Chopsticks ahoy! The food hall of the new flagship Japan Centre has opened on Piccadilly’s Panton Street, and there is a lot to eat. To get the best of the cheap eats, stick to noodles, sushi and salads (in short: avoid the rice!) Here are my top picks, ranked:
1.Tuna tataki noodle salad with wasabi soy dressing, £7.60
Move over, fish on rice. Fish on noodles is here and it’s going to steal your boyfriend. A jumble of wheat noodles, rocket, baby spinach and daikon, it’s topped with slices of good quality tuna tataki (its edges lightly seared, with a sesame crust); and a sesame-scented, soy-laced dressing. It’s a light lunch option that’s sexy and knows it.
2. Kotteri tonkotsu, £8
Tonkotsu broth. It’s one of those things that ramen fans get really nerdy about. This one ain’t half bad: it’s nicely creamy, with decent flavour and depth. The ramen come medium soft, plus you get half an ajitsuke tamago (marinated soft egg), tender slices of pork, pickled ginger and nori. But the best bit is the price: you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bowl of tonkotsu in town for just £8.
3. Char siu barbecue pork hirata bun, £4.50
If you’re tired of buns, you’re tired of life. Or something like that. This hirata bun (basically Japanese bao) is so deliciously pillowy and spongy, you could eat it on its own. But woop woop, there’s filling too. Inside, you’ll find slices of barbecue pork (not loads, but enough) plus salad, mayo and spicy sauce: a tip-top combo of salt, sweet and heat.
4. Prawn tempura udon, £7.20
Yes, yes: I love udon noodles. These chewy white worms are a happy mid-point between Koya Bar and Asian supermarket, though its soup base lacks sparkle. But factor in the two juicy tempura-battered prawns sat on top and it’s still a satisfying, good-value lunch (that's it in the pic above). For a more wholesome option, swap udon for soba (thin, buckwheat noodles).
5. Takoyaki, £5.20 for five
Oh, balls. Sorry, wrong punctuation. That should be ‘Oh – balls!’. The prawn tsukune (skewered balls) are a good start, but for something that’s snacky and trendy, grab a set of takoyaki. Savoury batter balls studded with octopus, these are also topped with seaweed and bonito flakes, mayo and okonomiyaki sauce. In a rush? They’re at the street level kiosk too.
The food hall is in the Japan Centre's basement, at 35b Panton St, SW1Y 4EA.
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