We were super excited to visit Shimogamo as it was recommended to us not once, but twice(!), both times by people who have lived in Japan and/ or from Japan. With those credentials, how could you go wrong? First impressions (and I had a long one of those since Grant & co. were busy getting pissed at happy hour while I worked) wasn’t bad either- it was busy and filled with Asian languages. The waitress was friendly and there was a large selection of sake on display. So far so good right?
After spending the usual interminable studying the menu, our patient waitress left us to our devices over sake, edamame and singing bowl lessons. Still going great! Oh wait. We didn’t take any selfies, and this is possibly the part where things start to go downhill.
Well, rapidly on one side of the table… Linzi and her partner ordered lots of sushi rolls and they weren’t the most impressive looking. In any case, she didn’t look like she was in love with her rolls and she didn’t even deign to take a picture for us!
On our side of the table, we started with mixed sashimi, aubergine, fried chicken and gyoza. While the sashimi was fresh and pretty tasty, it wasn’t out of this world, with the 2 types of white fish being the most disappointing. Since salmon is pretty ubiquitous in London, I was also expecting something of better quality at this price. The toro was the nicest of the lot but then I’m just biased.
The aubergine was very good as was the fried chicken, both achieving comfort food standards- all salty and tangy and moreish. I really didn’t like the gyoza as the filling didn’t taste great and the frying was insipid at best. It could have done with better seasoning and more crunch for texture- you know it’s bad when the frozen stuff you fry at home ranks better (and I even get the cheap Korean stuff from the Oriental Costcutters/whatever they call themselves this month- it changes hands really often).
While this was all going on the other guys had polished off their food and was missing some sashimi and more food. Apparently their duck salad didn’t taste great (and was a bit on the small side).
We (or as I like to think, the ‘winners’) continued with our feast on some light veggie tempura and a tonkatsu. The veggies were very well done and a good variety but I was a little disappointed with the katsu! Katsus are SO easy to make at home, so when I go out, I want a really fluffy meat interior and light-as-air panko crumbs. This, alas wasn’t it (another reason why I don’t eat Japanese food that much in London). What’s the point of having something when you can do it better yourself (seriously, if you haven’t made katsu curry at home it is literally pounding some meat, seasoning and coating in egg then panko crumb and slinging it in a hot pan of oil. To make the curry, simply go to the Japanese supermarket and buy the curry cubes and add to a boiling pot of carrots, potatoes and leeks)?
After the longest wait (where I think Linzi and Grant might have wanted to leave without finishing dinner), they got this:
Literally the WORST sukiyaki ever. I’ve had a gazillion of sukiyaki before in my life (Asia you know?) and this is the literal worst. I guess they would argue that this is a Kanto style sukiyaki where the food is served in a pot all together (yeah, I guess but why would you) rather than the more awesome Kansai style where the meat is cooked in a shallow pan of sauce and finished with veggies and shirataki/ noodles (so much more flavour). However, what’s important regardless of how you decide to cook it is that the liquid actually needs to be hot and simmering before you put your food in. Otherwise it doesn’t really cook- this tepid bowl might look pretty but what with the fuel not lighting and everything, it took FOREVER. Not great when you’re with a bunch of people ready to leave. Apparently it was ok tasting but by that time all was lost and we just wanted to GTFO.
How you judge a meal is too pricy? When you leave and wanted to go ANYWHERE for more food. KFC was bandied about but finally we settled on Fatburger… some thought it was ok but my milkshake was an abject failure (should have known when I asked if it could be malted and they looked at me like I was some kind of alien). Burger was nice though.
Would we be back? I highly doubt it. As I mentioned before, the price you pay in London for good quality Japanese food seems to be ridiculously high for essentially mediocre food. Even places frequented by lots of Japanese are often hit and miss (my theory is that they miss Japanese food so much they take what they can get). Some elements of this meal was great but others (especially on Linzi’s side of the table), not so great. With so many competing Japanese joints on Parkway alone, I don’t think I would choose this one again.
Price: Around 40 per head with a bit of sake (way too little for my liking)
108 Parkway, Camden