When I first heard approximately Angelina, I suffered acute flashbacks. All of a unexpected it became November 2003, and I changed into lower back in a sun-sopping wet white box of a room in London’s St James’s, feeling unkempt and nowhere close to cool enough for the walls. A waiter turned into supplying to explain the idea behind the menu. I turned into attempting not to balk. London’s nasty, brutish critics pointed and laughed on the location and I pointed and laughed with them. After it closed, one of the owners, Jamie Barber, gave a spirited defence: “Some humans say Shumi wasn’t a a hit restaurant, however I disagree. I say it become an unmitigated catastrophe. I assume we got the whole lot right except for the layout, the service, the menu, the pricing and the execution. It changed into a really tough duration.”
Shumi’s innovative concept changed to fuse the food of Italy and Japan. There became a “passion bar” wherein to procure to consume “Italian sushi”. The risotto got here with chopsticks. And so on. Barber, who has long past on to more things, has already stated what needs to be said, so I gained’t upload to it. Still, I did shiver involuntarily when I heard that a bunch of cooks with experience at excellent locations like Bocca di Lupo, Bevis Marks and Enoteca Turi was coming collectively in London’s Dalston to adopt “a surreal exploration of Japanese and Italian cuisines, cultures and affects”. To which Karl Marx’s line about records repeating itself, first as tragedy then as farce, came to thoughts. Had we no longer suffered enough?
We can all loosen up, because Angelina could be very a great deal a disaster prevented – and by using an extended mark. Shumi’s undoing became its jaw-jutting swagger. God, however it loved itself. (I suppose any individual had to.) Angelina seems like a superbly intentioned, low-key test. It’s like being invited round for dinner through your mate; the nerdy one that can really prepare dinner, and who has just long past into his Japanese segment. The maximum openly Japanese factors are in the decor: the paper lanterns shading lightbulbs, for example, or the noren curtain over the entrance to the returned kitchen from the open kitchen out front.
The meals, meanwhile, is a mild treatise on what Japanese and Italian cooking have in the commonplace. For in reality tempura and fritto Misto are two arrangements with the same motive? They both want to maintain the integrity of the main component courtesy of a crisp batter overcoat. Aren’t sashimi and crudo close loved ones that absolutely have to get to understand every other higher? What’s key right here is that the kitchen isn’t always attempting to faux they have completely nailed the intricacies of Japanese meals. At base they’re serving Italian meals, with exciting Japanese grace notes. This time round I supply thank you that there seems to be space inside the marketplace for something so curious and thoughtful.
It’s also desirable value, as long as you’re prepared for the works. They serve a five-stage set menu for £38, plus a single daily changing plate at £nine. It begins with a fritto Misto. There is a plate piled with cime di rape or wintry weather veggies, in a crisp, lacy batter overcoat which snaps without difficulty. With them is a candy soy-based sauce for dipping. On some other plate, there are artichokes deep-fried in what the Romans refer to because the “Jewish fashion”, the outer leaves crisped and fragile, alongside thick discs of the lengthy-braised pig that has been breaded and deep fried. These include a dark Japanese-fashion, the sweet-and-sour sauce so you are actually considering tonkatsu, that encouraging slab of deep-fried breaded pork loin that’s one of the minor miracles of Japanese cooking.
Served alongside this, in order that the desk fills with dainty pieces of Japanese porcelain, is the uncooked route. There are sweet-purple Sicilian prawns dressed handiest in a bit olive oil and lemon, covered up at the plate like commas. They are sweet and lightly sticky. Another plate brings skinny slices of marinated sea bream, the translucence of mother of pearl. A 1/3 has a heap of tuna tartare. Call those dishes crudo and they’re Italian. Call them sashimi and that they’re Japanese. Your call.
Next, a risotto studded with dense, oily pieces of unagi – barbecued eel – the rice flavored with soy butter. If I turned into being definitely choosy, I could niggle over the risotto’s wobble; over whether or not it had been cooked out quite long enough. Then again, the pleasure of this dish trumps the technical stuff each time. It reminded me of the end level of a bowl of unagi chirashi, wherein the eel is laid over a heaping bowl of warm sushi rice. The oils from the fish mingle with the grains, and dribbles of soy lubricate the complete excessive, comforting enterprise. It might not pretty be a bowl of risotto, but it’s miles a plate of loveliness.
For the beef path it’s far the jaw exercise that is onglet, given an extreme char over the hibachi, but nonetheless very much a deep offal crimson inside and punctiliously beefy. Alongside is a piece of griddled radicchio, to deliver an edge of the sour to the night. We also get the everyday plate which these days is hunks in their own coarse-cut sausages, with a rugged again notice of the duodenal and the farmyard. It does it for me but might not do it for others. The pieces of sausage are threaded through candy hundreds of yellow and red cherry tomatoes. It is a fair vintage plateful for £9.
We finish with a bit of a shrug: a panna cotta, with a chocolate mousse and black sesame. All elements are lick-the-bowl-easy true. But there’s no point pretending: each Japan and Italy have compelling dessert traditions. This is from the softer end of each, literally and figuratively. No, remember. It’s still a laugh journey. As if to emphasize that that is an Italian restaurant searching east, as opposed to a Japanese vicinity looking west, the wine list is completely Italian. There is also a bar which, barely oddly, is off the bathrooms, although it could be the opposite way around.
It’s any such sweet mission, so cheerfully fanboyish in its devotion to the subtleties of both cooking traditions, that I worry it’s going to gain the best area of interest novelty status. I’d love them to prevail and amplify their explorations. To do that the menu will have to exchange often. I’ll count on it’s going to. Oh, and also you lot will need to ebook to eat there. You virtually need to.