Izakaya are popular drinking establishments in Japan; however the food plays a much more important role than your typical everyday bar. Kiri in Mayfair is advertised as an izakaya establishment and rightfully you should be sampling their well-balanced food menu as well as their fine list of sake and umeshu.
‘Kiri’ means knife in Japanese and the chef’s knife skills are very much in evidence when it came to trying their sashimi offerings. I doubt I’ve tried thinner slices of fluke than at Kiri. The fish was very mild and delicate in flavour and texture hence it went well with the strong-tasting truffle soy sauce. You can’t go wrong with a small side dish of wakame, which is a Japanese seaweed salad that helps to whet your appetite for more substantial items on the menu.
House salad might be the most boring dish you could order, but the Kiri version had asparagus, broccoli, heritage tomatoes and crunchy rice balls topped up with a tantalising sour dressing. In fact, it was the most beautifully arranged dish of the evening.
In contrast, the miso marinated aubergine isn’t the most instagrammable dish on their menu. However, if you are a vegetarian wondering why there’s never a dish that keeps you satiated, this rich-tasting dish is for you. In fact, my vegetarian guest commented on the meat-like qualities of the dish. It is heavy tasting and you definitely won’t be leaving Kiri hungry.
A dish they’ve kept for a while despite seasonal changes is the creamy crab, scallop and prawn gratin. It is the type of sumptuous, hearty dish you want to savour in the wintry months along with your sake or umeshu. It is crunchy on the top with a sea of creaminess underneath filled with tasty seafood.
There are numerous other dishes worthy of mentioning. The vegetable tempura we tried was crispy with only a light smattering of batter, so that the fresh ingredients shone through. The yakitori meat skewers had tender pieces of meat with only a hint of marination. It’s the same concept as for the tempura, if you are using top quality ingredients, you don’t need to hide the produce in a mountain of batter or sauce.
If you are not a sake, shochu or umesha expert, their helpful staff are on hand to give advice. We were recommended a beautiful plum wine, which was crisp and gently sweet tasting. Make sure you check out their stunning light installation using sake bottles.