Even when it’s named after a venerable seventh-century Shinto shrine, a place that bangs on about genuineness makes one doubt. But the strapline ‘authentic Japanese restaurant’ on Shimogamo’s homepage is borne out by the food and atmosphere at this low-key, solid-looking all-rounder with its plain wood furniture and brown banquettes – a touch of suburban Kyoto at the Zoo end of Parkway.
It’s not just the deferential Japanese staff and name-tagged bottle-keep service that evince native nous. Decent-quality rice, and properly finely shredded daikon are among the little tell-tale signs. Even the sometimes grating choice of music, such as shamisen pop stylings from the Yoshida Brothers (big in Japan, apparently), adds to the effect. The footfall emanating from Camden Town tube peters out somewhat, so lunchtimes tend to be quiet, though there are well priced daily specials such as the ‘Salmon Lover’s Lunch’.
The evening or ‘grand’ menu takes a bigger bite out of your wallet, but offers more room for manoeuvre with styles ranging from traditional donburi and classic noodles to a natto and okra side or pork belly in miso with an onsen (hot spring) poached egg. Don’t expect fireworks; do anticipate fresh ingredients and all the classics.