Apr 19 2015



It was my fiancé’s birthday and I wanted to take him somewhere special, so I chose Engawa. I had not been before, but had read about it and seen various pictures of the food, and I thought this could be a great special location for a birthday. Engawa is a Japanese restaurant in Soho, next to the Ham Yard Hotel, and in contrast to other Japanese restaurants specializes in kobe beef (beef from the Tajima strain of wagyu cattle raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, the meat is famous for it’s flavor, tenderness and fatty/well-marbled texture), and serves it in a variety of styles and ways. You can find kobe beef on the menus of other Japanese and non-Japanese restaurants in London (for example the restaurant M Grill in city sells a 150g fillet for £150), but Engawa seems to be the only restaurant that focuses exclusively on this and puts kobe beef at the forefront. It only became legal to bring Kobe beef into the UK in May 2014, due to government trade restrictions, so maybe there will be more kobe beef specialised restaurants opening up in the future.

Engawa is run by a company called The Salt group, who have more than 40 restaurants and bars in Tokyo and Osaka, and they opened Engawa in February 2015, and it is a small restaurant with around 10 tables of various size and seats 29 people. I booked the restaurant for a Sunday dinner (not the most exciting day, but the day of the birthday) 2 months ahead and could only get a table at 5.45 and no later, clearly Engawa has grown in popularity since it opened. When we went there, there were quite a few very exciting Japanese diners, always a good sign. The restaurant has an open kitchen and you can overlook the chefs preparing your food.

We came here for dinner and we could have 3 different tasting menus (no a la carte) with three (for £60), five (£80) or eight courses (£100). As we thought we will only come here once (in the foreseeable future) and it was a birthday, we splashed out and went for their £100 tasting menu. Note though during lunch you can have cheaper menus from around £30.

Due to the specialised way how Kobe beef is raised it is very expensive (2nd most expensive beef in the world, which should not be a surprise considering only around 3,000 such cattle are raised each year, of which only 10% or so are exported, a lot of these going to Monaco and Switzerland), but because at Engawa they use the whole cow, they have cheaper cuts to use on their less expensive menus. When you go there you can ask the chefs/ cooks about what sort of beef/ meat they are using (Japanese beef is graded).

The 8 course meal offered 2 appetizers, a starter size fried dish, a sashimi course, 2 specialised kobe beef dishes, sushi and a dessert. Although each individual dish was quite small after all these 8 courses I felt pleasantly full, not too heavy though. The menu featured a lot of Japanese ingredients I did not know, but I loved the skill and accuracy with which each dish was created. A lot of effort had gone into presenting each dish. For Appetizer number 1 we had a choice of three different things and we both chose something different so we could try more things. I chose the “Kobe Beef Yukoe” or finely chopped Kobe beef with dashi stock, garnished with grated yam and spring onion julienne, and my fiancé chose the “Kobe beef with ponzu sauce” which had slow cooked Kobe beef with ponzu jelly. Both dishes were served on these huge blocks of ice and we were wondering if they re-use them or make new ones for each guest. My dish resembled a very accurate steak tartare in a Japanese style. Overall both dishes had a pleasant fresh, very light taste, standard in Japanese cooking.

We also had a choice of three different things for the 2nd appetizer, and we chose “Dashimaki with kobe beef soup” or Engawa style organic egg roll dressed with Kobe beef dashi stock and shaved truffle and “Chawan-Mushi” or Steamed organic egg custard cooked with Kobe beef dashi stock, garnished with shaved truffle. Despite the elaborate name, in essence both dishes were cute little soups, both served in a different style pot. I particularly liked the egg roll which blended so well with the dashi stock and kobe beef. Both were once again cute, accurately made dishes with a delicious but subtle taste.

The third dish was called “Age Mono” and was today’s special fish fried a bit like tempura but with more than 1 ingredient all mixed together in tempura batter before being deep fried (Kakiage in Japanese). The fish was deep fried together with a vegetable, which I think was broccoli and was very nice. My boyfriend does not really like tempura and he loved this.

The next dish was probably the most impressive one visually. It was a plate of 7 different pieces of Kobe beef and fish sashimi. Each piece of fish/ meat was decorated with different vegetables and condiments and each piece of sashimi was served on a differently coloured small plate. This is the dish I see the most when people post things about Engawa, very very impressive. The fish felt fresh and very tasty, it was a good quality box of sashimi decorated in the most impressive way.

We then started moving into more Kobe beef dishes and out of three slow cooked Kobe dishes we could chose one. The one we did not chose was Kobe beef shabu shabu as we had shabu shabu when we went to Japan and knew what it was, and instead we went for “Kobe Beef Daikon” or slow-cooked Kobe beef and daikon in Kobe beef dashi stock and “Kobe Beef Sukiyaki” or thinly sliced Kobe beef cooked with seasonal vegetables and a sweet soy dressing. I preferred the Kobe Beef Daikon, as I thought the Kobe Beef Sukiyaki was slightly too sweet for me but the beef literally melted in your mouth, it was an incredible experience. Kobe beef is exceptional in how tender it is, but the way they had cooked it here was amazing, as you almost did not have to chew the beef it literally disintegrated in your mouth, surreal feeling.

The 6th dish and the last Kobe beef dish was called “Kobe beef main dish” and we could choose from various cuts of Kobe beef that the waitress showed to us before cooking and then we could tell her how we wanted it cooked (rare to well done), and we actually did not mind and left it to the chef to decide and both cuts came back medium cooked. Both of the cuts were very different, one of them had a bit more marbling that the other, and actually felt a bit too fatty for me to eat. The other kobe beef was amazing. The beef came with freshly grated wasabi, regular salt and Himalayan rock salt dipped in yuzu, all wonderful sides, but the beef was so delicious I was confused whether to eat it on its own or with these condiments. The beef was served with crunchy vegetables, cooked with Japanese spices, very very nice. Overall one of the beef dishes (the less fatty kobe beef that is).

The last savoury course was a plate of sushi. They gave us 7 pieces of sushi of tuna, scallop, sea bass among others. Once again, like the sashimi the pieces were beautifully arranged and each sushi has a different small topping. I prefer sushi to sashimi and after some of the kobe beef dishes, this was probably one of my favaourite dishes of the meal, the sushi was very good.

Our dessert was called “Deluxe Engawa Fondue” and it had a tofu cheesecake with seasonal fruits and a green tea infused chocolate dipping sauce. My fiancé loved it and could not get enough of the green tea infused chocolate dipping sauce. The sauce which reminded me of a white chocolate and green tea mix, was insanely delicious. You could have dipped anything into this and loved it. The fruits were ok, the cheesecake better and overall I liked how this was a bit more creative than the greet tea ice cream you quite frequently get as a dessert in Japanese restaurants.

I genuinely thought Engawa was a very memorable place. It is not cheap, but then again Kobe beef is not cheap, but for me it was worth it.

Date: 19/ 04/ 15
Location: Soho
Price for 2 people with some alcohol: £270

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Maija rated: 



2 Ham Yard W1D 7DT
United Kingdom
Engawa Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 4.5