Ranking right up there with Douglas Booth’s cheekbones and a nice cup of tea, Japanese food is, for me, one of life’s greatest pleasures. Feather-light tempura, buttery sashimi and eye-bleedingly hot wasabi (the more eye-bleeding the better. If you’re not wimpering, there’s not enough in your mouth) – are my three weaknesses. Then begins the territorialism. I don’t like to share. The Boy knows this and yet continues to escort me to restaurants – he even pretends to have a nice time. That’s love.
One of our latest jaunts was to So
; a Japanese eaterie located in the glossy part of Soho, boasting dishes grilled over volcanic rocks imported from Mount Fuji. Misleadingly understated from the front, So is actually pretty slick on the inside – all dark varnished wood and flattering lighting. A friend of mine has a rule that she doesn’t eat in restaurants with pictures of the food on the menu. I’ve always been inclined to agree, but So’s weren’t of the faded, 70s, on-holiday-in-Torremolinos ilk, just helpful indicators of what you’d be getting if you fancied the sound of Yakitori or Gobo Salad.
We started with Barbary duck smoked on Jack Daniels wood chips which had a full-flavoured, gammon-like quality. But it was the foie gras nigiri that came next that brought out the worst in me. The Boy, armed with nothing but chopsticks, was powerless. It was sticky and buttery and salty and sweet. Utterly delicious. He never stood a chance.
The sashimi was unbelievably fresh which meant it tasted as beautiful alone as it did clumsily dunked in soy sauce and buttered with a thick layer of wasabi. Mmm. Another highlight was the aubergine denngaku – generously sliced segments, grilled, coated in salty-sweet red miso paste and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
Did I already mention how I feel about tempura? Well, I feel the same about black cod in miso. Dare I say it, but So’s, marinated in sayiko, was better than Nobu’s. (I tried to sneak that in in the least pretentious way possible. Did it work? Probably not.)
It’s a testament to the food that after all that, I still had space for – and finished – dessert. There was even minimal judgement from our lovely waitress.
The verdict? An old school one – don’t judge a book by its cover. You could easily walk past this unassuming little place, mistaking it for just another Japanese in London. The Boy, ever-observant, pointed out a little sign in the window, however. Best Japanese in the UK as voted by Japanese residents. If that’s not a fantastic recommendation, I don’t know what is.
With thanks to the lovely folk at So Restaurant
, 3-4 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5LS. 020 7292 0767