Kintan

When I told the manager how much we’d enjoyed the short-rib, he remarked that it’s too fatty for lots of British people. We assured him that those people could never, ever be our friends.

Kintan is London’s first Yakiniku restaurant (at least as far as I know) but I’m sure it won’t be the last. After all, there’s much more to Japanese food than just sushi and ramen.

Short-rib

A couple of days before our visit, I sat down to watch 47 Ronin, a film about a group of outcast Samurai in ancient Japan. I was hoping for something akin to the excellent 13 Assasins; an engrossing, action packed, genuinely Japanese adventure. My sense of disappointment began to build when I found out it was in English. Then when Keanu Reeves turned up the penny dropped. Twenty-seven minutes later I brought things to a premature end.

I can name plenty of restaurants that suffer from 47 Ronin syndrome – an overriding sense of phoneyness. In the back of my mind, I wondered if Kintan might be one of them but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There’s a bit of debate about the origins of Yakiniku but the best way I can think of to describe it is as a Japanese take on Korean BBQ. The Japanese are masters at adopting a cuisine as their own and taking it in new directions. Remember that Ramen actually originated in China and look what’s happened since. Kintan already has branches in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Jakarta. This one, on High Holborn, is their first outside Asia.

As soon as we got through the door, it became obvious that the majority of their customers were Japanese; this we took to be a very good sign indeed. They have two set-menus on offer, the premium Kintan Course (£90 for two to share) and the Holborn Course (£72). There is also an à la carte menu if you want to mix and match.

Kintan_course_menu

We were invited by the restaurant so our menu was a combination of the Kintan course and some additional à la carte dishes. There was certainly no shortage of food.

Notable pre-BBQ dishes included tuna tartar volcano, a block of crispy, deep-fried rice, topped off with a pile of slightly spicy raw tuna. Hot oil seared salmon was sushi-grade sashimi, scorched by the oil and finished with a tangy citrus dressing. The only real damp squib was the garlic fried noodles, which were greasy and too sweet for my liking.

Then the BBQ dishes arrived and all was well with the world. Unlike London’s Korean BBQ restaurants, at Kintan they encourage you to be the chef. Unless you start setting things on fire, or specifically ask for help, you’ll be left to your own devices.

We were brought three beef dishes, one seafood and one vegetable, which we ate just so as to not feel bad about ourselves. First up it was the seafood. What’s not to like about grilled prawns and scallops? However, I do have to question the inclusion of mushrooms on the vegetable plate. I’ve never had them cooked dry on a grill and I won’t be doing so again.

Hangar steak can become chewy if it’s overcooked so we made sure it didn’t spent too long on the grill. Happily, it was tender and absolutely packed with flavour. Our second plate of beefy goodness was the most expensive cut on offer, rib-eye. As enjoyable as it was, to our surprise, we preferred the hangar.

We’re massive suckers for short-rib. We first tried this cut in an all-you-can-eat (yes that’s right) BBQ restaurant called YakiniQ in San Francisco’s Japantown and it’s been a must-order for us ever since.

Kintan’s was some of the best we’ve tasted. Due to its heavy marbling, we gave it a little more cooking to make sure all the fat melted into the meat. The taste was stunning, as was the texture. Silky smooth and brilliantly tender, this way by far and away the star of the show.

When I told the manager how much we’d enjoyed the short-rib, he remarked that it’s too fatty for lots of British people. We assured him that those people could never, ever be our friends.

I know it’s not an exact comparison but Kintan is more than a match for most of the Korean BBQ places in town (but perhaps not some in New Malden). While it’s true that its barbecues are electric, charcoal fired restaurants are very rare outside of Asia and southern California.

This place is well worth a visit and I’m sure I’ll be back. Next time though, I think I’ll skip the starters and just order a huge plate of beef, a bowl of rice and a cold beer. That would make me very happy. Maybe then I could even manage to get through the rest of 47 Ronin.

We were guests of Kintan and all food and drink was complimentary

Kintan 3

Kintan 2

Kintan 1

Address: 34-36 High Holborn, London WC1V 6AE
Tel: 020 3150 2501

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About John Coulson

John Coulson
John moved to London from his native north east in 2007 and co-founded LondonPiggy with his partner Lisa Cheung in 2012. Eventually his passion for street food got too much and he quit his job as a digital marketing director to work full-time in the industry, starting ParmStar in 2015.

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