If you're looking for a good time, head to Soho. No, not for anywhere lit by a red light, but for a night at Chotto Matte. This vast Frith Street newcomer takes Japanese-Peruvian fusion (or Nikkei) and really cranks up the volume. On the ground floor is an enormous bar, which on our visit was a seething mass of suits and glamourpusses, all drinking cocktails against a vivid manga-style mural; for the restaurant, go up a floor.
Aside from another mural to inject colour, this is a study in industrial prestige: the floors are black (marble), the ceilings are black (paint), the pillars are rough-cast concrete. Attractive staff (in black – what else?) work the floor. Robata chefs tend the grill. The menu offers a spectrum of the two cuisines, though with more Latin flavour than at other Nikkei restaurants.
From the Japanese end came exquisite sweet shrimp sashimi; from the Peruvian, a correctly made ceviche: curls of seabass bobbing in a zingy, chilli-spiked marinade, with sweet potato and roasted corn. In between was the fusion fare, including a terrific shrimp tempura (Japanese) with three dipping sauces: one traditional and two Peruvian-themed creations (we liked creamy jalapeño best). The only offbeat combo was grill-marinated (anticucho) pork belly laid on rice (nigiri style), then blow-torched at the table. It had theatre in spades – but this on-the-spot-flaming was more for show than flavour.
It’s not the only over-the-top aspect. A trip to the loo is like a challenge from ‘The Crystal Maze’: you’ll need to negotiate two flights of steps; hover in an antechamber debating which door is gents or ladies, press a button to slide back a glass panel, push (hard) to open the heavy cubicle door, then press another button to gain release.
Truth is, Chotto Matte won’t be for everyone. If you don’t like loud music, or are a culinary traditionalist, you may find it an affront to the senses. But if you’re after a buzz, glitz and a more affordable taste of Nobu, then you're about to get lucky.
By Tania Ballantine