Restaurant review: Nakama, N8
Flora Drury conquers her fear of Japanese food at Nakama in Crouch End
�It might just be me, but I find Japanese food intimidating. The thought of sitting in a high-tech restaurant choosing dishes I don’t recognise and can’t pronounce as they speed past me on a conveyor belt is enough to make me break out in a cold sweat.
But there wasn’t a conveyor belt in sight at Nakama and, within minutes of being welcomed through the door of the Crouch End restaurant, my colleague and I felt relaxed.
Nakama is not Japanese dining as we have come to perceive it. It’s a family-run restaurant with Shigeki Matsushima in the kitchen, his wife Midori’s paintings on the walls and daughter Aki – instantly recognisable from her stint on Masterchef – helping out on the floor.
And while their authentic menu may have had a whole host of things I could neither pronounce nor recognise, it wasn’t frightening.
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We started with tuna, salmon, mackerel, sea bass and yellowtail Sashimi, which was lovely, if slimy for those not used to eating raw sliced fish.
More courses – each lovely – followed: A mix tempura of king prawns and vegetables, tori gyoza (or fried chicken dumplings), teriyaki tori (which was made with chicken) and eel inside out rolls.
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But there were two in particular which really stood out.
The carpaccio of tuna, which came dressed in a sweet ginger, spring onion and pomegranate sauce, was easily one of the best things I have eaten this year – proved by the fact the mere thought of it makes my mouth water – while Aki’s Traditional Japanese Platter introduced me to a whole new concept: savoury custard.
Aki’s unusual chawan mushi – a savoury steamed dashi custard with chicken, prawn and shiitake mushrooms – and duck-stuffed shittake mushrooms with a chilli-soy dip both made an appearance on Masterchef.
There, Aki made a name for herself cooking authentic Japanese dishes with her own twist. Having now eaten her food, I can assure you it is a very good twist.
We rounded off the meal with a kurogoma (black sesame) ice cream and a sorbet made of yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, washed down with Japanese plum wine.
It was the perfect end to what had been an outstanding meal. I think I can safely speak for both my colleague and I when I say make a booking today.