You may have heard of Soho’s one of a kind restaurant through the pretty photos that are constantly appearing on everyone’s news feeds. The real foodies will know Kurt Zdesar is behind Chotto Matte setting very high expectations after his successes with Nobu and Ping Pong.
The concept is somewhat strange combining Japanese and Peruvian cuisines (Peruvian-Nikkei) and I won’t lie, my initial reaction when hearing about it was confused as to how such different cuisines can be united successfully questioning whether it could work. But oh it does.
This unique and fairly unknown type of cuisine was born in the early 20th century when Japanese immigrants relied on the fresh crop of Peru as they lacked some of the necessary produce they usually use to cook with.
The founder cleverly sought a gap in the market for fusing contrasting cuisines in a decorative way. The Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine is fairly new to London but combined cuisines are slowly becoming a more popular concept in the city. We’ve seen pan Asian done before uniting delicious cuisines from regions in Asia, but nothing quite like this.
One thing is certain – Japanese food will never go out of style. From Roka to Zuma, some of the most popular and fanciest restaurants in London are home to the best Japanese food in town. Therefore introducing the Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine to London, with its strong Japanese influence, was never likely to fail. Peruvian food, on the other hand, hasn’t had the same chance to shine in the city. With restaurants like Ceviche and Chotto Matte opening and receiving glowing reviews, its popularity will undoubtedly grow. It definitely deserves to grow.
To me, Peruvian food is symbolised by refreshing zesty flavours and the freshest ingredients as if the vegetables have been picked from the crop this morning and served on your plate for dinner. The concept of having a number of sharing dishes and small plates on the menu reflects both the Peruvian and Japanese cultures where large family meals including a variety of dishes is central.
My gut reaction to Chotto Matte was that there won’t be much for a veggie foodie as both Japanese and Peruvian cuisines are well known for their hearty meat and fish dishes. Surprisingly there was an adequate selection of vegetarian dishes on the menu which I peaked at online (I always do this before going to a restaurant-some people read news articles all day, I read menus) before making my decision to try one of the hottest restaurants of the moment. I hadn’t experienced much Peruvian food before so I was very excited for my eager little taste buds.
A friend and I were greeted delightfully and shown to the bar area where we enjoyed a drink while we waited eagerly for our table to be ready. There was an impressive selection of drinks and the drinks menu gives a taster of the fresh and citrusy flavours to expect from the food.
Flor de Manzana cocktail – delicious and just as I expected, beautifully presented with a dark purple flower.
The atmosphere at the restaurant was relaxed (we came for an early dinner) with interesting music complimenting the theme well. The restaurant became livelier later. The décor at Chotto Matte is memorable and creates a sophisticated and contemporary dining experience. The food is presented in a colourful and elegant way, almost too pretty to eat.
Cassava and sweet potato chips-Thin and light. A nice snack.
Tostadita- There is a special menu for these including two veggie friendly ones- Green bean, corn and avocado, blackberry ceviche salsa, coriander. The description sounds delicious and refreshing and I was expecting a range of flavours. It was like a thin crispy tortilla with the toppings mentioned. This was probably one of the most flavoursome dishes of the night but I did find the lime kick slightly overpowering.
Nikkei Sushi (5 piece)- Omelette, avocado, courgette, shiitake, aubergine Nicely presented and very different to regular sushi. Seaweed was not used for the wrap which I was pleased about because I am not a fan of the usual seaweed coating. Overall nice to try but a bit bland.
Maize Huancaina– Corn, yellow chilli, cheese. I was expecting more from this, not sure why but the barbeque section of the menu looked exciting so I just did. The cheese dip was tasty but it was essentially corn on the cob with a bit of chilli powder.
Salted caramel chocolate fondant – Orange compot and vanilla ice cream. Oh how I love a chocolate fondant and this didn’t fail to exceed expectations! The warm oozing salted caramel sauce and chocolate sponge was delicious. I’ve recently developed a new love for salted caramel and orange chocolate so this was great! Nice sweet end to the meal and probably my favourite dish of the night.
So did it live up to all the excitement? Sadly no. I am speaking solely from the perspective of a hungry vegetarian based on the dishes I tried. I cannot comment on any of the meat dishes, which I would like to add my friend very much enjoyed!
I can appreciate the fusion of cuisines and the exciting concepts on the menu but I felt the beautiful presentation and descriptions didn’t match the taste. I enjoyed the touch of onion, coriander and lime garnish on most the dishes but for me, many of the vegetarian dishes had the same citrus based flavour running throughout. Don’t get me wrong, I love citrusy fresh flavours and I often squeeze lemon/lime on to my food, but I expected a bit more variety when trying a selection of vegetarian dishes at one of London’s trendiest restaurants.
Summary: The Chotto Matte experience was one of a kind due to my unfamiliarity with this special type of cuisine. The extensive Peruvian-Nikkei menu hosts a range of fresh flavours, including sweet and sour, making it appealing to most palettes. Picturesque food, decent service and an interesting cuisine to try making me glad I dined here but I won’t be eagerly running back for the food. I felt it was fairly limited for a vegetarian in terms of flavours and options – I repeat, I speak solely from the veggie perspective.
Reservations: Online via OpenTable. Card details may be requested later to confirm the booking.
Location: Soho. Closest stations: Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road
Perfect for: A special occasion, date night, a fancy dinner with friends/family
Price: Approximately £50 per person