Review: Asakusa Japanese Restaurant
Published 10 May 2011
I had unsuccessfully been trying to get a table at Asakusa many months before, having visited twice and been told they had no tables and calling a few times and also being told that they were fully booked! This small Japanese restaurant tucked behind Mornington Crescent station has always been quite the hot table in town for those in the know.
My partner, having been patiently over the months waiting for me to work my magic, finally rang them up to book a table for my birthday – and they had a table free! Whether it was her wily womanly skills or the fact that it was a booking for a birthday, I would never know. But that’s how I found myself at Asakusa on a Saturday evening, the legendary Japanese restaurant whispered by other foodies and a favourite of Tim Anderson, winner of Amateur Masterchef 2011.
Asakusa looks very unassuming from the outside, like a typical standard local Japanese restaurant. Inside, the decor is dated, but very Japanese – you do feel like you’ve stepped off the grimy grubby streets of Camden and into somewhere in Japan. The staff who work there are Japanese – and quite a lot of the menus on the wall are in Japanese too, testament to the clientele of this quaint little place.
Thankfully, they had English menus available. There is a mind boggling page after page of options, and those not familiar with Japanese cuisine might struggle to take it all in and make a decision. It took us at least 10 minutes to pore through the entire menu! In the end, we decided to get a range of different dishes to try as many as we can, and the Asakusa Udon to share.
First up was our sea bass sashimi – very fresh, and served at room temperature, which is a change from the freezing chilled sashimi at many other places. When sashimi is at room temperature, it is easier to taste the subtle flavours, and this sea bass was fresh. Next, we had quail eggs – done two ways. One was covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried, while the other was grilled and marinated with a sweet sauce. Both very tasty – I preferred the deep fried version, and she the grilled.
We also had the takoyaki balls, which have bits of octopus in them, but were disappointed about the lack of octopus pieces and the balls being too soft instead of firm and crispy on the outside. Next we had their pork gyoza – pretty good, and not too oily.
We ordered the miso black cod – and were not disappointed at all. A big fillet of black cod marinated in sweet miso and grilled – ahhh. The flesh was soft and melted in your mouth. The miso flavouring was not too strong, nor too weak. A very accomplished dish, and it could rival the one we had at Nobu a few months back.
The Asakusa Udon noodles was the highlight of the evening – coming with a range of colourful additions to the udon noodle and soup broth. The surprise was a mochi (rice cake) ball floating on the surface – the first time I’ve had mochi in a savoury dish. I’ve ever only had mochi as a dessert, so this was quite a different experience!
Overall, I can see why Asakusa is the go to place for the Japanese living in London, as well as for foodies who love Japanese food. The fare there is authentic, varied, and fresh. The dishes are well cooked and overall quite impressive. Plus, the price are extremely reasonable. We struggled to finish everything between the two of us – something that doesn’t happen often at Japanese restaurants we go to – and the bill came up to just £20 per person.
We will definitely be going back again – and making sure to book two weeks in advance!
Asakusa Japanese Restaurant
Address: 265 Eversholt Street, Mornington Crescent, London NW1 1BA
Booking Tel: 020 7388 8533