Thursday, 10 February 2011

Kyashii, Covent Garden

Dragon roll (left) and spicy tuna roll (right)

When you're invited to review a restaurant, one of the dangers is that you might not like it and will wind up feeling like the rude guest at a dinner party: "Thanks for everything, Madge, but the steak was overcooked and what's with the Gravox?". Another nightmare is that one of your favourite restaurant critics comes out and slams the place shortly before your dinner date. If you don't agree, you risk looking like you've sold out for a free dragon roll.

And then that little voice that is the calming inner TPG in my head tells me not to think so much - just go, eat, write what you think. Oh. But of course.

Kyashii is like a space ship. A space ship with fish tanks. It's ultra modern and white and smooth and shiny and bright. You would be forgiven for wearing sunglasses at the table - and it's the kind of place where people probably do. Some will love the design, others will hate it. It's not really my thing, but it might be yours.

Marina O'Loughlin was scathing about the service last month. And her report clearly did the job - someone at Kyashii has issued some seriously stern orders to get the troops into line. As soon as I enter (2 hours ahead of when I am expected due to a mix up about the booking time) I am greeted by big smiles and warm welcomes. This is a different planet from the treatment Marina received earlier.

Pork gyoza

As invited guests, The London Foodie and I are given excellent, knowledgeable service all night - as you would expect. However, everyone seems to get a friendly greeting and waiters are evenly stationed around the place to watch for attention needing moments. There's still a weak link or two among the assortment of service staff, but things have clearly stepped up quite a few notches. The barman upstairs is genuinely friendly and fun - and makes a mighty fine lychee martini (and yes, I can also vouch for the watermelon and raspberry champagne cocktail), if you're in the market for a frilly drink on your way in.

Seafood tartare with truffle oil

Down in the restaurant, minced pork gyoza (4 pcs, £4.80) are plump and juicy, and the enticing smell of the truffle oil on a mixed seafood tartare (£9) wafts gloriously towards us before we see it coming. I am wary that the truffleyness might overpower the seafood, but the silky texture and creamy luxuriousness of the fish works well with the sensual pleasures of the heady truffle oil.

Scallop carpaccio

Next up, the scallop carpaccio with fresh mango and strawberry and yuzu dressing (£11) - it looks like Jackson Pollack has been at work, but I love fresh, raw scallops and these beauties are hard to criticise. The dish works well with the tangy yuzu.

Kushiyaki skewers

A selection of kushiyaki skewers (ranging from £4 - £5.50 for 2) includes salmon, unagi eel, yakitori chicken and, my favourite, the shiitake mushrooms. Most are fairly average, but the smoky shiitake mushrooms are the highlight.

Lobster tail tempura

The long 8 piece dragon roll (£13.50) contains a tempura prawn wrapped in thinly sliced avocado. I have been disappointed by dragon roll before (everywhere that has it always recommends it as their "must have" dish, and Kyashii is no different, but they usually leave me wondering what all the fuss was about). This one, however, hits the mark - it's elegant with a lovely deep savouriness that reminds me of a smoky green tea. It does have a bit of an X factor. The spicy tuna roll (8pcs, £11) with minced tuna, spring onion and spicy mayonnaise is also good.

Kyashii tempura

The Kyashii tempura (£16) is a bountiful selection of light and crispy king prawn, squid, white fish, aubergine, shiitake mushroom and sweet potato. It's light and crisp, with good quality fillings cooked adeptly. Same goes for the luxurious lobster tail tempura with green tea powder (£18.50).

Beef fillet with dynamite sauce

From the main course selection, we share the grilled black cod fillet with saikyo miso marinade (£22) and the pan fried beef fillet steak strips with "dynamite" mustard sauce, served with shredded dried chilli and lotus root chips (£18). I really enjoy the cod, but find the steak completely overpowered by the blast of dense, hot mustard sauce.

Banana and chocolate spring roll
Cheese cake

For dessert, the banana and chocolate spring roll is disappointing - doesn't ring my bell at all, despite reading like the perfect combo of sake-soaking fare. But the zingy, creamy passionfruit cheesecake is absolutely lovely. I didn't really peruse the wine list, sticking to some excellent sakes (including a cloudy, unfermented one) which, from memory, seemed reasonably priced.

Make no mistake - Kyashii is not cheap. However, you could eat amply for around £40-£50 per head plus drinks/service. Some of the more fru fru embellishments don't always work out, but other dishes are right on the money. Just don't forget your shades.

Kyashii, 4a Upper St Martins Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9NY  (Tel: 020 7836 5211)

Kyashii on Urbanspoon

Greedy Diva was a guest of Kyashii.


  1. Looks like they bought some of their plates at the same place as Kopapa!

  2. Wow fab photos, the scallop carpaccio and tempura look delicious!

  3. Gourmet Chick - Good spot, GC!

    The Little Welsh - yes, 2 of my favs.

  4. Good to hear that they sat up and took notice of Marina's experience. Too often places brush bad reviews off without addressing the cause.

    The food does look and sound pretty tasty - and I really like the presentation of the cheesecake.

  5. The Grubworm - Yes, it's good when places take the opportunity to turn things around.

  6. I also find it difficult to be invited, even if I try to be fully unbiased I am not sure I ever am. Looks pretty good though, I would give it a try after reading your review. The truffle seafood thing looks really interesting.

  7. Ute - I am a bit of a sucker for the smell of truffle oil, and it's a finely balanced thing with seafood, but I really enjoyed it here.

  8. I think it's the green tea powder on the lobster tail tempura that has got me most intrigued. Lovely write up, as always....


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