This very popular pan Asian restaurant has taken up a residency in the ICEBAR, Heddon Street. London. Peter Morrell and his wife have dinner there and enjoy a culinary tour of the Pacific Rim
Yuu Kitchen has been a great success, it was founded in October 2016 by Australian friends, Stephen Lowe, the General Manager, a long-time London restaurant manager, previously of ICEBAR London and Head Chef, Jon de Villa, who has cooked at Nobu, Nobu Berkeley, Zafferano and Bone Daddies.
I have eaten in Yuu Kitchen’s Spitalfields restaurant on a number of occasions and always had an excellent meal. So I was excited to hear that Yuu Kitchen had recently taken up a residency at the ICEBAR in London’s Mayfair. If you have not visited the ICEBAR, it’s a unique experience. You are kitted out with a padded parka and spend about 20 minutes in an ice room which is maintained at minus 5 degrees centigrade and decorated with ice carvings. The cocktails are served in ice glasses, it’s great fun.
But back to Yuu Kitchen, the new dining space is in a basement and is evocative of a Yokocho alley in Tokyo’s old town. The dining area has the cosy feel of a laid back Japanese Izakaya bar. It is wood-panelled with a vaulted brick ceiling. In complete contrast to the traditional décor, one wall has a massive illuminated mural of a dragon painted by artist Lun Wong, known as Lunatic.
There had been a close collaboration between Lun and the owners of Yuu Kitchen to decorate the Spitalfields location and this has been replicated at the ICEBAR with this stunning 25-foot wide artwork representing fire and ice.
The new menu has the same eclectic theme as Spitalfields with the best tastes, flavours and textures drawn from a myriad of Asian culinary cultures. One of the most interesting sections is the range of Pinoy dishes. This is Filipino cuisine and its inclusion on the menu pays homage to Chef Jon’s heritage.
The emphasis is on dishes designed for sharing. As with Pinoy they are grouped by category, Bites, BAO Buns, Raw, Grill, Wok and Crunch, so they are an interesting mix of taste and texture to choose from. Examples of dishes are spicy tuna tostada from the Raw section, lamb ribs from the Grill and sweet and sticky eggplant from the Wok.
The recommendation is to choose 3-4 dishes per person. We erred on the cautious side and each chose three. Our selection was cheesy cheeseburger spring rolls, crispy pig’s ears, baby octopus karaage, okra fries and a bao bun each.
Starting with the bao, these were light as a feather, pillowy, steamed buns from Taiwan. One was filled with 7Up braised pork belly with a BBQ sauce, cucumber pickles and a larb of minced pork. It was luscious combination of tender meat, a piquant sauce and the pickles adding an intriguing European dimension. The filling of the other bun was crispy soft shell crab garnished with wasabi mayo, lettuce, red onion and radish pickle. The soft yielding bun contrasted well with the satisfying crunch of the flavourful crab and there was a real kick from the wasabi.
Next up from the Bites section was the cheesy cheeseburger spring rolls, a four-piece combo stuffed with American cheese and Wagyu mince. They were wrapped in lettuce and complemented by mustard ketchup, onion pickles and white sesame. Dairy is not common in Asian dishes but the addition of the cheese to the spring rolls proved to be something of a triumph particularly combined with the powerful flavour of the Waygu beef. Added to this was the freshness of the lettuce and onion, and the tingle from the ketchup.
The baby octopus karaage from the Crunch section was served on a bed of cucumber and wakami and dressed with a ginger and garlic sauce was. We both enjoyed these crispy morsels a lot and liked the additional sea fresh taste of the wakami seaweed.
The next dish was an example of Pinoy food, the three-hour slow-cooked pig’s ears with a honey soy glaze, sesame seeds, pickled radish and chives. Put away your prejudices and try pig’s ears, they are a unique taste/texture combination. Cooked well, which these were, the meat is tender and is shot through with a crunchy white cartilage which gives added interest. Add in the sweetness of the honey soy sauce and the pickled radish made it unmissable.
Our final dish, another Pinoy special, was the okra fries in a hot-smoked paprika batter and served with a tangy adobo mayo dip. This is another of our favourites that worked well as a side to the other food, and we both enjoyed the enhancing dip.
There is a well-curated drinks list with a good range of cocktails, sparkling wines, beers and spirits. The reds are punchy with the likes of Spanish tempranillo, Argentinian malbec and Chilean carmenere. The whites are predominantly aromatic and include viognier, picpoul and sauvignon blanc. Our pairing for the evening was a South African chenin blanc, Shark Bite. This had good tropical fruit aromas in the bouquet and these were joined on the palate by shards of refreshing citrus. The well-balanced acidity made the wine an ideal match for the food.
Our six dishes had filled us up, so we passed on the tempting desserts. The list offered an ice cream bao bun, plate of mochi balls, Pinoy banana turon (a banana and jack fruit spring roll) and other delights.
We loved Chef Jon’s food, his method of cooking, and the little touches with the wasabi, smoked paprika and seaweed that turn a good dish into a great one. The other aspect of our meal we enjoyed was the friendly and efficient service team who looked after us so well.
You must try Yuu Kitchen at the ICEBAR. The food is inventive and innovative, and there is also a package that will give you the ICEBAR experience. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail at minus five before warming up with delicious Asian fusion food.
For dinner expect to pay £35-£40 per person including drinks and service.
31-33 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4BN
020 7478 8910