Nikkei at Chotto Matte

20140224-221353.jpgRestauranteur Kurt Zdesar is a man with an instinct for the foodie zeitgeist. Former GM of Nobu and the brains behind the dim sum phenomenon Ping Pong, it’s no surprise people are sitting to attention with the opening of his Nikkei restaurant, Chotto Matte, on Soho’s Frith Street.

Contrary to my first musing, this Nikkei has nothing to do with the Japanese stock market. In a food context it refers to the cuisine borne from the large Japanese immigrant population in Peru, a wonderful fusion of sweet and sour flavours with emphasis on raw, fresh, vibrant ingredients. Recently the hype has hit Europe’s capitals, notably with elBulli brothers, Ferran and Albert Adrià, opening their own Nikkei restaurant in Barcelona.

Back in Soho, Zdesar’s dining space is vast with 180 covers across the restaurant, sushi bar, robata grill, lounge and cocktail bar. The décor is all black with shots of neon graffiti artwork – perhaps mimicking the explosion of colour that arrives on the plates (or maybe just to look grungy and cool).

The kitchen dictates the order in which the small sharing plates arrive: lighter, raw dishes first, then into the fish and meat plates, finishing with the grill. This works fine until they forget about you 3/4s of the way through and you are left wondering whether the pork belly with nashi pear usually demands 20 minutes of anticipation.

Despite momentary abandonment, the food was good. The salmon tartare and salad of paper thin vegetables were refreshing, zingy and beautifully presented but the standout dishes were a little less elegant: purple smoked potato purée, a delicious mascot for Peru’s thousands of potato varieties, and Peruvian corn on the cob with giant sweet and starchy kernels smothered in a rich, buttery umami sauce.

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