ENTER THE DELICIOUS DEN UDON IN CLERKENWELL

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Eating out in the city has got even better with den Udon taking over with its comforting and delicious den of all things tasty.

In three words: Genuine, Comforting, Delicious

The Lowdown: What does one eat for a meal that’s hearty, tasty, is sure to fill you up but still rates fairly highly on the healthy-scale? That’s the question we’ve certainly been asking in these bleak January months, where good intentions are kiboshed by a desire for comfort food.

Enter the Udon. With fewer calories than ramen, soba or pasta, they still provide a great filling fix, and are often served in a broth that’s piping hot and packed with flavour, without the need for creams and butters. And now a new establishment has appeared to satisfy your noodle craving – the delightful den Japanese Restaurant in Clerkenwell is pulling out all the stops to deliver an authentic taste sensation.

Location: On Acton Street, in King’s Cross. The pure white facade of den stands out as a beacon of promising tastiness within.

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The Occasion: Perfect for when you fancy being healthy but also need something to ward away those winter chills. Or simply when you want to the great taste and flavour of authentic Japanese cuisine – den provides unfussy but expertly made dishes.

Decor: The main scheme is as white and snowy as the peak of Mount Fuji, with gunmetal grey accents giving it a contemporary feel. The airy high ceilings and angular space had me suddenly imagining I was tucked inside a carefully folded piece of origami. Appreciation too for the lighting – large unadorned bulbs hang down from the ceiling like the bright sparks of ideas buzzing in the air.

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Atmosphere: The space is such that a lovely calmness pervades, which is a great respite from the hectic world outside. You almost feel like you’re leaving the troubles of the day behind as you pull up a bench, and the long communal tables add to this, making it feel like you’re being invited to partake in meditation with food.

Culinary Concept: Udon, baby! This is the place to come if you want some seriously good noodles, served hot with or without soup, or simply cold with a dipping sauce. There are three types of broth to choose from – the more delicate Osaka white broth; the rich, salty Tokyo black broth; and the vegetarian broth. There are also some delicious Tsunami (small plates) and Donburi rice dishes too.

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What we tried:

A beautiful platter of fresh daikon and pickled edamame cleansed the palate, while innovative udon pretzels dipped in sour cream made for a snack that gets the tummy rumbling. Then it’s time to peruse the menu – we couldn’t not try the famous Kara-Age, and it lived up the hype. Large, lightly battered nuggets were devoid of grease and seasoned to perfection, with succulent chicken within and not a hint of chewiness. The Pork Belly in Red Wine Sauce was a huge slab of glistening meat, swimming in a rich, ruby coloured sauce and literally falling to pieces our chopsticks dug in. A Seaweed salad was as beautiful as it was tasty and provided the nutrient kick we were after.

On to the main event, and as soon as my Chicken, Mushroom and Mixed Leaves udon arrived then I could tell it would be a success. I’ve had grainy or cloudy broths before, but this black Tokyo variety was completely clear, as if reflecting the night sky. It was almost like a Japanese consommé, with a delicious snap of saltiness from the dark soy. As for the noodles – purists will immediately be able to tell the hand-worked craftsmanship that goes into preparing them. They had the fabulous chewiness that is essential – not floury or stodgy at all. The best I have had outside Tokyo, for sure.

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For next time: Another dish that caught my eye was the Spicy Cod Roe, Fresh Eggs and Spring Onion in Thick Gravy – definitely one for the next visit.

Veggie delights: There’s plenty to tempt vegetarians – three different udon varieties, as well several Tsunami and some rice dishes. What’s more, with the broth made fresh from Knobu (dried seaweed) and mushrooms, then it in no way scrimps on flavour.

Best of the booze: There’s a lovely sake selection that fans will appreciate – the Muroka Genshu I tried was crisp, clean and had an almost almond finish. There are also several wines and a small but capable cocktail list – next time I’ll go for the Shochu Iced – Oolong Tea and Jun Shochu.

Overall: den Call themselves Udon Evangelist and I can certainly see why – the skills of the kitchen staff are superb. The lovely host, Masumi, flits between customers like a delicate and enthusiastic hummingbird, making sure all needs are met. den is ideal for escaping the hectic city outside – enter this wonderful sanctuary and feel the stresses of the day lift away, as this is a place to feed not only the stomach but also the soul.

2 Acton Street London WC1X 9NA
+44 (0) 20 3632 1069
www.den-udon.uk.com
@den_udon

 

BOE Magazine

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FALL INTO A PORTAL BRIMMING WITH DELICIOUS JAPANESE CUISINE

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It’s always hard to choose a place to dine when eating out in the city as London has a great many restaurants to choose from. If you’re looking for a Japanese treat then head to Kouzu, it will charm and seduce you with a delectible menu and attentive staff. Treat it as a lesson in the art of sushi making- there’s so much to learn and you have the chance to see it all first hand.

Kouzu – Japanese

In three words: Sensational, Meticulous, Masterful

The Lowdown: Don’t know where to eat dinner tonight? Head to Kouzu. Just pick up the phone and ask for a seat in front of Chef Ryu. Do it now before it becomes a hotter dinner-ticket than the Chiltern Firehouse.

Kouzu is a gorgeous new restaurant boasting a stellar line-up of professionals that are some of the most celebrated in London. Chef Kyoichi Kai of Zuma’s fame is at the helm, accompanied by staff that show a zealous dedication to the fine concept of Japanese cuisine.

The menu is extensive, geared towards sushi and the freshest of ingredients. Downstairs offers an area to dine in a relaxed, casual environment or get a drink at the bar, while the glamorous mezzanine floor boasts a floating bar that provides an incredible opportunity to watch the chefs in action.

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Location: Kouzu is not five minutes from Victoria Station, in an impressive Grade II period mansion with cool white columns and an imposing facade, located directly opposite the Goring Hotel.

The Occasion: When you want to feel excitement and enthusiasm about the food you are about to eat – the overwhelming passion displayed by the chefs can only rub off on the diner. You’ll also learn all about the art-form and tradition of sushi making. Somehow all that knowledge makes the raw fish taste even better.

Decor: Sophisticated and chic, with muted tones of white, grey and light wood complemented by the shine of an oak bar. The majestic sweeping staircase and hanging paper lamps that look like a cross between popcorn and clouds add interest and design savvy.

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Atmosphere: Relaxed but attentive. Everyone is very helpful and keen to display their skills, from the bartender to the sommelier; the hostess to the chefs. At Kouzu you are encouraged to ask question, be given advice, and be open minded. If you don’t know what something on the menu means then say so – you’ll soon learn!

Culinary Concept: Japanese food presented as an art. The outrageously fresh ingredients are combined with skill of an artisan craftsman to make each mouthful as unique and perfectly balanced as the last.

What we tried: If you can swing the honour of sitting at the sushi bar in front of Chef Ryu then grab it with both hands, as you will be in for a sushi extravaganza. We left ourselves in his hands, and started with Salmon with Youz soy dressing and Yellow Tail with Truffle dressing. The first combines slivers of divine, melt-in-the-mouth fish with the zingy freshness of Yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), while the rich truffle dressing complemented the fiery ginger and cuts of tuna to fabulous effect. We also tried the Fois Gras and Spinach with Teriyaki Wasabi – a sticky, indulgent treat of powerful flavour that was accompanied by the fruity, deep mellowness of a red wine chosen by the sommelier.

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After that it was a perfectly choreographed display of sushi morsels, including crispy-skinned Eel with grated yuzu and Japanese salt crystals, Botan Ebi, (spotted shrimp that created an explosion of ocean flavour in the mouth), and the smokey richness of O-Toro.

If you’re bringing someone who is adamant they need something more substantial then never fear – we gave the special duck course a taste, complete with sweet sticky sauce and Japanese peppercorns that crunched in the mouth with deep fried Daikon. As for the desserts – don’t leave without trying the chocolate mousse – a shining capsule of cocoa-heaven in the midst of which nestles an orange gooey treat, all pulled together with smooth hazelnut ice cream.

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For next time: The Roasted Black Cod with miso sounds super and is always a sell-out success, but to be honest you’ll just want to come back for more of that sushi.

Veggie delights: We can recommend the mound of refreshing and nutty goodness that is the spinach with black sesame, and there are vegetarian sushi and tempura options that are no doubt delicious. But it would be a shame to come here and not experience the fish.

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Best of the booze: The sushi was served with a bone-dry and ice-cold sake – libation perfection, and there is also a good wine list with a sommelier on hand to offer advice. We started the night with two very delectable cocktails, the Mama’s Tea, which incorporates vodka, lemon, Earl Grey tea and Mikkakouji-Awamori – a type of subtle Japanese vodka made from rice that mixed with the tea for a delicate and thoroughly unusual flavour.

Fun Fact: In the opening week Kouzu had an unexpected visitor – the Princess of Monaco stopped by to try some of their specialities!

Overall: Chef Ryu speaks Japanese, Chinese and English fluently – a talent that he finds help express the Japanese gusto for the craft of sushi to customers. Sit in front of him, watch him grate fresh wasabi on stretched shark skin, and let him take your taste buds on an adventure, while being served by some of the most passionate and attentive staff you’ll have ever met.

BOE Magazine

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