Food still dazzles at this ancient Soho institution

Food still dazzles at this ancient Soho institution

Food still dazzles at this ancient Soho institution

Chotto Matte has been serving Japanese-Peruvian food for the past decade (Kate Ng)

Chotto Matte has been serving Japanese-Peruvian food for the past decade (Kate Ng)

Please forgive me. I always arrive late to the party. So when I first heard the words “Japanese-Peruvian” spoken in the context of fusion food, the skeptic in me got nervous. “Fusion?” I complained. “Very few ‘fusion foods’ are really good. I bet it’s shit.

Well, slap me in the face with a tortilla (like the TikTok challenge), because Japanese-Peruvian food is really damn amazing. It’s also been around for most of the last decade, so I’m about 12 years late to the party, a new high for me. Better late than never, right?

It was Chotto Matte in Soho who revealed to me the pleasures of this marriage between East Asia and South America. The huge three-story property, which features a cocktail lounge, a la carte restaurant, sushi bar, and robata grill, has been feeding Soho revelers for the past nine years.

Sure, the interior looks pretty tired – they’ve seen a lot of things. The chairs are low and it looks like there have been a million bums (which is probably accurate) and the dull floors have been traversed an infinite number of times.

But the food still dazzles at Chotto Matte. The spicy and spicy nature of Peruvian cuisine brightens the palate and revives the umami flavors and soft textures of Japanese sushi even more. Even as a skeptic about fusion food (with good reason: the mid-1940s was full of terrible fusion restaurants rushing into disaster), I have to say this is definitely a good match.

As expected, fish is the star of this partnership, with ceviche, sashimi and sushi galore. Chotto Matte’s repertoire of seafood dishes is extensive, which can be a cause for concern in some places, but not here. The sea bass ceviche swims in a mouth-wrinkling sauce that leaves you wanting more, while the spicy tuna roll that sits on a bed of crispy rice is a delight. Putting a whole thing in your mouth might be a little risky, but in my opinion it’s worth it.

One of my absolute favorite things on the menu was the black cod aji miso, a beautiful and generous piece of black cod marinated in white miso and then cooked on the robata grill. The perfect bite includes a caramelized corner of the fish along with a large chunk of the sweet, tender meat. Paradise!

The perfect bite: black cod aji miso (Kate Ng)

The perfect bite: black cod aji miso (Kate Ng)

We were also served a dish of chicken den miso, which is chicken marinated in miso and topped with a fresh sauce of carrots, daikon and a yellow chili yogurt. Unfortunately, this was a pretty forgettable dish – stick to the fish, I’d say. Honestly, I’d go back just for the black cod. And also the ceviche. Maybe even the spicy tuna, if I have space …

Speaking of space, it took a little break between plates before we had room for dessert. The Magic Chocolate Ball is a whole lot of restaurant theater. Who gets tired of watching hot sauce being poured over a chocolate dome, melting it to reveal a delicious pudding inside? Although, after eating so much fish, a refreshing green tea ice cream would have been just the ticket.

Chotto Matte is an old Soho institution, and it’s only a good thing that its owners knew it was overdue for an update. The restaurant has been temporarily closed for renovations and has promised to reopen with a dramatic transformation by September. But you don’t have to wait three months for your Japanese-Peruvian fix, because Chotto Matte recently opened a second London branch in Marylebone, which boasts new dishes like fat tuna and robatayaki salmon.

Chotto Matte Marylebone, 26 Paddington Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 5QY | 020 7058 4444 | chotto-matte.com/london-marylebone

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