How long did you expect it would take me to try out a Japanese vegan restaurant? Well, I arrived in London on Thursday afternoon and went to a gig in Islington that evening, so I didn’t get out to Itadaki Zen until Friday lunchtime.
The space was light and pretty much what you’d expect. The menus were printed on handmade Japanese paper, and the napkins were folded in a different way on each table. Ours were in the form of a lotus flower around a small bowl, and it seemed a shame to undo them.
To drink, we both went for one of their specialised “teas” – Itadaki Tea – a creamy, somewhat nutty soya milk concoction served in miso bowls. Just right for the cold, snowy weather.
I ordered the lunchtime sushi set, and my partner had Misonikomi Udon. My set arrived in a bento and included two spring rolls and a mashed potato salad, as well as two types of gunken (carrot and okra), two nigiri (nori tempura and inari) and a pair of matching rolls. The photo shows the set after I’d had a bite of one of the spring rolls. The shouyu came in a small clear plastic dalek with instructions clearly printed on top: ここをプッシュシてくださ, it said, “please push this”.
The Udon were served in a miso broth with julienne strips of aburaage fried tofu), carrot and cabbage – another dish which really hit the spot.
We were impressed with the food and decided to have dessert – this is supposed to be an indulgent break, after all. The desserts were mostly kanten – agar-based jelly – and my partner opted for a sesame one. Feeling adventurous (I can make kanten at home!), I tried warabimochi – small mochi made from potato starch instead of rice and dusted with toasted soya flour. The latter proved very difficult to eat with the implement provided, but was considerably better than it looked. It wasn’t too sweet, which suits my tastes.
At nearly £30 for lunch for two, it’s not a particularly cheap place, but also not expensive by London standards. I’d like to go back in the evening to try one of their set meals, but have no time on this trip.
Itadaki Zen, 139 King’s Cross Road, London, WC1X 9BJ. Phone: 020 7278 3573. [Map]