From the same people that brought us Bone Daddies Ramen Bar (read my review here), comes the new Japanese Izakaya Flesh & Buns. For those wondering what the heck an Izakaya is, Wikipedia explains it here. Situated in the heart of Covent Garden, the new restaurant is a huge space with a large communal table in the centre, booths on the outsides and smaller tables in between.
Bestie and I were seated at the long communal table in the centre, I was initially a little disappointed because straight away it reminded me of that other Japanese chain, Wagamama. But thankfully that is where the similarity ends. It took us ages to decide what to eat; there was nothing on the menu that did not excite me. If I had a bigger stomach and a bigger wallet, I would have ordered every single item! The menu is designed for sharing and in the end we went with the waitress’s recommendations of 2 starters and 1 “Flesh and Buns”. We needed to leave room for dessert as I had heard a lot of good things about them.
To start, we ordered the Chicken Yakitori with shichimi pepper (£4.50). The chicken was tender and succulent with the interspersed spring onion adding a nice crunch to them. We also ordered the soft-shell crab with jalapeno mayo (£9.50). We had a similar dish at Bone Daddies and absolutely loved it, so knew we were in for a treat. The jalapeno mayo gave it a nice kick and even though it seemed expensive, it was a generous portion of really good quality crab.
The Hirata buns are little soft steamed buns that are traditionally served with a pork filling (hence “Flesh and Buns”) Here, you are served 4 buns and we chose the braised pork belly with mustard miso (£14.00) as our flesh. The meat comes as one big piece, which the waitress then shreds at your table. Slow-cooked to perfection, there wasn’t a lot of yield in the meat when the waitress was tearing it apart. I could not wait to get stuck in! I loved every mouthful. At times the bun could become a little claggy, but the moistness of the meat and the mustard miso sorted that out. If this is what Hirata buns are all about, then give me some more!
Unbelievably, we were still hungry after this so we ordered the Spicy tuna roll with chives, chilli and pickle (£8.00). For me, probably the nicest sushi I have had in a very long time. Interestingly, they rolled the sushi in tempura crumbs which added a completely different texture to the roll. The tiny dollop of spicy mayo on top added a little heat and all in all it was just a really interesting bit of sushi.
For dessert we ordered something that we both had read about in recent Twitter updates – S’mores with matcha chocolate and biscuits (£8.00). It really is quite a spectacle when it arrives at the table, so much so that our neighbours even whipped out their cameras to take pictures! If I am totally honest, for me this was more style over substance. I really did not like the matcha chocolate piece and wish that I hadn’t just blindly thrown it onto my bit of biscuit before adding the toasted marshmallow! Saying that though, it is fun and it is definitely a talking point. Another dessert I had read about was the Kinako donuts with black sugar custard (£6.00). This was much more my style. It wasn’t overly sweet and the black sugar was just that little bit bitter. I really enjoyed it.
During the meal bestie asked what I thought made this special. “What do you think differentiates them?” Well, having never been to Asia, I could really only use my imagination and I think that Ross Shonhan has this place nailed! It feels authentic. It doesn’t feel like ‘cooking-by-numbers’ like you would find in some chain restaurants. It's food with a bit of personality! Looking around us, a lot of the clientele were Asian and I think that is testament to what he has going on there. I loved Bone Daddies and I absolutely loved Flesh & Buns. I cannot wait to go back to try the rest of the menu!
Our bill came to £78.45 including a bottle of wine and service.
Until we eat again!
Flesh & Buns
41 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LX