Soho’s Ham Yard is an airy bolthole, and tucked in it is Engawa, a tiny, meticulously designed restaurant that specialises in wagyu beef from Kobe – specifically the Tajima-gyu breed – and attractive sushi and sashimi platters. It certainly looks the biz: mezzanined levels awash with light woods and mid-century-style furniture, an ornate typographic chandelier hanging overhead and the space dominated by a buzzy open kitchen/counter.
On a midweek lunchtime visit, I plumped for the full chef’s omakase menu. Almost everything presented was very good indeed. A cup of cold soba noodles, dotted with edamame and swimming in a decent miso broth was a fine appetizer, while a little mound of toro (fatty bluefin tuna), seared wagyu and miso jelly, elaborately served on a gargantuan block of ice was a proper flavour bomb.
Prettier still was the giant bento box of sashimi, tempura scallions and other veggie bits, the fish (candystriped fatty tuna, pink-blushed yellowtail, more lurid toro and a couple of chunks of soy-sticky eel among it all) almost hummingly fresh and exceptionally clean tasting. A griddled padron pepper, a hard chunk of purple potato and a teeny cube of omelette added zip in the flavour department but were pretty diversions from all the flesh. Finally, the defacto main of wagyu, cooked nearly rare but sizzling slowly into medium territory on a hot rock: a buttery, heavily marbled little platter of beefy goodness. I’m still not completely convinced those pampered Kobe cows are worth the hype (or the money), but I’d have eaten another portion without question. All that came to £65. There’s no doubting the quality, but that’s pretty eye-watering for lunch (no drinks either). Still, for serene ’n’ clean Japanese fare in a lovely corner of Soho, Engawa ticks all the (bento) boxes.