When the then-twenty-something head chef Angelo Sato opened Humble Chicken in the bones of the original Barrafina in 2021, people were tripping over themselves to sing the praises of his cosy Soho yakitori joint. A couple of years down the line and Sato has shifted his own goalposts. He’s now moved on from acclaimed and juicy Japanese chicken skewers to Humble Chicken 2.0 which offers an omakase of 13 immaculate East Asian-rooted dishes for a not cheap, but not extortionate, £115. You’ll be happy he did, thanks to a magical menu that pivots from seafood mastery that’s nigh on hallucinogenic to quirky wee bao and a miso sesame butter and chicken liver parfait so smooth, so rich and so moist that you suspect rubbing it on your face would be as effective as botox when it comes to securing the secret of eternal youth.
Sato’s talent has never been up for question. He did time under the great Clare Smyth when she was at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, and was then head chef at Tom Sellers’ Restaurant Story in Southwark. You may have even seen him on ‘The Great British Menu’. He cares, deeply, about food. So much so that he has the confidence to tell you exactly what you’ll be having for dinner. You’ll be happy for such decisiveness, especially when you discover that his powerful tasting menu doesn’t have a duff dish on it.
It recalls the moment a livid extraterrestrial bursts out of John Hurt’s chest in ‘Alien’
There are only 18 seats at the restaurant’s curved counter, and there seemed to be almost as many chefs busying themselves in the open kitchen behind it. But there is much work to be done, evident in the first dish that was placed before us; an incredible-looking stuffed mussel, filled with delicately sliced avocado and a ultra-refreshing citrus kosho ponzu sauce. It was, simultaneously, the prettiest thing we’d seen all day, and the wildest, vaguely recalling the moment just before a livid extraterrestrial bursts out of John Hurt’s chest in ‘Alien’. It was body-horror as a snack, and it was divine.
A dainty miso-cured foie gras tart followed, layered with fresh melon and almond brittle. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it, and will likely be searching for a similar cold, quirky and creamy mouthful until I am very, very old. Bao stuffed with crispy pig trotter, karashi and quail egg were next. They were silly and fun and, as I glanced at the menu, I realised we’d only just begun.
The next two-ish hours rolled by in waves of giddy, edible joy. There was poached sole in shiitake dashi, a mega oyster graced with burnt chicken fat and beurre blanc, then bouncy milk bread served with the aforementioned gift of eternal youth butter/parfait combo, which was as elegant as a posh chocolate truffle. Everything looked great and tasted even better, including the titular Humble Chicken: a donabe rice pot topped with a neat crispy chicken leg.
The most impressive of a trio of puddings was a citrus cheesecake, on to which was shaved a frozen clementine. I am hereby adding ‘someone grating a frozen clementine on a microplane inches from your face’ to a list of high-end ASMR experiences everyone should enjoy at least once in their lives. Much like the special kind of meal you get at Humble Chicken.
The vibe An omakase tasting menu with Japanese roots, oodles of imagination and seriously clever cooking.
The food An eight-course, 13-dish offering that spans snacks, oysters, dumplings, sashimi, and, of course, chicken. So much!
The drinks There are punchy cocktails such as a Plum and Rum and a Koji Coffee Old Fashioned, as well as a well-curated sake list for which you’re encouraged to pick your own cup from a platter of mismatched crockery. Which is a laugh!
Time Out tip Sit down and prepare to be impressed.