobster and wild prawn it came served with a mushroom truffle tosazu sauce which I admittedly drowned all of my pieces of seafood in. It was creamy and worked really well with the juicy, succulent lobster and prawns.

Not included on our eight-course tasting menu, my boss had insisted that we ordered the dish as it was a must-try when he visited with one of his friends. As stuffed as we were, I was delighted he had ordered it as I have to say, I think it was one of, it not my favourite dish of the night. 
The dessert was to be the chef's choice. It came with three tasters of some of the restaurants best desserts.

To start with, we stuck into the refreshing, cleansing mochi ice cream which came in two flavours, mango and green tea.

I then dived into the brulee de la passion which featured almond financier, ahi amarilo and a guava sorbet topped with the traditional crispy blowtorched top any creme brulee would boast. The passionfruit throughout was very refreshing and the dessert was lovely and light.

Last to round off the divine dining experience was the Peruvian chocolate crema. A pot of gooey chocolate which had the consistency of mousse meets dulce de leche, the delicious, creamy chocolate dessert was definitely my favourite. Topped with crisp and chewy pieces of homemade honeycomb , the dish also boasted a dollop of dulce de leche and a splash of Suntory whisky - a Japanese whisky - in it. It was really rich and I didn't want it to end.
Absolutely stuffed, I have to admit my meal at Chotto Matte has to be one of the best I've ever experienced. The service was faultless and the food was exquisite.

With London being such a busy city, it can be quite overwhelming to pick the right places to go, but if you're wvwe in Soho with some time to spare and an appetite that needs addressing, Chotto Matte is a must.  You will not be disappointed if you grace this restaurant and I only wish I lived in London so I could visit more often.

10 out of 10.

  For Now...

Just Julia
hive oil, citrus sauc

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