To say the china was as memorable as the food could be a veiled insult when applied to a lesser restaurant. But the spectacular Engawa, filling a niche for high-end Japanese dining in the heart of Soho, is as much a feast as much for the eyes as the tastebuds.
This elegant, pint-size restaurant in London’s Ham Yard Village, a new upmarket enclave hidden just behind Piccadilly Circus, hit the headlines as the first British eatery to import a whole Kobe cow to butcher on the premises for an authentic wagyu experience. Wagyu beef is now being produced elsewhere in the world, but much is inferior to the original from Kobe, where only 3,000 head of cattle are considered good enough to make the grade.
However, diners don’t come to Engawa for a simple steak, rather a variety of sophisticated presentations allowing the beef to be enjoyed in many different ways. At Engawa we had our Kobe slow-cooked with ponzu jelly, finely chopped and simmered in dashi stock with grated yam and spring onions and thinly-sliced, cooked shabu-shabu style. All these methods showcase the flavour and texture of Kobe beef rather better than simply laying it out barely-seared on a slab of Himalayan salt, the usual presentation.
Yet the beef at Engawa is but one star feature of a multi-course tasting menu which also features superlative sushi and sashimi, organic egg rolls and divine tempura – your full gourmet Japanese dining experience. And where this differs from, say, Nobu, is that you can see what you’re eating, thanks to beautifully-designed lighting allowing diners to enjoy the theatre of divine, hand-painted bowls and pots which are like tiny jewels offering up a visual delight with every course.
It’s not necessary to invest £100 in the eight-course tasting menu – five courses for £80 more than do the menu justice, and returning diners (you may spot Ridley Scott and Christopher Walken among them) will be happy with the three courses for £60 which includes sashimi, a choice of Kobe main courses and a generous seven pieces of sushi as an alternative to dessert. Good-value bento boxes are on the lunch menu, but we saw them being served at dinner as well – a great introduction to Engawa for wallet-watchers.
Naturally, there’s sake, but this is food which also lends itself to elegant wines, and we enjoyed beautiful rose from Provence poured by a knowledgeable sommelier. There are bespoke cocktails too, including a Japanese take on negroni. It’s a shame space precludes the handsome bar being used as a drinking space, but outside tables allow alfresco imbibing in summer.
I want to try Engawa how can I find out more?
2 Ham Yard, London W1D 7DT
Tel. 020 7287 5724