Thursday, 9 June 2011

Yakitori at Tosa

I kept thinking: This had better be good. All the way from Canary Wharf to Stamford Brook on a weekday evening, this had better be good.

We are not exactly spoiled for choices when it comes to yakitori in London. The upmarket Roka overcharges if I am honest; Bincho at Soho was quite good on my last visit, though it is clearly not run by Japanese. Tosa claims to serve authentic Japanese food, I was intrigued.

The restaurant is L-shaped with the Japanese Robata grill facing the full-length window. We were seated next to the bar perpendicular to the grill, so couldn’t watch chef turning skewers above the flaming coal. Poultry related items are yakitori and all the others are Kushiyaki. I was surprised to find limited meat skewer items on the menu. Unlike Bincho, Tosa doesnt offer the option to order any parts of a chicken upon request, and there were no beef tenderloins or rib of beef. On the other hand, it does have a long list of cold dishes and some deep fried selections. Well I came for the skewers.

Sake Onigiri
This arrived warm with fresh seaweed, stuffed with poached salmon flakes, and traditionally eaten like a sandwich. I was kind of anticipating the onigiri to be softly browned on the sides for crispiness, like what Bincho does, but this was equally nice with plump moist rice.

Torikawa - Chicken skin with salt
Oh this can’t be good for us, but it’s just too tempting to resist. I guess the grilling took some of the fat off, leaving the skin crispy with a bit of chew.

Shisomaki - Shiso leaf & pork loin (middle)
This was probably the biggest disappointment of the evening. I am not sure about the combination of shiso and pork, but the problem was the dry, stringy loin that held no meat juice or flavours. Little thought has gone into the marinade; it tasted like regular soy sauce. The second piece in the middle was marginally better hydrated, but just as bland.

Uzura - Quail eggs (left)

These didn’t taste particularly grilled, just boiled quail eggs with a mushy yolk. Okay, nothing spectacular.

Chicken Liver (right)
By now I have decided the root of the problem is the marinade, or the lack of. Should this generous portion of liver be glazed with a viscous sweeten soy sauce that can cling onto the squidgy textures, this would have been one darn good skewer. Instead this mediocre watery sauce did nothing to enhance flavours.

Asparamaki - Fresh asparagus & pork belly (right)
We asked the waitress the difference between Asparamaki and grilled pork belly, she simply answered one has asparagus and the other doesn’t. Well, she didn’t quite explain Asparamaki is a thin sheet of pork belly wrapped around asparagus, and the other one is belly chunks?

This didn’t work as the meat was unnoticed against the crunchy vegetable, both under seasoned.

Ox tongue (left)

This was easily the highlight of the meal. The tongue was sliced and skewered in folds to avoid excessive parching, so the meat was full of bounce and well-greased to seal its flavours. Lightly sprinkled with salt and perfect with a gentle squeeze of lemon.

Pork Belly
This version was much better; brittle on the edges, the excessive fat melted away but the meat blocks retained the concentrated piggy juice.

Sakekama - Salmon cheek with salt and grated radish
The best bit was the lobe of fish oil attached to the collar; the rest was also good, just cooked.

Tosa Roll
The Chef’s special roll definitely looks good with stripy salmon wrapped around the avocado and cucumber filled roll, with a kick from the shiso leaf. It was good, but not that special. Could have been more special with a prawn tempura in the filling?

I am not sure how ‘authentic’ Tosa is; head waitress being the only Japanese in sight (not even the chef on the grill), ordinary skewers as opposed to thicken wooden sticks with a flat end to facilitate grilling on the Robata; limited choice of yakitori. Authenticity aside, the food was simply not up to scratch; overcooked meat, lazy marinades and dull combinations. It was disappointing, and needless to say it wasnt worth the trek.

332 King Street
W6 0RR
Tel: 0208 748 0002

You may also like: Atari-ya Hendon, Sushi of Shiori

Tosa on Urbanspoon

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