I’ve always loved the concept of an izakaya.
Roughly translating to the “roof with alcohol,” these Japanese gastropubs have long since provided weary workers a post-work pit-stop for sake, skewers and other small plates, before carrying on home.
Conveniently tucked away from the bustle of Bond Street, London’s latest pop-up promises to do just that this autumn…
Warm and welcoming, there’s an instant appeal to Kiri’s moodily-lit yet homely interiors. A hanging light installation of sake bottles has pride of place, reflecting the heavy emphasis on premium artisanal sakes imported directly from Japan…
Of course, a glass of bubbles served Colleen and me just as well, smoothly continuing my #BirthdayWeek celebrations!
The menu at Kiri is designed around sharing plates that pair well with drinks, but veering away from its more traditional sister restaurants (Chisou in Knightsbridge and Gochisou in Chiswick), it features a modern Korean twist to some of the dishes… So you can expect the likes of sweet and spicy Korean fried chicken or pork belly with spicy kimchee too!
A bowl of seared scallops set the bar quite high for Colleen, from the very beginning.
Cooked to a tender perfection, the soft flavours were complemented by a sharp and tangy tomato salsa that simply begged to be mopped up on its own long after all the scallops had been scoffed down!
A melt-in-your-mouth wagyu kushiyaki (beef skewer) was rather well received too, but deep-fried quail rolled in seaweed seemed a bit too rich and unctuous in comparison.
Meanwhile there was plenty to whet this vegetarian’s appetite as well, starting with succulently meaty bites of nasu dengaku (miso-glazed aubergine).
An umami-rich miso-marinated mozzarella and heritage tomatoes salad was another highlight, coated with a nutty toasted-sesame dressing and a scattering of cumin seeds for a peppery kick.
We also enjoyed a couple of other light but beautifully composed salads including the Kiri special, featuring crunchy greens and carrots tossed with toasted buckwheat in a truffle-based dressing…
… Balancing these more virtuous sides with a devilishly deep-fried plate of spiced sweet-potato croquettes, spiked with wasabi mayo which imparted a potent, mustard-like tang!
I’ll confess that our dinner wasn’t entirely flawless.
The tofu agedashi was lacking that moreishly soft creaminess, while the kimchee fried rice could have done with a bit more seasoning. A scoop of sesame ice cream was a tad too sweet, while the bittersweet texture of a matcha one seemed lost in its dense creaminess.
And yet I can’t help but somehow feel pernickety for voicing these minor quibbles as overall our dinner delivered flavour in satisfyingly versatile spades, with our main desserts rounding the evening off on a rather lovely note! We plumped for a decadently-rich chocolate mousse, paired perfectly with a zingingly zesty yuzu-matcha cheesecake…
Service was top-notch too, with a family-run feel adding to the restaurant’s endearing cosiness. A welcome addition to the city’s thriving culinary scene, Kiri will no doubt serve Londoners just as well as the traditional izakayas it has been fashioned after!
Kiri, 22-23 Woodstock Street W1C 2AR London
We were guests of the restaurant, but as always all opinions are mine and mine alone.