Chotto Matte burst onto the London scene in 2013, delivering a masterclass in “Nikkei” (Japanese-Peruvian) cuisine. As their Soho flagship kicks back for a brief renovation, The Handbook contributor Katie Renouf samples the well-timed arrival of their new Marylebone location.
As I head to tonight’s dinner, I think back to my first time visiting Chotto Matte Soho. I vividly remember stepping into the beautifully vibrant, buzzing space. I was excited to sample Nikkei cuisine and will always remember that first fragrant burst of freshness, sourness and spice.
The cocktails flowed, the sushi was incredible and the charred octopus with purple potato was worth heading over for alone. Chotto Matte was immediately put on regular rotation for weekend nights out.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve started to appreciate the quieter parts of town. Whilst Soho remains the thriving heart of this incredible city, it can be nice to take a break from shouting over pounding music and apologising for using your phone torch to view the menu.
A lengthy introduction, but you’ll see why I was delighted to be invited to sample Chotto Matte’s new Marylebone venue on Paddington Street.
My first impression of the restaurant is – wow. Acclaimed architect Andy Martin has certainly hit the brief once again. A sleek and stylish façade leads on to colourful swirling rugs, teal suede sofas and a gorgeous bar space. It feels sexy without being tacky, complemented by ambient music and friendly, energised staff.
We start with a couple of cocktails – Bar manager Peppe has done a superb job with the “Tokyo to Lima” cocktail selection, offering well-considered options for every palette and diet.
My friend opts for the Pisco sour and I try the Kakigori; a delicious twist on a lychee martini which has a semi-frozen consistency and is topped with freeze dried raspberries. This cocktail is sweet, zingy and delicious. The pisco also delivers the perfect level of sherbet sour, beautifully executed and presented.
We decide to let the team select our dishes for the evening – and they certainly do not disappoint. We are treated to a stunning kaleidoscope of their finest plates.
When I first hear the words “Padron peppers” I’m a little deflated – they seem to have suddenly worked their way onto every restaurant menu in town – but that is before I taste these. They are next level, coated in a delicious sauce made from miso, sugar and sake. The best I have ever eaten.
Next, we have kingfish sashimi finished with a yuzu truffle dressing. The decadence of the truffle elevates the fish without being overpowering; a balance which many others have failed to achieve.
The Argentinian red prawn “truffles” are a real delight; the dramatic black, crispy exterior gives way to tender and sweet prawn with shiitake mushroom.
The “O-Toro” fatty tuna is exquisite; served on a flavoursome teriyaki-style sauce which is once again bold but not overpowering. The fish is the level of fresh where it melts in the mouth and has almost no firmness at all.
My first impression of the restaurant is – wow as architect Andy Martin hits the brief once again. Sleek and stylish, it feels sexy without being tacky.
The “Sato maki” sea bass sushi roll topped with salmon tartare is torched at the table for a flamboyant finish; a real crowd pleaser. This gives the dish a charred flavour and this works incredibly well.
It’s time for more cocktails so we both try the Flor De Manzana; vodka and sake with mango, passionfruit and elderflower. It’s delicious – vaguely reminiscent of a porn star martini but without sickliness or screaming hen parties.
I’ve been praying that we would be given the black cod, so I am delighted to see a gorgeous glistening fillet arrive at the table. Simply dressed in chilli miso and yuzu marinade, it is a standout dish where the main ingredient has been allowed to shine. You can slide a spoon straight through the centre. Sublime.
Next up is my favourite dish of the evening – a crisp, yet tender duck leg with dots of honey orange ponzu sauce and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds. Not only is the dish delicious but visually stunning as well. I will be coming back for this, for sure.
We are then treated to their signature chicken dish, where the chicken has been marinaded in miso for 2-3 days. This makes it soft and melty, without being too salty. It is served with chilli yogurt and daikon radish garnish.
We sample some greens – BBQ Huacatay broccoli with mint, chilli and coriander. It has been cooked on the robata grill to perfect al dente consistency and certainly packs a punch from the chilli!
At this point, despite being dangerously full, I ask to sample the lychee ceviche in tiger’s milk. It’s not something I have tried before and the lychee very cleverly mimics a scallop’s texture whilst swimming in the most beautifully fragrant broth. It’s good to see the same level of thought and care go into meat-free dishes; vegans will be very happy indeed.
My three-minute foray into veganism clearly has me feeling virtuous, as I ask to try one of the non-alcoholic cocktails. The “Dry Ikigai” is absolutely delicious – orange, mango, avocado, coriander and lime. The avocado provides a vegan-friendly creaminess; this would be the perfect drink with a spicy dish.
Our evening concludes with the theatrical “magical chocolate ball” – a perfect chocolate sphere melted by the most goopy and rich of dulce de leche sauces, revealing black sesame ice cream and red berry dust. A joy to watch and a pleasure to consume.
It is with some reluctance that I leave the comforting sounds, colours and flavours of the restaurant and step out into deserted Marylebone streets. I’ll have to settle for a return visit in the very near future.
26 Paddington St, London W1U 5QY
020 7058 4444