Yen is a successful high-end Japanese restaurant from the St Germain des Près area in Paris, has opened its UK site at the new 190 Strand development. Serving a selection of handmade noodles, sushi and a number of Japanese dishes.
WHAT’S THE ROOM LIKE?
When I walked inside the restaurant I noticed there were only the reception and bar on street level and the main restaurant was located on the lower ground floor ensuring the feeling of a hideaway whilst providing a generous natural light from the rather high ceilings.
If you ask me, I’d use the word ‘zen’ to describe the restaurant due to its use of wood, soft gentle flow from the back-lit Japanese paper slotted in between the panels of maple wood on the walls, airy feel from the ceiling and the natural light you get from the windows, providing a welcoming and warm feeling of comfort.
There are small bronze stands for the chopsticks, leather bound parchment menus as well as Japanese crockery. There are tables for diners to sit at as well as a sushi bar area made with cedar wood where we could watch Head Sushi Chef – Akinori Yasuda carefully prepare the sushi and sashimi. Yasuda has been crafting sushi in Japan and London for a long period of time which includes six years at Zuma so it was very entertaining and a treat to watch him prepare our dishes. Guess which option we had chosen?
As I mentioned earlier, Yen specialises in soba, in other words – big hearty bowls of Japanese buckwheat noodle soup handmade daily in their Soba room. But personally I don’t feel the idea of it’s specialty – I will discuss towards the end of this.
The noodles were all handmade, springy and definitely different to the usual udon noodles one would usually order. Diners have the option to order cold or hot soba dishes and although I am not an expect on soba, I felt that there was a limited choice. There are five different hot dishes to choose from starting with a Hot Plain Soba in Broth (Kake) at £11.50 and end with a Hot Assorted Tempura Soba in Broth for £23.00. The menu also featured a nice selection of starters and salads, tempura dishes, Robata grilled dishes, sushi rolls and sashimi.
WHAT I ORDERED…
Before the menus had arrived, I already knew which Soba dish I wanted to order. However, the front of house staff didn’t manage to tell us which dishes were unavailable and you could imagine my slight disappointment when the dish I wanted – the Hot Soba with Scallion in Broth (Kyoto Kujyo), was not available because they didn’t have any scallions left. So when I ordered the Tuna and Scallion Roll I was worried that the dish wouldn’t be available, luckily they did have enough for the roll in the end. I had named my hot soba dish as a ‘special’ hot soba dish as the staff had told me that although the Hot Soba with Scallion in Broth (Kyoto Kujyo) wasn’t available I could choose one of their specials of the day that wasn’t on the menu. So I had chosen this special dish called Mushroom Porcini Soba.
For the food we had ordered:
- Tuna and Scallion Roll
- Marble Tuna
- Mushroom Porcini Soba
- Set Lunch (which features Chef Selection of Starter, Assorted Sushi and a Choice of Hot or Cold Soba)
For the drinks we had opted for the:
- Sencha Green Tea
To begin, we had the Marble Tuna and Tuna and Scallion Roll. I always enjoy a rich marble tuna (or O-Toro as some would say) so I was very impressed that they offer this mouth-watering dish, but knowing I would be having an early dinner in the evening I had chosen to have a Marble Tuna, slightly rich and just enough to satisfy my slight addiction.
As you may have already guessed, I do enjoy some scallion in my dishes and as I wasn’t able to enjoy a scallion soba, the Tuna and Scallion Roll was my savior. I very much enjoyed watching the roll being prepared and made me appreciate the dish even more as there was generous amount of Tuna in the roll and the taste of scallion just makes me taste buds happy (unless you don’t enjoy the slight onion-y taste then I would highly recommend ordering the Tuna sashimi instead).
My Mushroom Porcini Soba was served in a bowl of hot Tsuyu sauce with Porcinini Mushroom, the sauce is made with Dashi, Soya Sauce and Mirin. I had expected the broth to have a lot more flavor on but it tasted slightly bland to me – this may be due to the fact that I had some wasabi and soy sauce with my Marble Tuna beforehand.
The Set Lunch consisted of a chef selection of sushi, it had some Cucumber Rolls, and Tuna Nigiri, Squid Nigiri and a Yellow Tail Nigiri. To go with the Soba, we were given the ‘boiled water’, in which the noodles had been cooked was served in a jug on the side – it had a slight sweetness to it and preps you for your soba. There was also a cold sauce for us to dip the noodles in and then slurp up to release the flavor (it is said in Japanese culture, it is not rude!)
For this meal, we didn’t order any desserts as we were pretty full from the dishes (and we would be having an early dinner) but at the same time, there wasn’t a dessert that caught my eye at the time.
If you ask me, I am not sure on how Yen can be a soba specialist with its limited number of soba dishes (three for cold and five for hot), it almost seems like the soba dishes are ‘side’ dishes that people would order as an extra – despite being able to prepare delicious bowls of buckwheat noodles. As I had experienced, one of five hot soba dishes were not available which left me with a choice of four dishes and if it wasn’t for the staff to inform me about the ‘specials’ I was very likely to skip a soba dish altogether.
The location is located within the ground floor of a block of new luxury flats which would be very useful for the residents but the entrance can easily be missed.
WHAT I’LL GO BACK FOR…
The next time I visit Yen, I would go back for the Black Cod Marinated in Saikyo Miso. I had also associated Black Cod with dinners but it is definitely one of the dishes I would order, along with the Rich Marble Tuna and some Salmon Roe.
What I love most about Yen and Japanese restaurants is that you do not necessarily need to dine with another person or a group of people. The way Yen has set up its floor it to allow individuals who’d like to enjoy a quiet lunch to eat by themselves without much disturbance – this may be different during the evening period but if I worked close to Yen, I could see myself dining there for lunch.
Depending on where you are travelling from, but the closest tube station is Temple Station. It is also a commutable (walk) distance from Covent Garden.
📍 Yen – 190 Strand / 5 Arundel Street, London WC2R 3DX
💰 Average cost for two / price range: £70-£100
💳 What I paid: £70 (approximate)