80 � squaremeal.co.uk
RESTAURANTS + FOO D
Chef Alex Craciun leads the kitchen,
producing modern Japanese dishes that are
pretty, small and heavily crafted. Much
work has gone into plates such as smoked
octopus and seaweed salad, and the rice pot
with mushroom dashi, pickled mushrooms
and mitsuba. Traditional they're not;
sophisticated they most certainly are.
Craciun states: "I went to Japan to train
fully with some of the best chefs out there
for a year, but the food at Sosharu is
definitely not traditional. It's
a marriage of Japanese
flavours and techniques with
some western influences,
using British seasonal
ingredients. We have fun
with the dishes."
�e brilliant little book Eating in Japan
tells you everything you need to know
about food in Japan. It's from a series
called Japan in Your Pocket! published by
the Japan Travel Bureau in 1988. �is
slim, highly illustrated guidebook has
chapters and many fun drawings devoted
to table manners, how to use chopsticks
and the different types
of sushi (plus several
other dishes). It also
contains guides devoted
okonomiyaki (a cross
between a pancake and a
stir-fry) and many types
of street foods that were
not seen in London
when the book was first published.
Yet more than half the types of eatery
it describes have still never appeared in
London, so see the predictions below
for those that might flourish, or flop, if
tried out in the capital.
For reviews of all the restaurants mentioned,
JAPANESE CUISINE DOESN'T
NEED TO OBEY CONVENTIONS
HERE LONDONERS EMBRACE
NOVELTY AND DON'T PRE�JUDGE
COULD BE AS BIG AS GODZILLA
MOTSUYAKI Specialising in unusual cuts of oal. At the
charming Nihon Saisei Sakaba in Shinjuku, you can tuck into
pig rectum, glans and 'best-quality' womb fresh
from the charcoal grill. With nose-to-tail
eating already established in London, why
not probe all the bits in between?
FRUIT PARLOURS This post-war
phenomenon catered for Japanese
diners avoiding dairy (genetic lactose
intolerance is commonplace in East
Asia). With half of London self-diagnosing
various intolerances, what could be better?
MONJA MANIA At monja restaurants you order
a lot of stu, pour it into batter on a hotplate built into your
table, and cook it. The result might look like sick, but you've
already had five drinks, you're hungry and it's cheap. The
Japanese answer to Brick Lane?
STAND BARS Known as tachinomi, these bars have no
seats, just many customers drinking. Most pubs and bars
in London already turn into stand bars after 6pm, so would
anyone really notice if the seats were taken out?
TRYING THIS IN LONDON COULD BE HARA�KIRI
FUGU It takes seven years to qualify as an itamae (sushi
master). To prepare the puer fish delicacy fugu takes another
three, and needs a licence in Japan (66 per cent of applicants
fail the test) as fugu can kill in minutes if handled incorrectly.
Would you trust a Yo! Sushi chef with it? I rest my case.
WHALE RESTAURANTS Greenpeace has oces
in Highbury and a huge following of blubber-lovers who
have clearly never read Moby Dick. Can't see
this one floating somehow.
HORSE RESTAURANTS Horse is a
traditional meat on the island of Kyushu,
often eaten raw as sashimi. But given
the fuss that happened last time a
Romanian knacker's-yard horse ended
up in our food chain, I think this one has
to be another 'neigh'.
GOLDEN GAI BARS Tiny, obscure,
overpriced, up themselves, and famously
unwelcoming to strangers and outsiders. This formula might
guarantee success in Dalston, but anywhere away from
Kingsland Road? Point me to the nearest Wetherspoon's.
HIT OR MISS?
CHEF ALEX CRACIUN
BELOW: SOSHARU'S PRAWN
AND AVOCADO TEMPURA
PANEL PHOTOS: GUY DIMOND