Japanese Food at its very best at “Chisou” in Chiswick
A tedious tube journey from Victoria to Chiwick last week, on a rather dull and dismal day, ended in a night of friendship, clean fresh flavours and a wonderfully chilled atmosphere; tucked away behind the main high street in “chic Chiswick”, down a lane a no less, is one of Chisou’s ( a Japanese restaurant chain in London – they have a one in Mayfair and Knightsbridge) latest eateries, Chisou of Chiswick. Hannah, my daughter, and I met Dom from Belleau Kitchen there last Tuesday for a special “review” meal; this kind invitation from the in-house PR people at Chisou was meant to be for me and a “plus one”, but after a series of phone calls on the day, they very graciously allowed Dom to accompany us to taste and review the special “tasting menu”.
On entering Chisou through a “noren” (a Japanese curtain), we were warmly met by the restaurant manager, Yasushiro Komatsu who showed us to our table, which was one of the “booth style” tables up a small step. The décor is refined and very minimalist with natural wood and paper lanterns as well as Japanese artwork and bottles decorating the walls and windowsills – it’s all very “understated” in an elegant and Oriental way.
We chatted about the restaurant, and it’s sister branches in Mayfair and Knightsbridge for a while, before being served with an aperitif of sake. The sake was absolutely delicious, tasting slightly of cherry blossom, it was the smoothest sake I had ever tasted and was mellow and mild, not at all harsh or “chemical” tasting.
We were then treated to a special “Tasting Menu” that was utterly sublime; each course was presented beautifully on Japanese “art pottery” style plates and platters, and Yasushiro told us about the provenance of each dish, as well as where it fitted in to a typical Japanese menu. We opted for “wine and sake” for our drinks for the evening, and between each course, we were topped up with sake, red and white wine, as well as a warm sake towards to the end of the meal.
The first dish to be served to us was a plate of Yellowtail Sashimi with Truffles, served with a stack of crispy seaweed, which was “melt-in-the-mouth” and quite the most delicious sashimi I have ever tasted – the earthiness of the truffles offsetting the sweet tasting fish with the iron crunch of the seaweed complimenting the whole dish.
Following on from the first dish, we were then treated to a platter of Beef Tatiki and Horenso Salad with Spicy Prawns – the salad was beautifully made, with “petals” of baby spinach leaves fanning the spicy prawns in the middle; the beef was meltingly tender and as soft as butter - both dishes were a hit with all of us, and by this time the restaurant was filling up with families as well as “after work” diners.
The final dish from our preliminary set of courses was probably the best dish from the whole evening, well for me at least! We were served a plate of Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab that was just divine - the crisp crab was both sweet and salty and the deep-frying only added to the taste, as well as the texture.
The sake glasses were cleared away and we were served crisp white wine with our next course, which comprised three different dishes of Tsukune Chicken Meatballs, Pork Belly and Shishito Peppers and Tebasake Chicken Wings Nagoya Style; they were all extremely tasty with the chicken wings being the favourite with all three of us.
Having taken our time over this immense platter of grilled (and fried) meat and vegetables, we were then presented with a beautiful platter of assorted Nigiri Sushi and Sushi Rolls…….the platter comprised: Chutoro Nigiri, Salmon Nigiri, Butterfish Nigiri, Special Ebiten Rolls and Negitoro Rolls - it truly looked like a work of art. On one corner was a small mound of Wasabi and Pickled Ginger (gari or amazu shoga )……the choice was overwhelming with all of the Nigiri being clean tasting with complex textures and sublime flavours, it was a magnificent platter of well-prepared sushi that had been made with skill and love.
The white wine glasses were taken away and we were served some delectable hot sake, tasting slightly spiced, this reminded me of a cleaner version of mulled wine!
Our final savoury tasting platters then arrived with a glass of red wine, Deep Fried Monk Fish in a Rice-cake/cracker Crumb and served with Green Tea Salt and some Fillet of Beef with a Japanese Sanshou Pepper Sauce; the beef was delectable and the sauce was not hot, but fragrant with peppers, whilst the monk fish was like a Japanese version of deep-fried cod, but in a more elegant batter-cum-coating! The contrast between the crunchy fish and the tender beef was a fabulous spin on how to serve fish and beef together in the same course.
We were then treated to a sharing Dessert Platter of assorted ice creams, fresh strawberries, a chocolate mousse type fondant, stuffed and filled pancakes and a green tea jelly……
The summarise; the whole evening was relaxed and elegant with superb freshly prepared and cooked authentic Japanese food – each course was served with care and attention by the manager and the staff and the atmosphere was friendly and yet professional. Lots of the ingredients are sourced and procured in Japan and the tasting menu was well-balanced and served in a timely and unhurried fashion.By the time we left at 9pm, the restaurant was nearly full, not bad for Tuesday evening in March! Chisou in Chiswick has a cosy dining area downstairs with seats at the Sushi Counter as well as the rather intimate booths that we sat in. There is more seating upstairs with a Sake Bar, which can be booked for special events. The menu is varied with appetisers ranging between £5 and £12 and there are set luncheon deals with a mixture of sushi and tempura on offer. There is a wine menu available (mainly French) if sake isn’t to your taste, although there was an impressive selection of sakes on offer and the sake we tasted went beautifully with our tasting menu.
With thanks to all the staff at Chisou in Chiswick for their wonderful service and food, as well as the PR team at Chisou HQ for inviting me to sample Japanese food at its very best! Karen
Chiswick, 1-4 Barley Mow Passage London W4 4PH, Tel: 020 8994 3636
Chisou at Chiswick also offer an Express Menu at lunchtime:
For £9.95 you can enjoy a bento or donburi with a miso soup in one of Chiswick’s best restaurants.
The express lunch includes some of our most popular dishes including tempura, sashimi and grilled beef.
Running from Tuesday to Saturday you can book a table on 0208 994 3636 or simply drop in.
Disclaimer: I was invited to review a Japanese tasting menu at Chisou Chiswick with no request to post my findings here; all views and opinions are my own. Karen S Burns-Booth