A far cry from the moody monochrome aesthetics of central London Japanese restaurants, this airy neighbourhood eaterie has the feel of a friendly café – hence the name. Ceilings are high, walls are cream and specials are displayed on posters with cartoon-like drawings: fried gyoza dumplings with smiley faces, perhaps. It’s an easy place for kicking back with friends and enjoying a simple meal.
The menu is tailored to novices as well as more seasoned Japanese food fans. Inside-out rolls filled with deep-fried tuna, salmon or yellowtail in a mildly spicy mayo are popular with kids, or anyone uncomfortable with raw fish – Café Japan proudly claims to have invented these rolls. Skewers of smoky chicken teriyaki also seemed tailored to the western palate, with more sugar than usual in the slightly gloopy sauce. Less common dishes on the list of grills include sardine-like capelin, and salmon jaw.
If you’re after value, the set meals are worth a look: there’s tempura-don with miso soup, pickles and a side dish for £14, plus sushi or sashimi and tempura combos for £18.