When Jesse (Community & Talent Manager of blogger agency Nuffnang and blogger of Hecticophilia) dropped me an email to see if I was interested in attending this event, I think I might have squealed a little bit.
"After a successful debut in 2013, The Japanese Journey returns with new restaurants for 2014. Visit six of London’s best ramen bars, sushi restaurants and Japanese Izakayas in one day. You will enjoy a range of specialist Japanese dishes and Suntory whisky highball drinks (a refreshing blend of whisky, soda and ice – perfect with this food). There is no better nor authentic way to experience the variety of a wonderful nation’s cuisine."
No explanation necessary as to why this was my idea of heaven - my favourite cuisine including traditional and fusion (not biased or anything...), trying out 3 new-to-me restaurants and 3 that I already love, all leisurely enjoyed in the heart of the city? Oh, I said no explanations. Let's just say, goodbye pub crawls (not that I ever went on one), hello restaurant hopping.
As a bonus, I was lucky enough to be spending the afternoon with Jesse and Ai Pheng, both of whom I met for the first time that day and we didn't stop chatting for 6 hours straight. Funnily enough, Jesse is from the South of France very close to my husband's hometown, and Ai Pheng also has a French boyfriend - it's a small world. I had the loveliest time with these girls, and couldn't have asked for better companions to go on this foodie adventure with!
Now let's get cracking with the food, because there is a lot to get through.
The idea of the event is that you get given a passport, which you get stamped at each location as you go. They give you detailed descriptions of the food on offer, and at each place these are all included with the package. You can order any extras that you might like, but trust me - there is enough food without any!
Our first stop: Tonkotsu. I have reviewed it here before, and knew they were good, so it was no surprise that their gyozas were delicious (a selection of shiitake, pork and shrimp). At each stop, they offer you a Whiskey Highball made with Suntory Whiskey (sponsors of the event), which I thoroughly enjoyed - don't worry, we didn't finish all our glasses!
Next stop: Shoryu. Now, you know I wax lyrical about Shoryu all the time, and as usual it did not disappoint. I chose to have the "taster" bowl of their Kotteri Tonkotsu ramen (I say "taster" because it was a pretty generous portion, and I had to resist finishing it to leave room for the following restaurants!), while Jesse and Ai Pheng went for the Wagyu Hakata Buns, which looked excellent.
Next stop: Sticks N Sushi. I was incredibly excited to try this place as I'd heard so many good things, and I was wowed. Their menus, presentation and overall delivery is so beautifully done - what else would you expect from a Japanese/Scandinavian fusion after all? Not only was the food stunning to look at, it was all superb - Ai Pheng and I loved our sushi platters, and Jesse enjoyed her sticks platter as well.
Next stop: Chisou. I had been to Chisou once before, and knew it was a very authentic, izakaya-type restaurant, with high quality ingredients and dishes presented with skill. We were lucky enough to be seated at the counter where we could watch the chefs prepare our dishes (they may have thought we were a strange kind of paparazzi), and the taste lived up to my expectations. Jesse and I chose the Gyu Tataki (thin slices of rare seared beef) and Ai Pheng's Hamachi Carpaccio looked beautiful too.
Next stop: will be reviewed shortly! Kanada-Ya Ramen Bar is also part of the event, but there was such a long queue that we decided to come back another day. It was a blessing in disguise, as they actually serve you a full portion of their original ramen which we definitely would not have been able to manage!
*I have now tried it and they let me have the ramen free of cost as part of the trail, even though it was a few days later.
Final stop: Kurobuta London. This place had been on my wishlist for months now, so I was delighted to see it was included. I love the inside of this place, laid back but still stylish, and very welcoming. The lady serving us was totally on the ball and took charge of our cameras for photos of us we barely had to ask for - love that one of the waiter photobombing us!
The food here was so good.
I loved everything in their sampler platter - nasu dengaku (aubergine), pork belly buns, artichoke chopsticks with truffle ponzu, salmon nigiri with bearnaise salsa, and smoked duck tataki. We were all very impressed and glad we ended on such a high note.
If you couldn't already tell, I had the best time on this foodie trail around town. They have one more coming up next Saturday, 25th October, and tickets are available here. At £60 a ticket I realise that it's not cheap (although they have special rates for American Express Cardholders & Evening Standard Readers at £50), but trying out 6 different places, all fantastic, with a cocktail at every location - I honestly think it is a good deal if it's something that you would enjoy. We saw lots of fellow Japanese Journey-ers at each restaurant, so it is obviously very popular and quite a unique experience.
We parted ways with big smiles and big bellies, and having discovered new places that we will definitely revisit. A Saturday well spent!
disclaimer: I was given a complimentary ticket to this event, courtesy of Nuffnang (thanks again!). as always, all opinions are my own.