Published on July 4th, 2016 | by Rebecca Anne Milford0
Yumi Izakaya, Soho
Summary: Yumi is what's known in Japan as an Izakaya- a casual drinking and dining venue similar to a gastropub
Japanese Drinking Den
There are some places that you want windows and a view (I’m thinking bars and restaurants in The Shard, for example), and then there are some vistas that don’t really need to be surveyed while eating. The grey, uninspiring length of Shaftsbury Avenue, with its perpetual tread of tourists and traffic, is probably one of the latter, so it is with quite a relief that one dives into the sanctuary of Yumi Izakaya.
And sanctuary is what it really feels like – a hidden den that feels worlds away from the hectic, exhaust-fume laden grubbiness of Piccadilly. It’s the perfect place to escape for an hour or so – thanks in large part to the natural materials of teak walls, oak flooring and natural stone, and the vibrant Japanese prints that lend Yumi Izakaya a rather Zen vibe.
Yumi is an izakaya – and before you exclaim ‘bless you’, this is a Japanese style gastropub/drinking den, where booze and small plates go hand in hand and the vibe is relaxed-casual. However, forget the Nobby’s Nuts and suspicious pickled eggs floating in formaldehyde-like liquid – these snacks are worth a visit in themselves. There is nothing on this menu that I wouldn’t happily scoff.
We start with vibrant green edamame sprinkled with salt that pop delicately in our mouths. After that the food arrives as and when – between two people we order six dishes, and are more than satisfied. It also means we can try an abundance of umami-laden dishes, each completing the last. The soft shell crab is delicately coated in a light golden tempura, giving way to the sweetest, most succulent white meat that is fabulous when dipped into a chilli-spiked mayo.
The al dente broccoli is chilled and coated in a moreish sesame dressing – it tastes almost healthy and manages to be very addictive. Bite into the pearlescent coating of dumplings that have been steamed then pan-fried, and feel them burst to fill the mouth with perfectly seasoned pork and ginger, while the hirata bun is soft and fluffy, packed with sticky pork belly and a piquant kimchi-esque sauce.
Definitely order a bowl of the fries slathered in Asian-inspired mayonnaise (they are impossible to stop eating) and for me the best of the bunch was the Okonomiyaki Osaka Style. This thick Japanese pancake is a combination of cabbage, eggs, pancetta and Okonomiyaki sauce, and is just so good – not too heavy, and yet comforting. Apparently with a Bloody Mary it will sort a hangover right out, and I can see why.
So what about these drinks? The menu has some great nods to Japanese culture with the twists and ingredients – Nikka whisky is used in a Nikka Collins, and wasabi and sake make appearances. My Hibiscus Margarita is given a pink sweetness so it tastes like liquidized sweets, and my pal’s Old Fashioned is one of the best we’ve tasted in a while. The wine list is also nice and comprehensive and we enjoy a fab Pinot Noir.
Service is prompt, friendly and knowledgeable, and the room proceeds to get busier as the night progresses so a lively and merry buzz fills Yumi. I’m thrilled to find a relaxed establishment in central London that obviously takes quality very seriously – and if this is an example of a typical izakaya, you can now consider me a fan. Delicious drinks and the kind of small plates you get cravings for – what’s not to love?
Yumi, 67 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 6EXShare This Post