Restaurant Review: Abeno Too, with sparking stereotypical Japanese efficiency, combines good food with a show, whilst also finding space to store your Christmas shopping. Just don’t expect to leave full.
It takes a lot to get me anywhere near central London during advent. I hate crowds, I despair at how it commercialises Christmas and I don’t function in the cold. I do love Japanese food though, and the prospect of okono-miyaki after a day of jostling with the crowds on Oxford Street was enough for me to join my girlfriend, hitting the shops.
Upon entering Abeno Too laden with our shopping the first thing I notice is that it’s not much bigger than a large living room with space for about 40 people. Where will we put our bags? Where are everyone else’s bags? After being guided to our bench we are let in on the secret. The seat lifts up, so we can toss our soon to be unwanted gifts underneath.
We are seated, like the majority of the clientele, around a U-shape desk. You are guaranteed a front row seat here, as the cooking takes place in front of you. But before the show begins, an explanation for the uninitiated: Okono-miyaki is a kind of Japanese savoury pancake, cooked with a variety of ingredients. Having warmed up and now feeling a lot happier about the place I call home, I choose the London mix, which is bacon, cheese, pork and salmon. My girlfriend goes for the Tokyo mix; pork, prawn and squid.
Now, on with the show. Daichi, our server, pours the okono-miyaki mixture on the hotplate, waits for it to sizzle, and then flips it over before slamming a lid down on it. When the fully cooked okono-miyaki is revealed, the lady next to us gasps.
Next comes the colour. The white Japanese mayo is squirted on in a swirly pattern, the brown sauce follows between the lines, then a sprinkling of green seaweed, followed by a smattering of pink squid flakes that flutter in the air. All of this earns a round of applause from the lady next to us, who then looks sadly at her noodles.
After all that theatre, there is a fear that the food would be underwhelming. One bite later, I could relax. The okono-miyaki was crispy and the many ingredients complemented each other well. Unfortunately, as the serving was so small, I couldn’t have many more bites. On the positive side though, that did give us an excuse for dessert.
We plump for green tea ice cream with a red bean accompaniment. We receive one scoop with a serving of red bean so small that it could pass as vapour. The quality of the ice cream couldn’t be faulted; the two spoonsful I had were very refreshing. We couldn’t be sure who ate the vapour.
We lifted up our seats, picked up our shopping and left for home. My stomach, just like my wallet, almost empty.
A meal for two with drinks and service costs about £35. 17-18 Great Newport Street, WC2H. www.abeno.co.uk