Opened in February 2015 and run by The Salt Group who has a number of restaurants in both Tokyo and Osaka. I discovered the restaurant whilst I was having an afternoon tea at The Ham Yard Hotel. Located in Ham Yard, near Great Windmill Street in Soho, the restaurant sits approximately 29 diners when it is full house. There was a number of Japanese diners whilst we were in the venue which shows a good sign.
The kitchen is an open kitchen and elegantly decorated. Although it is small is size, the minimalistic decoration speaks for itself. The uniqueness of Engawa, is the fact they specialise in Kobe Beef. Kobe Beef is very expensive, even in Japan. The Japanese grading system in beef involves the marbling, colour, fat quality and the texture. There is a number of menus to choose from, from a £20-£25 vegetarian bento box to £30-£40 main boxes which involves Kobe beef. If you are looking to dine for dinner, expect to pay between £60-£100.
We chose the 11 piece selection known as the Hakozen Bento Box which involves a selection of seasonal dishes. Their menu is seasonal so depending on when you visit, the dishes is likely to vary. My bento box involves a variety of cooked Kobe beef dishes, served with barley and edamame rice and a soup of kombo dashi, Chinese cabbage, sesame, chives, corn and onion. It looks very simple and the taste is lighten than the typical Miso soup you get. We also ordered the Kobe Beef Katsu Gozen, which included breaded Kobe beef fillet, served on a bed of barley and edamame rice. It is accompanied by nori, spring onion and fresh wasabi along with Kobe beef stock for making chazuke. It is also served with the kombu dashi soup.
Although the dishes looked very small in portion size, it is filling. We was recommended by the staff to enjoy the lighter dishes such as the tofu and sashimi before the Kobe beef dishes as it is more heavier and we would be too full to finish should it went the other way.
The Dashi Maki with Spicy Cod Roe tasted very simple, the egg omelette with a piece of roe on top wasn’t anything spectacular to begin with. It was followed by the Fried Potato Salad in home-made tartar sauce with kumquat which introduced some flavour to my taste buds. The Fried Salmon marinated in wasabi and soy sauce was a little heavy, I haven’t been much of a fried salmon fan for some time but it was slightly saltier than expected. But having some of the Pickled Daikon and Aubergine cleansed my taste pallet slightly before moving onto the Seabass Sashimi with Salmon Roe and Japanese Sudachi. That was a tasty dish and it certainly tasted fresh (I have had the unfortunate of tasting ‘off-tasting’ fish before so I have been more cautious about it ever since). The same goes for the Tuna and Scallop Sashimi, both were fresh and delicate in taste.
The Pan Seared Kobe with rosemary and white onion in Sukiyaki sauce started to taste a little heavy and this was the 7th dish. I couldn’t taste the rosemary as much as I had anticipated, however the Kobe was tasty and the texture was just right. The Fried Tofu in Ponzu sauce and garnished in chive reminded me a little of ‘Agadashi Tofu’ in many Japanese venues. The dish was very pleasant and delicious as a break before the next three dishes. The Yuba Maki with Seasonal vegetables and shizo roll was a very complex tasting dish. The shizo roll was covered in hints of tempura batter whilst the vegetables inside kept it’s sweetness at the same time.
The 10th dish consisted of Heavily Marbled Kobe beef with chilli and spring onion. You can’t see much of the heavily marbled pattern on the beef unfortunately, however I do enjoy the use of chilli and spring onion. The last dish was the Slow Cooked beef with Doukon chives and yuzu zest garnish. It was tasty but heavy. I appreciate a good beef but due to the previous dishes, I started to feel very full. The use of yuzu zest brings my appetite back and I enjoyed the dish very much but you must appreciate the fact that there was a bowl of barley and edamame rice and a kombo dashi soup to go along the bento box.
The Kobe Beef Katsu Gozen was also served with the same barley and edamame rice and the kombo dashi soup. It does look simpler and also very bland, however the Kobe beef fillet was breaded and then fried. It tasted better than the other ‘katsu’ dishes you have in other venues and this is not the reason because it was Kobe beef, in fact it is because the fillet was breaded generously and equally, and I did not find a part where it tasted ‘breadless’ and a part where it was ‘heavily breaded’.
We were served by a waiter – he did appear to be more like a manager, was very passionate with the dishes and our dining experience. Carefully explained dishes and introduction made us felt very welcomes. I know Engawa hired a manager who has experience working at Nobu however, I wasn’t sure who it was because the service was very good. I know there are many Kobe beef fans, however this is sufficient to satisfy the fans for the time being – unless you decide to buy a ticket and fly over to Japan. I only dined at Engawa for lunch, therefore I will suggest a dinner reservation to experience more of the Kobe beef selection.