Chotto Matte is Japanese for ‘please wait a minute’. No, dear reader, don’t go thinking that this is a veiled threat of slow service. It’s surely more a statement that dishes are freshly prepared. It’s not a matter of waiting but more like allowing yourself a little time to anticipate. Having said that, Chotto Matte service is quicker and more efficient than many other restaurants.
The restaurant specialises in Nikkei Cuisine. Nikkei refers to the Japanese living outside Japan. This term expands to include, in this case, the dishes that evolve when you marry traditional Peruvian ingredients and Japanese culinary practices.
Peru has the second largest Japanese population in South America, after Brazil. It was the first country in that continent to set up diplomatic relations with Japan and to invite immigrants from that country.
In 1889, around 7,000 Japanese workers arrived in Peru with the promise of work. They came to farm sugarcane and many workers decided to stay. They brought their own gastronomic tastes and philosophy with them, so the Nikkei concept is not news. This isn’t now a fusion cuisine but perhaps more of a hybrid, an entity in its own right, and we should respect it as such.
This is a large restaurant over several floors. We ate on the ground floor where there is a rather impressive bar offering cocktails, beers, spirits and sake, which works particularly well with many of these dishes. There is a striking graffiti mural covering the longest wall, although describing this as graffiti doesn’t convey the quality of this Japanese urban street art. It is appropriate for the location and the fun ambiance at Chotto Matte. This restaurant also has some of the most comfortable dining chairs!
All ingredients at Chotto Matte are responsibly sourced and are free from MSG and GMO’s. Dishes are small and it’s recommended that each person order 4 or 5 dishes, and all are designed to be shared. For the first visit I recommend ordering one of the set menus, as we did.
Tostadita was our first sharing plate of succulent beef cubes, smoked aji panca (Peruvian red pepper), shiitake mushrooms, Spanish peppers, and a dash of yuzu juice. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus and this menu makes good use of it. These crunchy little blue corn discs were flavourful and beautifully presented.
South American and Japanese partnership
Sea bass ceviche followed. It was prepared with sweet potato, Peruvian corn, coriander, chive oil and citrus sauce, and exemplified the South American and Japanese partnership. It was fresh and light, with vivid colours from the chive oil. A great summer dish.
Nikkei gyoza was a hot plate of pork, prawn and cassava dumplings with aji Amarillo (yellow chilli) and sweet potato purée. Cassava is a South American starch and a common ingredient. These pot-stickers were perfectly textured with well-balanced flavour from the filling.
Nikkei sashimi sea bass garnished with cherry tomatoes, jalapeño peppers and coriander with yuzu truffle soy was a fish lover’s dream dish. The jalapeño didn’t overpower the delicate fish and the truffle was an aromatic background adding a richness.
Pollo den miso – chicken miso, carrot, daikon, and yellow chilli salsa – was one of the triumphs of this delightful meal. This along with Tentaculos de pulpo – octopus with yuzu and purple potato purée. If you only have time for a couple of dishes and a flask of sake then these would be the ones to choose. They were attractive and substantial plates and memorable. Outstanding in every regard!
Inside-out sushi roll was our final savoury and acted as something of a palate cleanser, being mild with a spike of spice from a mound of wasabi and pickled ginger, both traditional sushi accompaniments.
A classic with a twist
Dessert was an attractive platter of a selection of sweet treats. Mochi ice cream was the most traditionally Japanese of the group. Mochi is a chewy rice cake and can be presented as a savoury or a sweet. Here the mochi was filled with mango and matcha green tea ice cream. Chocolate pot garnished with honeycomb and dulce de leche was an absolute winner. Passion fruit crème brulée with a garnish of pomegranate was a classic with a twist, and a classy finish to the evening.
Chotto Matte is a contender for my best restaurant of the year. Granted, it’s all a matter of taste but Chotto Matte ticked more than the usual complement of boxes. The restaurant is well-designed. The location is convenient. The dishes were well-executed and delicious. Is there a negative comment? Yes, the plates have left me with cravings that will only periodically be sated, as I live off the end of the District line!
12 noon to 1.30 am Monday to Saturday
1pm to 12 noon Sunday
11-13 Frith Street
Phone: 020 7042 7171
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018