Watching this new Christopher Guest sitcom is a peculiar experience. For example, the pieces to camera can look like a hackneyed device, worn out through over-use. But then, if Christopher Guest can’t utilise pieces to camera from his characters, who can? For a particular kind of arch, absurd, self-aware comedy, he wrote the rulebook.
This feels like a very new venture for Guest. Not only is ‘Family Tree’ his first TV project, but it’s more plot-heavy and open-ended than his film work: the box of family treasures given to laconic lost soul Tom Chadwick (Chris O’Dowd) could be the passport to as much digression, misadventure and silliness as Guest and the cast fancy, as Tom follows his familial trail through Britain and America.
The ‘Family Tree’ ensemble also contains Michael McKean, Nina Conti, co-writer Jim Piddock, Tom Bennett and eventually, such mainstays of Guest’s films as Fred Willard. So, even if this opening episode feels slightly low-key, it seems reasonable to assume that we’re in safe comedic hands.
High Holborn is not short of places to eat, but Kintan, a pair of large rooms containing what claims to be London’s first dedicated ‘yakiniku’ restaurant, is a welcome addition nonetheless. Yakiniku is Japanese for grilled meat, and the Japanese version is adapted from Korean barbecue. It’s all DIY here: they bring you a small plate of lightly marinated fish or meat and you cook it on an electric grill sunk into table, Korean-style. The lunch set also includes rice and a cup of miso soup to start. A meal of this kind is only as good as the ingredients it begins with, and here the ingredients were up to snuff: we had prawns and chicken thighs, and both were expertly marinated, each in its own marinade. The rice could have done with a little more al dente bite, but at £13 (it would be £17 with three meats) this was an eminently satisfying light lunch. Had we wanted something meatier, we could have chosen from a list that also included pork belly, beef skirt and short ribs among other things. But you should consider letting the cooks do the cooking for you. Tofu chigae (a Korean stew served in a savoury broth) was well executed, piping hot, and ample in portion. So was sukiyaki bibimbap, the famous Korean rice dish here served with flavourful beef and just the right amount of chilli-heat. Perhaps the best dish of all was what they called ‘spicy addictive cabbage’, a Japanese-style version of the more familiar Korean kimchee, but with a shorter marinating time leaving crunchie
Venue says: “Do not miss our happy hour (everyday lunchtime as well as evenings!). It's a great deal to sample our food and drinks! Let's get grilling.”