The Shibuya district of Tokyo is one of those places that slap you round the face on your first encounter. Department stores tower over you and neon signs blink relentlessly while a mass of tourists and trendy Tokyoites surge across what’s said to be the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.
By comparison, its new namesake on Shaftesbury Avenue seems sedate. Blaring East Asian pop notwithstanding, the vibe at this diminutive Japanese restaurant is serene – pale colours, minimal decor and plenty of blond wood. There are small seating areas on the ground floor, at mezzanine level and in the basement.
On our visit, the menu was also filled with contrasts. Among the ample selection of Japanese classics were highs such as well-made nigiri sushi with pearlescent rice, fresh fish and a decent choice of toppings, including o-toro (the fattiest cut of tuna) and sweet, firm-fleshed surf clams. The broth in two soups we tried was also of fine quality. But there were lows: in particular, lukewarm, claggy takoyaki (fried batter balls of diced octopus).
And then there were the knockout Korean frozen desserts (bing or bingsu). From our vantage point on the mezzanine above the counter, we watched as staff poured milk into a gleaming silver gadget that transformed the liquid into tiny shards of ice. These were layered with toasted soya bean powder, drizzled with condensed milk and topped with red beans. Sweet, rich, nutty and refreshing, this alone is worth popping in for. Almost. That sushi really is very good. A handy place to know about when you’re in Chinatown but fancy something other than Chinese.