In the basement of Mitsukoshi Department Store just off Piccadilly Circus, is a rather quiet Japanese family restaurant hidden away from all the excitement going on at street level. The newly opened ramen bar was full up with a considerable queue buzzing outside, but the main restaurant itself was only half full, and things were moving along at a rather more sedate pace.
Most of the restaurant's clientele are Japanese expats, so I was welcomed and seated entirely in Japanese, and had to quickly disabuse them of the notion by asking for a menu in English. It was almost like being back in Japan, so plus points for authenticity. The decor won't win any prizes, but like most family restaurants, provided an easy familiarity with its bland walls and black tables.
The place feels like the Old Faithful of Japanese restaurants in London - ever reliable, without an special flourishes or major upheavals to a concept that has worked and will continue to work. The a la carte menu is simple and showcases a small but pretty well curated selection of perennial favourites.
At £12, the weekly set lunch looked pretty good value for money, but Japanese curry was on rotation, something I'd never enjoyed, so I opted for the Light Lunch set (£14.50) instead. It was a sashimi and simmered item (Chicken karaage, a radish ball, tofu, lotus root, carrot and half a snow pea) set with a generous bowl of rice, miso soup and pickles. Simple dishes that were well turned-out, with the steamed ball of radish being the day's pleasant surprise. While the portions seemed miserly at first glance, it made for a rather hearty meal.
The sashimi part consisted of delicate fillets of salmon, good and meaty slivers of tuna and some very fresh yellow tail that I particularly enjoyed. The simmered dish was comfort food atop the fluffy grains of rice, and the miso soup - so much more flavourful than the swill dished out at so many Japanese fast food joints - retained its heat till the end of the meal. All this was washed down with complimentary cups of piping hot houji-cha, roasted green tea commonly served during meals.
The usual a la carte menu is rather pricey, but I'll probably keep an eye out for the lunch offers as they come.
14-20 Lower Regent Street, London SW1Y 4PH