Koshihikari Echigo Beer
Nouvelle cuisine du Japon!  This was some seriously good food, but certainly not adhering to the traditional methods of preparing sushi - rice-fish-wasabi-soy-ginger.  Add blow torching, cross hatched scoring, ponzu jelly topping, spring onion garnish, shiso petals and wasabi leaves into the mix - and that little list is an indication of what Yashin is doing with its fish.  Yashin looks pretty pretentious from the outside, but stepping up into the restaurant we were welcomed by the classic chant of "Irasshaimase!" from the chefs behind the counter, and the beaming smile of the hostess.  The décor is a mix of technological Tokyo and old school London gentleman's club.  Sounds a bit incongruous, but it kind of works.  I'd booked earlier in the week, and had been assigned a table downstairs, instead of at the high ceilinged main room.  Our coats and bags were taken when we arrived at the table, and we sat at a chesterfield style banquette, one of 6 or 7 tables downstairs.  That vaguely pretentious atmosphere pervaded a little downstairs, with deep house emanating from the B&W speakers in the walls.  But hey, I like a bit of that, so I'm not complaining, just noting for those that hate that kind of thing. Please excuse the awful photos too, because it was a little too dark to expect decent images out of my phone.
Wagyu and wasabi sauce carpaccio
I ordered a Koshihikari Echigo beer, apparenty made with a prestigious brand of rice.  My better half plumped for a regular old Kirin.  We started with Wagyu and wasabi sauce carpaccio.  We think there was maybe a little myoga in the sauce, which was essentially delicious.  The beef itself was seared and topped with cracked black pepper and julienne Shiraga-Negi onion.  As you might expect, the meat melted in the mouth, with the pepper and onion beautifully complementing the beef.  A truly accomplished dish.

On to the main course.  We both opted for "The Yashin" - a £60, 15 piece sushi set, served in 2 parts.  The cover of the menu states “without soy sauce, but if you want to”. My wife was sceptical, to say the least, at this lack of essential accompaniment.  Being a Tokyoite, she is an unabashed sushi traditionalist, but kept an open mind having been suitably impressed with the opening course. When our order was taken, my wife was asked if we had any particular likes or dislikes when it came to the available sushi ingredients.  This was all communicated in her native language, of which, I ashamedly admit, have a rather limited understanding.  But that only contributed to the rather enjoyable feeling that I could have been 7500 miles away, and not in a Kensington basement.  Each piece of sushi is treated with its own seasoning, be that soy, salt, wasabi or a gently blow torch.  Additionally a garnish is placed on many of the pieces, to bring out the delicate flavours of each fish.  This turns out to be pretty stunning stuff.  Amazing quality fish and these gentle and inspired twists on flavour combine to fantastic effect.  No, it's not cheap, but I think it was worth it.  I ordered another Echigo, and my other half decided to try the Prucia plum liqueur, of which there were 20 or so bottles of, lined up on the bar over my right shoulder.  Served with crushed ice, this western take on Japanese plum wine was really quite special.  So much so, that we asked where one can purchase it - Selfridges, and Whole Foods apparently (so we headed down the road and picked up a bottle straight after the meal!).  If you are partial to plum fine, then you really should try it.  The second plate of sushi arrived, and was as good as the first.  The blow torched pieces I personally found especially tasty.  The charred flavours really accented the fish well.  Oishii!  We finished off the meal with Sencha (green tea) ice cream, served with a little fruit salad, and eaten with little wooden spades.  We're interested to see if this place will pick up a Michelin star next year.  It's definitely worthy.  This is some of the best fish we've had outside of Japan, and if you're willing to pay the price, and keep an open mind about the chef's innovations - it's absolutely worth a visit.

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Goona Mandoo
I've only ever had Korean BBQ in Tokyo. And I don't mean to name drop, I'm just trying to put this post into context, that the only comparison I have is from that side of the world. I couldn't say whether that makes the Japanese brand of Korean BBQ more authentic or not.  I guess the only way to find out is to go to Korea?  Anyway, I booked in at the counter, since it was rather a last minute decision to eat out on Friday, and there were no tables available in the main restaurant.  The counter is just inside the door and there are 10-12 seats available and 4-5 BBQ grill circles.  It was bitterly cold last night, and the manager decided to lock the door, to prevent a breeze coming in.  An interesting decision, as then he obviously had to run to the door any time a patron showed up and wanted to enter.  However, it did indicate a consideration for us counter sitters that was nice to see.

We sat, and ordered drinks.  I went for an "OB" beer, but that was out, so settled for a "Hite" - which I'd seen at the local Korea Foods, but never tried.  It's pretty much a run of the mill lager, but had a distinguishing taste that was certainly pleasant enough.  Jasmine tea comes in asian style mugs, not your little Japanese cups.

We started with Goona Mandoo, which are pretty much Gyoza - as I know them, just wrapped slightly looser.  Certainly tasty enough, served with what looked like a soy based dipping sauce. We also went for an order of Pajun, translated on the menu as Korean pancake with spring onion & seafood.  Personally I think this dish is more about texture than taste.  The octopus dotted around the pancake was relatively chewy, but the texture of the dough was thick and satisfying.

Pickles and such.
A side order of pickles and bits and bobs arrived, much to my better half's delight.  The plate comprised orders of Sookjoo Namool (mildly seasoned beansprouts), Sigeumchi Namool (seasoned spinach), and Kkakdoogi (spicy pickled daikon).  So then onto the meat!  We went for Kalbi (marinated beef spare ribs) and Samgyupsal (thinly sliced pork belly) with a side of rice.  The rice arrived a few minutes before the meat showed up, and I fear may have been sitting around a little while before it arrived beside my chopsticks.  I only discovered this when I came to eat, but it was swiftly replaced with a fresh bowl without the slightest hesitation when I requested.  I was expecting the meat to arrive and be placed next to the grill, as I have always experienced in Japan.  But it was duly laid upon the heat, and tended well by the very busy girl behind the counter.

Meat on the grill. 
Note the "Alien" influenced
telescopic extractor fan.
The Kalbi came with one lonely rib all on its own, and I'm not entirely sure it really cooked through.  I tried knawing some of the flesh from the bone, but I was a little wary of the shade of red I exposed.  I thought I better leave it.  The pork was delciously fatty, and crisped up nicely on the grill.  We followed up with a round of Bulgogi (marinated sliced sirloin beef), which was sliced more thinly than any I had tried before, but I'm not complaining, just noting a difference. My other half finished her meal (I was replete by this point) with Kimchi Kooksu (noodle in cold soup with spicy Kimchi).  She tells me it's common in Japan to finish up your meal with some sort of carbs, so this is what she went for.  It was surprisingly spicy, and took a while to prepare, but by the looks of the other parts of the restaurant, they were slammed by this time in the evening. One last odd touch to the evening... the urinals in the men's room are filled with ice.  All in all, the best Korean BBQ we've tried in the UK.  :-)

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50 meals in 50 states

For anyone who feels they have the the slightest hint of America-phile about themselves, they may find this pretty awesome.....
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Bar Boulud

Soupe de poisson au safran
saffron, red mullet, shellfish
 rouille croûton
For a Wednesday night, this place was happening.  I guess I should have known that it would be, from a few previous failed attempts to book at short notice.  Entering from the street, you essentially step straight into the bar.  There were quite a few people milling around at the bar, and a queue to get my coat into the coat check.  A quick scan of the taps revealed eight or so draft beers are available, including Bitter & Twisted and Levibonds.  A later peek at the wine list suggested the cellar focuses squarely on Rhone and Burgundy.  Walking through the restaurant we were seated close to the open kitchen, at one of a set of 3 tables for couples, comprising a running banquette and chair at each table.  We felt incredibly close to our neighbours (to the lady on my right, FYI if the guy you are dating is still maintaining a "single" status on Facebook, then you're not a couple).  The environment can be a little noisy, and if you are seated next to other diners who are a bottle or two down already, this could spoil your evening somewhat.  However, there were many enticing options available on the menu, with specialities in seafood, chacuterie and sausage - but we had come for the burger.  It may seem like a waste to some, with such an expansive menu of refined items on offer, but we'd heard that the burger was worth a look, or even a taste.  So this is what we had promised ourselves.  But like even the best of plans, this one was subject to change.

Steak frites - sirloin with sauce
béarnaise, served with pommes frites
Earlier in the evening, while I was making my way through my second half pint of beer (all beers are half pints, and served in a slightly bizarrely shaped glass that makes the last quarter potentially hazardous to drink), a neighbour's main course of steak was placed upon the her table.  This is when my personal plan changed.  The delicious waft of sizzling beef filled my nostrils.  I was hooked.  My partner ordered Soupe de poisson au safran to start, which was pretty much a bouillabaisse by another name.  This apparently delivered all that it should.  A delicate broth, healthily stocked with chunks of red mullet, prawn and mussel.  I supped my beer, saving room for all the beef I could possibly manage.  Incidentally, I didn't care for the Levibonds.  It was a little too dark of flavour, with an after taste that lingered a little longer than I invited it to.

Yankee burger
Our main courses arrived, both accompanied with fantastic pommes frites, obviously fried in the hottest of fats.  Crispy, and heavily seasoned, they were the perfect accomplice to our chunks of beef.  My partner stuck to the plan, and plumped for the Yankee Burger - grilled beef patty with iceberg lettuce, tomato, sweet onion, sesame bun, and pickle.  Ordered medium, this is a medium you will only find in the bravest of Yankee establishments (Corner Bistro, West Greenwich, NYC springs to mind as a notable example).  Such a delicate, melt in the mouth patty, was worth braving the mid week media floozies.  My steak lived up to expectations.  Fantastically seasoned, perfectly grilled with just the right amount of charring, I took my time cutting against the grain and savouring every mouthful.  Also on the plate was something that resembled a mini Caesar salad in some respects.  Garnished with some inexplicably delicious crispy onions or shallots (I'm afraid I'm not sure which), it was a welcome change from the thicker textures of beef and potato.
There was no room, for anything other than a coffee to finish.  Bar Boulud is definitely worth a trip.  If there's a next time, I'd love to see what the charcuterie is all about.  Or maybe the massive crab who spent the evening beadily eyeing us from his bed of ice.  Just try and make sure you don't get seated next to the louder variety restaurant goer for the best experience possible.

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Japan finds the recipes and does the cooking, England takes the pictures and writes the words. Then we both eat the results!