50 Red Lion Street, Holborn, London WC1R 4PF
Price: £25-30 per person (drinks excluded)
My friend and I went into this restaurant with high expectations. Previous reviews sounded promising, and it was an easy walk from the office. In the afternoon I phone and try to book a table for a Monday night but I am told the evening is walk-in only. Fair enough. We reach the place and when we ask for a table I am asked in return “Have you booked?”. I reply pretty surprised saying that when I phoned I was told it was not possible. The waiter tried to save the situation saying something like ‘oh sure, it’s just that sometime we have some special tables reserved’. Oh well…
We are then walked upstairs, as the ground floor is mainly occupied by the bar. We are seated in a corner space with open doors and wooden dividers. It sounds nice right, and the spot was actually pretty secluded, however, the whole venue lacked the colours and elegance of a Japanese restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, after travelling to Tokyo I am aware of how messy it can get! However, for some mysterious reason, I have always found Japanese contexts – from studio apartments to street food stalls – somewhat elegant. As if the often forgotten harmony of Japanese culture was pushing and breathing via the little life moments, steps, stalls and shop windows of Japanese cities.
Now unfortunately Eat Tokyo lacked all of this. The venue acoustic made table chats louder than what they actually were. There were no colours in the restaurant, pale walls, pale tables, everything was very sober… in a kind of shabby way. Difficult to say what mood I would advise this restaurant for, I just probably wouldn’t advise to go there.
But let’s talk about food. I have a wonderful memory of a pan fried eel I had on Tokyo’s streets few years ago. This obviously make it very difficult for any restaurant outside of Japan to compete with that standard. Anyhow, as I saw the option on the menu, I ordered eel in Teriyaki sauce and rice.
What a disaster. The fish was squashy, definitely not a the right texture. The meat itself was also not particularly tasty, I could only taste the Teriyaki thrust on it.
We also ordered sushi of course. A mix platter of maki, futomaki and nigiri sushi. This was alright, kind of average to be honest. This sushi does not stand out in the London crowd in this case. The tuna was not particularly shiny, the salmon was not particularly thin, again, the fish quality was average.
But as I believe food must always be a gateway to life enjoyment, I want to finish with a positive note. We ordered the hyper roll which apparently won the Eat-Sushi prize in 2013, advertised in bright colours on the menu (photo below). The hyper roll consisted of eight pieces of uramaki sushi filled with salmon, prawn, eggs, eel and wrapped in raw salmon, served with a light wasabi sauce. Oh this was a delight! The flavours matched beautifully, the eel texture in this roll was way better than the one I had on the main course and the wasabi sauce was very delicate. It was a satisfactory and enjoyable roll of sushi.
To conclude, I fear I cannot suggest Eat Tokyo for a proper meal, however, it is a suitable place for a quick and light bit with an acquaintance, maybe before heading for a proper meal or a cosy English pub in the City.