Traditionally, the Japanese culture follows a minimalist approach to life, and this is also true of Japanese bistro Harajuku Kitchen. The restaurant finds its home in a pared-back dining room featuring bare wooden floors, plain white walls and miniature potted plants lining the windowsill. Although the room is mostly a serene space, there are a few pops of colour from the Japanese murals on the walls, which depict Geisha girls and flowers native to the country.
Chef-patron Kaori Simpson uses family recipes which have been passed down three generations to deliver an authentic flavour of Japan. The menu offers a selection of small plates – chicken karaage, beef tataki, takoyaki octopus dough balls – as well as freshly prepared sushi, sashimi, nigiri, futomaki rolls and regularly changing specials.
From the smaller dishes, we loved the plump, tender gyoza which are made using Scottish outdoor-reared minced pork, while an alluring dish of agedashi tofu is just one of a handful of tempting vegetarian options on offer. Here, the deep-fried cubes of tofu have been spiked with notes of ginger and spring onion, allowing the inherent blandness of tofu to soak up these strong flavours and act as a vessel through which to deliver them.
Harajuku’s sushi rolls also deserve a special shout out – the Salmon California Roll was a particular highlight, comprising a tightly packed roll of fresh avocado and salmon, and dotted with neon green pods of tobiko (fish roe) which gently burst in the mouth. From the larger dishes, a main dish of katsudon (breaded pork tonkatsu cooked in sweet sauce with caramelised onion and egg with rice) was hearty and comforting, sweet and savoury, while a bowl of stir-fried yaki udon noodles with chicken boasted complex, lingering flavours.
Harajuku Kitchen is fairly priced in general, but for those watching the pennies, the set lunch and pre-theatre menus (two small dishes for £12.95) represent great value. Switched-on service and beers from Japan are further draws, making Harajuku Kitchen a welcoming venue to savour classic Japanese cooking – as well as providing the enticing option of sampling some more unusual delicacies.