Date of Last Visit: Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
The Victim: Reiko
The Damage: £35 each
The Background: You might remember that I was in Cardiff towards the end of November. At some point, after the Australia-Wales Rugby Match, we ended up in a random Malaysian restaurant. (Never wrote about it, sorry!) I was with Craig and his wife Leanne. Craig leaves to go to the men's room and Leanne and I are sitting chatting. I make a comment about the people waving Australian flags in the restaurant. (Craig and Leanne are from Downunder.) Leanne follows my gaze and yells, "Oh my God! That's my cousin!
Yes, she ran into her cousin Taman at a random Malaysian restaurant in Cardiff. He was with his girlfriend Reiko, and we all got to chatting over the rest of our meals.
I told Reiko about my blog and my trip to Tokyo in 2008 and she pronounced herself a willing victim for any meal. So it was that we found ourselves at Itadaki Zen in King's Cross on a Wednesday night in January. This was Reiko's choice, and I was intrigued. It's a vegetarian Japanese restaurant, and I'd never heard of it. Never. I like never hearing about places.
But then of course, the week before we're supposed to go to Itadaki Zen, what happens? Time Out runs this review. I was kinda bummed. Mainly because I wanted to go someplace I knew NOTHING about. But I couldn't not read Guy Diamond's review.
The Entrance: Itadaki Zen is all light wood and quiet. They had an architect in from Japan who designed the space, and apparently, he thought people would never eat in groups of three or four because he built this huge mega-wide bar down the side of the room. Not so good. I was glad it was just me and Reiko.
The Food: I put Reiko in charge. I don't know what I'm doing. Reiko had the chef brought out so we could all chat. Or, well, that Reiko and the chef could chat because it was all in Japanese. So we started with the vegetable sushi and you know what, I wasn't so impressed. Vegetable sushi is boring. (And high-margin.) Luckily, I snagged the fried tofu bit.
So I was worried about the agedashi tofu because Guy Diamond in Time Out said "…mirin and shoyu (soy sauce) broth called tsuyu – should have intense flavours to complement the delicate tofu, but this version disappointingly lacked great depth." But I actually thought this was one of the better examples of agedashi tofu that I've ever had. Normally, I find the broth too watery and lacking flavor, but I thought this one was pretty good.
I really liked the spring rolls. A lot. Eons later and I'm still thinking about them. I would tell you more but I've written this post like three times now because Typepad and my computer are not getting along at the moment. So I'm kinda highly annoyed.
Then there was the tempura. The carrot and onion mish-mash was pretty fantastic. The rest was good, but would have been better with the tempura dipping sauce I'm used to. (At Itadaki Zen, the tempura is served with just the salt. I don't know enough about dipping sauce vs. salt to comment.) Once this stuff was cold…well, not so great. (In comparison to say, cold fried chicken, which only seems to taste better the next day!)
And here's the sesame pudding. I'm a sucker for anything sesame but I can see many people not liking this. But you know what, I don't care what you think. I really liked this. Anything sesame is delicious to me.
The Service: Sweet. Not Japanese. (Just stating some facts.) Very knowledgeable about the food and what they're trying to accomplish. I like that.
The Area: Sketchy.
The Verdict: I'd seriously go back for those spring rolls. And the carrot and onion tempura. And some sesame pudding. Oh, and some more of that spinach and tofu mixture. Don't be worried about the lack of meat and fish. There's enough choice here to make up for that.