On a previous trip to the Ham Yard near Piccadilly Circus for afternoon tea at the Ham Yard Hotel (see review), I saw this Engawa, a Japanese restaurant that specialises in Kobe beef, just opposite the hotel. My friend remarked that he’d heard from his friends that their bento sets were really good, so I made a mental note to try it the next time.
A couple months on, I finally had the chance. I’d checked out TripAdvisor for reviews and they were all really good. Excited, I turned up on a Saturday afternoon, eager to try their bentos. It’s a pretty small outfit and I hadn’t made reservations, so we ended up having to sit outside. The small rounded tables were more for sitting down to have a drink, rather than for having lunch. And the floor outside was sloped at an angle, making me worry that the cups and food would slide off the table and crash onto the floor. Fortunately that didn’t happen and the weather was nice enough to sit outside, so we didn’t complain.
Their lunch menu includes 2 choices for their bento sets. There is a £30 option and a £40 one, both featuring Kobe beef. We decided on the £30 set which consists of 11 dishes, a bowl of mushroom rice and a small cup of miso soup.
The presentation was good, with the small dishes each coming in a pretty little dish and arranged neatly in a covered box. The waitress will place the box in front of you before removing the cover. It achieves the visual impact when you see all the food together for the first time.
Sadly though, we were not impressed with the taste of the food. While good, it didn’t wow. And it was certainly not worth the £30++ price tag which came up to £33.75 per person.
The first dish was regular stewed potatoes with carrots, onion and some meat (not sure if that was Kobe beef). Although the dish was nice, I’m quite sure I could cook something like that with some store-bought Japanese sauce.
Their Kobe beef (third row, second from left), in particular, was actually the biggest disappointment. It was covered in a starchy sauce reminiscent of crappy Chinese food and it didn’t have much taste or flavour.
The stewed beef (first row, second from left) was much better. Stewing had concentrated the flavours in the sauce and the sweetness of the stew complemented the beef well. I think the stew perhaps made use of beef tendon as the texture did not resemble muscle meat. They really need to do a better job of explaining each individual dish! They breeze through each one so quickly since they probably have to repeat themselves many times a day whenever someone orders it. I don’t even know what is in it except that it’s a “beef stew”.
The fried dishes were fortunately crispy and still warm, so at least I knew they were freshly prepared. While the vegetarian spring roll was surprisingly good, I wasn’t too impressed with the breaded chicken as the chicken breast was too dry and tasted like cardboard.
I also enjoyed the fried potato salad (third row, first from left) which was more Western. The sharp vinegar went very well with the potatoes.
You see the orange again in the form of a zest sprinkled on top of the mushroom rice. I thought the rice could do with a bit more mushroom taste as I couldn’t really make out any mushroom flavours. Again, I wish they had also been more generous with their portions as the amount of rice seems quite miserly!
In summary, we both didn’t feel like the food was worth the £33.75 price tag and I doubt we will ever come back again.