I seem to be trying a new Japanese restaurant every week and this time it was slightly different to my usual sushi and sashimi favourites…
We were checking out Yumi Izakaya, a new Japanese-style pub, on Shaftesbury avenue. The menu is made up of street food and Japanese barbecue, but with less of an emphasis on food and more on drinking with different options for beer, sake, cocktails and wine.
The space is small and the decor is simple and modelled on the traditional izakaya restaurants that you see in Japan. It was quiet on a Sunday lunch time, but I imagine given the location, it would be much more bustling pre-theatre or for after work drinks.
We nibbled on edamame beans which were deliciously salty with a light spicy sauce, as we looked over the menu of small plates, chicken skewers and a couple of larger main courses.
We chose to try a yuzu sake from the choice of eight on the menu. Usually I don’t like sake but this one had a sweeter fruity or sherbet-like taste and wasn’t as strong as usual sake – much easier to drink.
The waitress warned us food would arrive as it was ready – and it really did with most of our small dishes arriving at once. Cauliflower fried with yuzu, chilli and gochujang had a delicious crisp texture, the perfect amount of spice and an added kick from the gochujang (a fermented Korean condiment made from chilli and soy beans). The aubergine braised in soy, sake and mirin had a silky smooth texture and perfect level of sweetness and spice coming from the sauce. Finally, a mixed mushroom salad with soy had an earthy, umami flavour.
One thing I must say about the food at Yumi Izakaya, was there was an over arching sweet flavour to many of the dishes. Personally, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth and all the sweetness was too much for me. Though it might be more appealing to others – it really is a matter of taste but if like me you don’t appreciate too much sweetness order a careful balance of food.
We ordered a few of the restaurants signature yakitori skewers including chicken breast, thigh and wing. The breast and thigh were coated in a tare sauce or a kind of thickened soy, which again I found a little overly sweet. The wing served with sea salt and shichimi was less so. Despite the over-powering sauce, I still found the chicken succulent and well cooked and I definitely would have enjoyed it had we not ordered too much other sweet food.
Chicken meat ball was our favourite dish of the day, a much more savoury option with a delicious and smoky raw egg dipping sauce. Pork and ginger dumplings were also perfectly made in a fine wrapper with a juicy filling. Both dishes were an antidote to the sweetness of some of the other options, and I’d recommend ordering these with some of the skewers for a few light bites.
We also chose two of the larger dishes to share. Perfectly smoked duck with a rich broth and thick satisfying udon noodles – another favourite dish.
The okonomiyaki pancake was less successful for me and while I enjoyed the cabbage, egg and pancetta in itself, once again I found the sauce overpowering. Actually the sweetness of all the dishes was so strong that it was a little difficult to distinguish the individual flavours between them.
Overall the food at Yumi Izakaya was tasty and I would recommend visiting for drinks and a few light bites maybe before the theatre or a night on the town. It’s not necessarily a place where you’ll sit down for a long and lingering meal but it’s ideal if you want something quick and tasty whilst avoiding the chain restaurants and fast food joints of Shaftesbury Avenue.
PIN FOR LATER:
67 Shaftesbury Avenue
Our lunch at Yumi Izakaya was complimentary.