Monday, 15 June 2009



Stunned and a teeny bit disoriented is how I feel whenever I’m greeted with a torrent (or tsunami) of the above. Everybody who’s anybody that is connected with the restaurant and including I daresay the dishwasher and the Lucky Cat prop, greets or rather shouts welcome in Japanese to anyone who steps in the restaurant. I know I should be used to this by now, but by all accounts I’m an anomic sod; a little embarrassment will always proceed after the ‘welcome’. That said, this kind of practice could also be interpreted as a good sign of genuineness from a Japanese restaurant. Oh, lest I forget, it’s best to acknowledge the welcome by at least saying something instead of being shocked and silent, I sort of make do with a Ray Winstone reply of ‘Alright mate’, that’s good enough in my books.

Chisou is located within the nightmarish environs of Oxford Circus but thankfully it’s also an ideal place to regain a bit of sanity back from the madding crowd of shoppers. Chisou is one my daughter’s favourite restaurants, like myself at Lantana, she feels most at ease here. As we’ve been coming here for years, sometimes I feel that to write a review on it would only encourage a biased post. If any of you is a regular of any restaurants, the resulting outcome is always positive, period. Thus this review could be considered as having very little or no prejudices against Chisou. Unlike the hardcore Japanese restaurants that exist purely for the Japanese only, ground floor dining is favoured over latent basements; Chisou doesn’t have anything to hide. Stereotypical Japanese screens gently partition the predominance of the light wood interiors and furniture. Now personally I find that the screens are responsible for the usual complaint of the lack of attention from the waitresses, at the best of times they can’t bloody well see you! Otherwise the service is as good as it gets and certainly better than most of the Korean restaurants I’ve been to in the area. The Japanese speaking Occidental (thank you MsMarmitelover) bloke who manages the place and has been for yonks, is gratifyingly competent and efficient.

Daughter and I only come here for lunch, the set lunches to be precise, and so no comment on either the a la carte or dinner menus. The set lunches at Chisou start from around a tenner to less than twenty quid. Wherever appropriate, they include a decent well-dressed salad, an appetiser of hijiki, pickles, miso soup, rice and an impossibly token end to the meal of half an orange. Skinflints, listen up, there’s no service charge at Chisou, please cough up accordingly!

The 'get you goings'

Daughter's undying order of Sushi Box
Endofliners, fear not, no blue fin here; just the ‘love of the common people’ variety, albeit raw.

Bloody crab sticks! One point docked Chisou!

The support acts
Can anbody seriously tell the difference between a miso soup like the one above and one from a decent brand packet. I certainly can't. It's all glutamates innit?

My undying order of grilled mackerel

Just lightly salted as I don't dig the teriyaki thing. The fish is consistently fat, sweet and sublimely juicy. Together with groupers, mackerels are my favourite fish.

Undying shared dish of mixed Tempura
I draw the short stick as always, prawns for her and veg for me.

The token
At least they took the trouble to present it well.

If honesty prevails, Chisou may not give either Dinings or Café Japan (Golders Green) sleepless nights but it’s still good enough to be tagged as a place offering good and honest traditional Japanese food. It has never failed us and we can only return the compliments by going back for more lunches as often as we can. With the exception of the crab sticks, I highly recommend Chisou without prejudices.

As soon you step out of the restaurant, a tidal wave of…

Arigatou gozaimasu!

…is hollered loudly. At this point, I’m no longer stunned but contentedly stuffed.

Soft shelled crab sushi
(past visit)

Nigri Set
(past visit)

4 Princes Street

London W1B 2LE


meemalee said...

Fab yummy-looking post but as a Japanese nerd I should point out two things:

1. You shouldn't really acknowledge Irasshaimase with more than a slight nod, it's not the done thing. You're certainly not expected to say anything and if you do, it will make the staff uncomfortable.

2. When the staff yell "Arigato" to you when you leave, you should say "Gochisosama" which roughly means "Cheers for a bang-up meal, guvnor".

Dehesa, Dehesa...

meemalee said...

Btw, has this blog always been called "bellaphoney" and I've been too thick to notice?

Or did you just rebrand yourself?

bellaphon said...

1. I'll just frown instead.
2. Can't pronuounce that, best stick to Ta!

Thank you anyhow.

3. How could anyone be possibly thicker than I am. As mentioned elsewhere, I'm a fruitcake with phoney intentions.

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Fantastic photos! And I trust your recommendation, seeing as you've eaten at most of the Japanese restaurants in London. I love grilled mackerel too, and will always order it over any other grilled fish.

meemalee said...

Yikes - thank you for not being offended at my first comment - I've just read it again and it makes me sound like a bit of a know-it-all dick - sorry!

See, I am thick :(

I've not really heard of Chisou before, but I do want to go to Dinings cos everyone (including you) makes it sounds so amazing.

I'm going to Taste and Dinings will be there, so I'll get some of the magic then I hope - albeit out of a paper plate in a field ...

Seriosuly though - didn't your blog just used to be called "bellaphon" and not "bellaphoney"?

bellaphon said...

HYL- Why thank you, however I do struggle with the rather antiquated cameras I have on loan from my customers, in fact they have to be returned at some point. My own camera is a 35mm Leica rangefinder, I'm permanently jurassic.
BTW, I've been to Umu, the draft of the write-up was somewhat so riddled with hyperboles and tosh; it was swiftly abandoned. For a dinner there to cost a week's wages, it was all too unjustified.

meemalee- Looking forward to your TofL review. Dinings' weekday set lunches are not to be missed as well.
I was tempted to rename my blog 'meemaleed', you've been spared!