When course one of eight arrives on a block of ice that’s bigger than a tub of Häagen-Dazs you know you’re in for a classy meal. And from its serene Soho courtyard location to its specialist subject – Japan’s most prized beef – Engawa is all sophistication.
The restaurant is tiny and the kitchen is tinier, which explains why there aren’t many choices on this menu. If you don’t like sushi, beef or sushi with beef you’re best choosing a different dinner spot, but that’s not to say these dishes are dull; I tried seafood I’d only ever seen in the cast of ‘Finding Nemo’ and every last blob, strip and slice of it was remarkable. It does mean that you have only split-testing type choices within a three-(£60), five- (£80) or eight-course (£100) menu, but don’t panic, because these guys know what they’re doing.
Kobe beef comes from cows that are allegedly fed beer and massaged daily, which sadly is probably an urban (or countryside?) myth, but whatever it is they do have going on in Kobe is working a treat. It’s meltingly tender, rich with marbling and gently but persistently beefy. As part of the Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu it helped make the world’s most glam beef stew; as a teeny pile of tartare it flaunted its delicate meatiness expertly and as a steak it was fatty and soft and savoury in so many right ways.
All this luxury comes at a high price, unsurprisingly. Beer is a lot more expensive than hay. But apart from the A-list ingredients what you’re paying for at Engawa is kitchen expertise and food that’s created with a standard of care we’re not used to in this city. The box of sashimi that was course four was exceptionally beautiful – a treasure chest of sea-sourced gems. While I will probably always favour a big bowl of comfort food than mainly tastes of cheddar over haute cuisine, if you’re looking to splash some cash on some Harrods food hall ingredients Engawa is a well-deserved recipient. And actually, all the best bits were on the £60 menu, so pick that one and hit the sake with your ‘savings’.
2 Ham Yard, W1D 7DT, 0207 287 5724
I ate as a guest of Engawa – very kind of them. Also, here is a photo of the steak: