You can really appreciate how far culinary menus have developed in the past few years when you walk into a Nikkei restaurant like Chotto Matte in Soho and actually salivate over their vegetarian tasting menu even though you might have a carnivorous personality.
There was never a chance I was going to suffer food envy on this occasion, as I shared their vegetarian tasting menu with my vegetarian guest. At the time of our visit, they also had a fantastic Veganuary menu which contained quite a few of the dishes from the vegetarian set menu along with some other bespoke, special creations.
Their decor hasn’t changed much over the past few years, but it strikes just the right balance between corporate elegance with the sleek furniture and dark mood lighting and irreverence with their large-scale urban mural illuminated by UV light created by Houxo Que, a Tokyo-based painter, and graffiti artist.
Canchas, which are corn puffs were a decent start especially if you’ve ordered some Japanese beers with your meal. I knew from the very first ‘proper’ starter that exotic, punchy flavours were the order of the day at Chotto Matte; there was very little chance of lacklustre, bland dishes appearing on their menus. It was a beautifully arranged tostadita packed with tomato, kumquat, coriander cress and chive oil and it really helped to get the appetite going for the dishes that followed.
Next came the spinach truffle salad; I’ve always considered spinach salad a rather healthy but typically dull dish. Here, they’ve given it their best effort to turn this into a sexy modern-day dish with liberal doses of truffle ponzu, Parmesan, and dehydrated miso.
They are the masters at varying the presentation and cooking methods for their plethora of vegetables from giving them a light tempura batter or a paper-thin salad, which made items like daikon, carrot and beetroot taste infinitely more appealing.
Dishes like aubergine miso are about as common these days as the opening of a new burger joint, however at Chotto Matte they do like to differentiate their offerings with their competitors, so the version here comes with apricot, puffed soba, and sesame seeds. The fruits helped to add even more sweetness to the aubergines.
You couldn’t possibly dream of escaping this tasting extravaganza without trying a spicier dish and for their last main course, they offered a selection of courgette, pickled shallots, and sweet potato crisps, all served with liberal doses of chilli sauce.