When you google "Engawa London", one of the first articles is "Why Engawa is an unusually well thought-out restaurant" by City A.M.
My response to that is no.
Engawa, self proclaimed as "one of London's most authentic and traditional Japanese restaurants, specialising in the delicacy of Kobe Beef, alongside a stunning selection of fresh sushi and sashimi" at first glance seems promising & exciting but in fact it's quite the opposite.
My companion and I decided to go there for the dinner menu, which consisted of 3 different set menus; 3, 5 or 8 course. This was indeed an interesting concept for a Japanese restaurant, and was well suited for the restaurant as it was very small and had an open kitchen. The whole idea gave off a "chef's table" vibe. Perhaps that's what they were going for? I'm not entirely sure.
I opt for the 5 course meal, and had the Kobe Beef Yukhoe as my appetiser of choice.
I've been to some nice restaurants in my life, but this has got to be one of the fanciest displays for the smallest plate of food I've ever seen. I'm not entirely sure I understood the random springs of rosemary for garnish, but at least it was picturesque? The appetiser itself lacklustre, and didn't particular stand out. If I'm honest, I don't remember what it tastes like at all, which is a great indicator of how sub-par it was.
The second course was a sashimi course. I enjoyed the variety of fish in the display (esp. the uni) & the quantity given especially in a tasting course is quite generous. But again, I didn't understand the random garnishes in the dish. I wasn't under the impression that Engawa was a fusion restaurant, but why would you combine rosemary and orange zest with raw fish?
The third course was the Kobe beef main.
At the beginning of the meal, the waiter brought over two selections of Kobe beef for us, I chose the leaner cut but had a bite to my companion's more marbled cut for comparison. The more marbled option was definitely the superior choice, the lean cut was so tough and chewy. If i'm honest, I considered spitting it out. How can a restaurant specialised in Kobe beef get it so wrong?
The fourth course was a 7 piece sushi selection. Surprisingly, I much preferred this course to any of the ones before. The rice was the right texture and had the correct seasoning, and the fish was fresh and tasty. With that said, chef's would pre-make these sushi and have them sit by the counter waiting to be collected which bothered me a little. I found that a bit strange considering it doesn't take that much longer to make it to order, especially considering how small the restaurant is. If the platter had been sitting there for a while, the chef would then spray some water onto the sushi. That's not normal practice in Japanese restaurants is it?
The last course of the day was the Deluxe Engawa Fondue, and it was most definitely the highlight to the meal. At first glance, the ingredient of "tofu cheesecake" might seem strange, but somehow it works. I still dream of that matcha infused chocolate sauce, and think the Kobe beef could have probably been improved if I had dipped it in that. The only fault I can think of is how small the dessert was, I would have happily gone back to the restaurant just to have it again.
Engawa is probably the right restaurant to go to if you want to take some pretty instagram pictures, but for how expensive it was, I was definitely expecting more. Engawa needs to step it up.
Would have been a 6 if it wasn't for the dessert!