With the imminent opening of Japan Centre and the restaurants like Kanada-Ya and Machiya, Panton Street in the West End will surely be earning the nickname ‘Japantown' in no time. The team behind Machiya is, in fact, the owners of Kanada-Ya and this time, instead of focusing on ramen, they've switched their attention to Japanese home comfort food.
Machiya means ‘traditional wooden townhouses’, typically found in places like Kyoto, and the restaurant does have a distinctive homely feel with simple, clean designs and Japanese paper lanterns aplenty. One place you should not miss is their secretive whisky and sake-focused bar downstairs. You get to try some of the best Japanese whiskies around like Taketsuru 21years and Yamazaki limited edition 2014.
The menu isn't particularly long but does contain varied options from different styles such as yoshoku, washoku and izakaya. For starters, we sampled plump-looking chicken pieces along with flavoursome Padron peppers and shiitake mushrooms. The yakitori sauce gave the dish a savoury sweet taste although it could have remained on the grill longer for a more charred, smoky taste.
Sweetness is a common theme in Japanese cuisine and it was also in evidence for their vegetable curry, which had well-portioned amounts of carrots, potatoes and pickles. It's unsurprising that the Japanese love their pickled dishes given the fact that lactic acid fermentation is good for the body as it helps the balance of stomach acid and aids digestion. The other dish that is omnipresent in Japanese restaurants is miso soup and it has similar health benefits, as it contains beneficial probiotics. Their version here is filled with seaweed and chives.
Apart from pocket-friendly dishes, they also provide upscale dishes like wagyu-katsu (which is limited to only twenty per day) and unajyu. The latter dish had a sweet, earthy aroma and the eel was firm without being rubbery; it is a notoriously tricky dish to prepare and the version here is one of the best you will find in the West End. The eel was topped with appetising unagi sauce, which soaked invitingly into the bowl of sticky rice.
For such a cosy restaurant, they do have a relatively lengthy list of desserts. We enjoyed a rich, deep-roasted taste from their black sesame soft serve whilst matcha fans are well catered for here with the likes of matcha roll cake, matcha soft serve and a gooey-tasting matcha fondant.
Machiya is a delightful little restaurant where you can try a wide variety of Japanese cuisines in a relaxed environment.
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