Restaurant review: Den, King’s Cross

Den: A simple, stripped back design lets the food do the talking

Den: A simple, stripped back design lets the food do the talking - Credit: Archant

You say umami and I say tsumami...

A typical example of a duck udon

A typical example of a duck udon - Credit: Archant

Growing up in the grand old county of Yorkshire we had to make do with four tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. And happy we were as well. These young folks don’t know they’re born; nowadays they’ve got five. Five!

This fifth taste sensation is called umami – basically savoury, linked to monosodium glutamate and the meaty taste of protein – was only really recognised in the 80s. But it’s satisfying chunky flavour is one of the cornerstones of Den, a new Japanese restaurant in King’s Cross.

The others are dashi (a kind of soup broth) and udon (noodle), all of which feature heavily on a menu so serious about savoury, they don’t even have a dessert section.

Den is located in a former pub, but once inside, it’s stripped back, minimal and very bright so you can see who’s budged up next to you on the communal benches. There was also at least one diner in traditional Japanese dress; whether he was a tourist or paid to be there remained unclear.

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We got going with a few tidbits from the tsumami section (don’t worry, I misread it to start with as well).

The marinated clams, piquant seasonal vegetables and Japanese pretzels stood out from the sharing platter, while the star of the show was the succulent chicken kara-age, with a light batter chock full of ginger and garlic. Despite being soaked in miso, the salmon lacked flavour, though it had great texture and consistency.

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And then the udon; you either pick black or white broth (we went for the former, swimming with soy-induced depth) then pick your topping - we opted for pork belly and duck respectively.

It is lighter than ramen (as promised), still with plenty of flavour, but there was a bit of a meat shortage in both our bowls, and the noodles became a bit stodgy by the end.But still a tasty snack, and the tsumami were excellent. Especially when washed down with liberal measures of saki.

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