What I am about to write is going to really annoy you. I am about to tell you that I ate one of the best meals I have had this year at The Loft Project in Hackney courtesy of Murakami Kinoshita and Nuno Mendes. The really annoying part is that you can’t experience this meal yourself as Kinoshita was only at The Loft Project for two days and is now returning to his restaurant which is all the way at the other side of the world in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Freshly shucked oyster topped with salmon caviar
Having just got back from my holiday to Brazil I was excited to be invited to sample Kinoshita’s cooking along with The London Foodie and a handful of other lucky guests. While in Brazil I had experienced the quality and sheer number of Japanese restaurants thanks to Brazil having the largest Japanese population outside Japan so I knew we would be in for a treat.
The Loft Project itself used to be Mendes flat and is a soaring space with only one, long table which sits 16 guests. From the table there was a great view of the open kitchen where we could watch Kinoshita, Mendes and their team calmly and methodically preparing the food. And wow, what superb food it was.
Kinoshita serving the food to our table at The Loft Project
Kinoshita describes his cooking as kappo cuisine, an elaborate presentation made by the chef interacting directly with the customers in the preparation of the dishes. His food is elegant, pared back and a complete knockout. It is cutting edge Japanese cooking with varied influences from Meditteranean ingredients such as olive oil to Brazillian produce such as okra. He described his approach to me as “less is more”. To start, a creamy oyster topped with salmon caviar and paired with a lime stuffed with enoki mushrooms dressed with soya sauce. Typically of Kinoshita’s approach the ingredients were simple but each sourced carefully to the extent that he uses his own “vintage” soya sauce which was softer and less salty than your standard fare. To follow, a tomato was dressed with chilli and salt and then fried and teamed with Japanese egg plant and creamy mozzarella which Kinoshita dubbed “hiyayako cheese” as he prepared it in the style of hiyayako tofu.
Tomato and aubergine
The stand out dishes in a meal full of stylishly plated and sensationally flavoursome food were the mackerel and the green beans. For the mackerel, slices of sashimi grade mackerel and sea bass were served with a tiny ball of sushi rice and drizzled with Kinoshita’s vintage soya sauce. The fish was silky but meaty while the rice was a revelation. “See the rice, each grain is touching” said Kinoshita as he served the dish and grinned, “Maybe this rice can change your life.”
Mackerel and Sea Bass, the “rice to change your life” is underneath the fish
The other highlight was the green beans which were fresh, crisp and topped with a tender prawn. The magic though was in the accompanying sauce which was a miso sauce topped with a raw quails egg yolk. When the egg was mixed into the sauce it created an incredibly light sauce but with amazing depth. It was brilliant stuff.
It was not all seafood with Kinoshita also wowing the carnivores amongst us with a tartare of wagyu beef from Australia mixed with flecks of jamon and topped with a jaunty cap of wilted spinach. Kinoshita’s soba noodles were also utterly transfixing, topped with dried daikon and okra the dashi stock was rich and moreish.
Dessert of yoghurt, diced pineapple and lime sorbet
From this incredible parade of dishes the only one to disappoint me was the dessert of yoghurt, diced pineapple and a lime sorbet. I felt the dish was to bitter and needed more sweetness to balance out the yoghurt and sorbet. However, this was the only misstep in what was a truly incredible meal which culminated with Kinoshita, who is a talented singer breaking into song post service. It was a spectacular meal and made me want to hop on the first plane back to Brazil to eat at Kinoshita’s restaurant proper. For Kinoshita, truly less is more and more and more.
Kinoshita about to break into song, post service
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Kinoshita.
Details: The Loft Project, 2A Quebec Wharf, 315 Kingsland road, Shoreditch E84DJ (Ph 07794 550 413) Overground: Haggerston
Damage: Budget Breaking. Although on this occasion I did not pay.
If you are lucky enough to be reading Gourmet Chick from Brazil you can find Restaurant Kinoshita at Vila Nova Conceicao, 405 Rua Jacques Felix, Sao Paolo, Brazil (Ph +55 11 3849 6940).
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my reviews of some of London’s top Japanese restaurants Koya and Roka.
You might have noticed the photography on display here is considerably superior to the usual fare on Gourmet Chick. This is because I was sitting next to a professional photographer Ana Rojas who kindly sent me her photographs. All photographs except for the final two are Ana’s.