Anzu is the big sister to the ever popular ramen joint, Tonkotsu which now has multiple branches across the city. Whilst this is meant to be a relaxed Japanese brasserie, it does feel more upscale than most places I would go to for slurping ramen and munching on delectable gyozas. Then again, this is in the modern development of St James’s Market in the heart of the West End.
The soft blue seating and light wooden furnishings does give a gentle, relaxed feel to the venue and there are subtle references to Japanese culture such as the traditional wooden footwear geta wall installation by the entrance.
The menu was an unusual mixture of the formal and the casual. I would say generally the dishes closest in spirit to Tonkotsu worked best compared to the more ‘complex’ dishes. Salmon cured in ginger and konbu with ikura had subtle and delicate flavours but tasted oddly heavy. The pork and king crab dumpling on the other hand was regally supreme. You would think placing elegant king crab meat inside a dumpling would be a waste but you do taste the individual slithers of meat. The sweet and juicy flavours of the crab counterbalancing the fattiness of the pork.
The variation in portion size was very much in evidence when my guest and I ordered the Irish fillet of beef and the pork, seabass, Madagascan prawn katsu with hispi cabbage. The fillet was probably under 250g in size but was beautifully flavoured with wasabi and soy mirin sauce and garnished with spring onions on top. The taste was great but it possibly needed something else other than spring onions.
The katsu on the other hand filled the plate to the brim, it had the kind of crispy yet not oily batter than comes with plenty of experience and experimentation. You don’t really need to order the full mixture, but I would suggest the free range pork from Blythburgh. Less than 3% of the pork in the UK are free-range, but Blythburgh is one of those places that offer such top quality pork.
Even though dessert options were limited, the dreamy choices were difficult to resist. The yuzu and blackberry cheesecake was light in construction, had some delightful sesame crumbs on top along with colourful petals. The Shu creamu choux bun with crème pâtissière was saliva-inducing in presentation. My guest did expect a softer tasting bun, but personally I quite enjoyed the biscuity crunchiness of the exterior contrasting with the silky smoothness of the crème anglaise inside.
They are probably still fine-tuning certain aspects of the menu, but expect great things to come at Anzu.