Machiya! If I had a Pound for each time I’m asked if I have eaten there, then I would be able to afford The Araki.
But, I don’t receive money from a magical money tree that sprouts up and gives me compensation each time I get asked that question. Or any other question for that matter
But I still do get asked that question.
So when the opportunity to go in with a friend who also wanted to go there came up, it would have been silly to say no.
Machiya is a small restaurant launched by the minds behind Kanada-Ya. They’re also suitably sited right next-door to them. In case you wanted to make even more decisions about dinner. Entering the restaurant we are hit by how small it is. I counted a little over 30 covers across the tables and counter. Also, how busy it is.
But well, we did decide that 8:00 PM on a Saturday was a good time to rock up. Machiya do not have a booking/reservation system so you turn up, and wait if they’re busy. So wait we did. Thankfully it was a fairly short wait, about 10 minutes. And we were given an option for the counter. That’ll do thank you.
Machiya’s menu is short and to the point. Japanese staples like gyudon, tonkatsu, katsu curry, and yakitori, in rice or noodle form make up the majority of the menu. They also have a dessert menu based on matcha. However that’s a choice for another time.
Service is quick. Unsurprising since the busyness of the place. However the staff are also nice, and helpful with recommendations for food.
We end up getting three starters, the tsukune, yakitori, and miso aubergine. I get the unajyu (£18) “grilled japanese style eel glazed with sweet unagi sauce over steamed rice”. My friend picks up the gyudon (£9.50) “thinly sliced beef and onions simmered in sake and soy sauce, onsen egg, pickled ginger and chives over steamed rice“. Well if it’s highlighted on the menu, and the waiter recommends it then it should be good right?
Now I mentioned that service is quick, but it must have been literally minutes before all our food is presented to us. Which is a confusion since, It all seems well prepared and hot. However I know how long it takes to cook a yakitori, and a miso-aubergine. So you have to ask the question, how far in advance were these prepared.
How did they even know we were going to order these… Questions for later (possibly with alcohol). For now, FOOD!
These starters were a joy to eat. Cooked to perfection, however I felt they were a little on a the lukewarm side. But that is likely due to the fact we spent about 10 minutes taking pictures of it. For the yakitori, the yakitori/unagi sauce permeated throughout each skewer. The chicken, peppers and mushrooms all blending into each other providing different textures and tastes.
The teriyaki sauce, shichimi pepper and clarence court egg yolk combo provided a gorgeous dipping sauce for the tsukune. My infinitely smarter dining partner coming up with the idea of spooning the sauce on the skewer rather than just dipping it in. Thus solving the dreaded double-dipping stigma.
Why have I never thought to do this? Again, questions for later, with alcohol.
I’m always a sucker for getting unagi (freshwater eel) when I can find it on the menu at japanese restaurants. It’s a bit pricier than the other items (it some cases, double of the other mains). However the eel fillets were sublime. Grilled and glazed with unagi sauce (sake, and mirin). Cut into perfect bite sized pieces, which made eating it easier. And also made the sharing easier (if you’re into sharing your food). My only gripe. I would have liked a few more pieces for the price paid. I should also add I loved the bowl this came in. It gives the air of having ordered something special.
As something that gets recommended, and highlighted on the menu. You hope and expect that the gyudon (essentially a beef bowl) is done right. Well that is definitely the case here. All the elements are happily gathered in the bowl to the delight of said dining partner. The onsen egg just screams to have the egg yolk mixed into the beef with it’s soy and sake glaze. It goes without saying that this got finished a bit quickly. Sign of a good dish if you ask me.
They also have an extensive drinks menu including home made softdrinks, teas of all sorts, and kirin. If you need a beer.
I should mention that their menu also stretches to dessert, as long as you like matcha. Seriously, it’s all matcha.
In the basement is also a cosy bar, that do a fantastic line in cocktails, japanese whiskeys. A great place to round off your visit.
Downstairs Bar (photo by @antoniakuessner)
In this case we didn’t get a chance to experience these. The call of frozen yoghurt from another place was too strong. However, I am suitably informed by many foodies that their matcha is “on point”, “killer”, “lit” or whatever is the currently acceptable adjective these days.
…Still though, how did the food come out so quickly?
Meal for two (starters, mains, no desserts, no alcohol) – £47
Address: 5 Panton St, London SW1Y 4DL
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Also, check out the people mentioned in the article @antoniakuessner