Riding the Izakaya Wave with Jason Atherton – Sosharu London

Jason Atherton is opening new restaurants at a rate not seen since Gordon Ramsey had his rapid expansion phase. And note, I have always been impressed with the consistently high quality. But after a recent disappointing re-visit to his Singapore restaurant Esquina I was not sure what to expect from his new upscale izakaya in Londons Farringdon. We visited a few weeks ago during our short spring break in London.

Sosharu has jumped on the izakaya trend, and as most of the places in Europe, it has missed the point and idea of an izakaya.  The common missunderstanding seems to be that an izakaya is fine dinign or at least a nice Japanese”bistro”. It is rather the opposite, a shady and smoky bar with some simple food (like yakitori and ramen), that one crawls to after a drunken evening at a bar before heading home. As most new European izakayas, Sosharu is made much fancier than an izakaya usually is in Japan. My initial annoyance has however started to subside, so I can sort of forgive Sosharu for this sin. And I must say, it does seem that Jason at least has some idea of what kind of food an izakaya should have, as beneath the fancy outer layer, there is a simple and delicious menu. If it werent for the price tag and difficulty to get reservations, I could definitely chow down some of that tempura as bar food.

The ambience aims to be an upper mid-range cool bar and restaurant and in that they succeed really well. The space is cool and inciting, and you can see some into the kitchen. They offer a nice selection of cocktails and wines. I love the house champagne, Les Murgiers, which comes from Francis Boulard. The beer selection could however easily be expanded. I am much more fond of having a fresh malty drink with my asian dishes rather than wine. The beers that were on the list however were nicely selected.

The main attraction here is the food. It is a mix of small dishes and some bigger bowls and I strongly recommend sharing. All the food we had was really good but the standout dishes were in general the tempura and the different grilled meats. I was also really happy about the bacon wrapped cherry tomatoes (I think I love everything with bacon). The rice bowls were also really good but required some waiting time, so I would make sure to top up with some starters.

Service was friendly and a despite some waits for drinks I would still say they got the basics right. Would happily visit again.

xx Soile

Wineweek 33: It’s Getting Hot in Here

As per tradition, I will start with the weather report. It might seem like an irrelevant part of my weekly posts. But on the contrary, I think it is an important note for setting the right mood. The kind of wine I drink is heavily influenced by the weather. So it is no coincidence I have been drinking a lot of light reds, white and rose this week as it has been HOT. Sweden has been showing it’s best with 25-30 C and sun, and I have been doing my best to enjoy the hot weather with some cooling drinks.

Wednesday we went to check out the second location of our favorite wine bar in town, Gaston at Nordiska Kompaniet. NK is one of the finest department stores in town and the top floor has recently been taken over by the king of Swedish fine dining, Björn Franzen. Gaston wine-bar is also a part of Frantzen’s culinary empire and one of the most notable wine-hangouts in town. While the location in the old town of Stockholm remains my favorite (it also has a more extensive list of wine), the NK location is also a place worth to visit. The style of displaying the wines in fridges along the wall with pricing written with a white marker reminds me of Paris and it’s many wonderful wine bars. So on a rainy day, head up to this comfortable oasis for wine in between shopping. The two go well together (I have experience)!

Relaxing at Gaston Wine Bar at Nordiska Kompaniet
Relaxing at Gaston Wine Bar at Nordiska Kompaniet
The beautiful bar at Loka Izakaya
The beautiful bar at Lokal Izakaya
Strawberry, champagne and black pepper. Omnom!
Strawberry, champagne and black pepper. Omnom!

On Friday we went out for some drinks and Asian food at a new restaurant in town, Lokal Izakaya. The Japanese inspired Izakayas are the new food trend in town. Sushi and Asian inspired dishes combined with some yummy cocktails and a list of Sake makes up for a concept I very much enjoy. Sadly every single Izakaya in Stockholm has the same problem, they are not Izakayas. Don’t get me wrong, I like the restaurants as such. I just don’t like that the concept has been so grossly miss-interpreted. An Izakaya is a simple Japanese eatery, like a tavern or pub, a kind of after work place that serves some food to accompany the drinks. The so called Izakayas in Stockholm remind me more of Asian fine dining than a local.  Lokal Izakaya, like the first on the izakaya scene in Stockholm, Shibumi, is a fun restaurant. The cocktails, sashimi, and hot dishes all very satisfying. I was just expecting something more simple.

As many cities in Europe, Stockholm will partly close for summer vacations. July is prime time for Swedes to head to their cottages and travel around in Europe, so many small restaurants and bars close their doors. We went to enjoy the last opening day of Hornstulls Bodega, a wine bar and restaurant close by to where we live. After Gaston, I would say this is THE place to come for wine. We enjoyed some Spätburgunder rose, reds from Loire and an amazing peppery Rioja.

Last wine of the summer at Hornstulls Bodega
Last wine of the summer at Hornstulls Bodega
Celebrating 4th of July at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet
Celebrating 4th of July at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet

I will miss the Bodega, but the summer will go by fast. Next week we are heading for Helsinki, my home city; to rest, meet friends and relatives, and to drink some more wine of course. The blog will not be taking a holiday, but summer vacation will mean that there will be a slightly slower pace (maybe). And perhaps I have the chance to finally really consider what to do with the look and layout. All ideas and inspiration are more than welcome! Hope a warm and sunny week to you all!