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Restaurants, Japanese Balham
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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The first south London branch for this long-standing Japanese mini chain.

If you’ve ever been to Taro on Brewer Street (or its now-closed subterranean sibling on Old Compton Street), you’ll know it as a basic spot, serving the gamut of ‘everyday’ Japanese cooking at affordable prices. The menu at this Balham offshoot is, likewise, comprehensive to the point of being overwhelming. Page upon plastic-coated page offers up everything from korroke and kara-age (potato croquettes, deep-fried chicken) to gyoza and tempura, plus sushi, sashimi, rice bowls, ramen, udon, teriyaki and katsu curry. But be warned: pick ’n’ mix your way through the book and you’ll end up with a huge bill (for better value, stick to bento boxes, sushi ‘sets’ and one-bowl rice/noodles dishes).

The food is perfectly pleasant, if a little ordinary. Most disappointing was the tepid tempura in my maki set (small, cut sushi rolls), but the clean flavours of good-quality tuna sashimi quickly restored faith. Of the hot dishes, chicken gyoza was the best, while a trio of thickly breaded ebi fry (minced prawn batons) was fine, save for a lacklustre, dried-out salad underneath.

This site used to be a café, but always looked like a pub: all dark brick walls and long bar. Mr Taro – who was there in person on the night of my visit– has sensibly kept the original features but installed his trademark blonde wood furniture plus a sprinkling of traditional ornaments. The result, if you ignore the overly bright lighting, is more akin to an izakaya (a Japanese pub), with bustling ambiance to match. It may not be doing anything revolutionary, but it was already packed to the gills, and seems likely to stay that way.


Address: 193 Balham High Rd
SW12 9BE
Transport: Tube: Balham
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £70.
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