Where is it: Ham Yard Village, Soho
What kind of food: Engawa’s USP is Kobe beef. Known as the caviar of beef, this tender and flavourful marbled meat is sourced from the Tajima breed of Wagyu cattle. As only 3,000 cows qualify annually as Kobe grade, it’s pretty rare.
Who goes: The intimate setting (29 covers) and out-of-the-ordinary cuisine make Engawa a hit with smartly-attired couples in search of a gastronomic experience that feels that bit extra special.
The Concept: Owned by The Salt Group (a behemoth of Japanese cuisine with over 45 restaurants across the globe) Engawa is the only restaurant in the UK to import the entire Kobe cow, meaning you can try the delicacy in the full spectrum of cuts, cooked using a variety of authentic Japanese techniques including shabu shabu (thinly sliced and boiled), sukiyaki-style (Japanese hot pot) and sashimi.
The interiors definitely have a Japanese feel, from the specially commissioned lighting featuring hand-stenciled calligraphy by Sisyu, to the open kitchen, where you can watch the master chefs at work.
There are three dinner options: Three courses (£60), Five courses (£80), Eight courses (£100). Which, when you consider that Kobe is the most expensive beef in the world, is actually not bad value.
We went with eight, naturally, which means you get to try the beef prepared every possible which way, from sashimi and sushi to griddled and slow-cooked. Highlights were the amuse bouche, that came on a block of ice the size of a brick; the Kobe Beef Yukhoe (finely chopped Kobe beef with dashi stock, garnished with grated yam and spring onion julienne); the Dashimaki with Kobe Beef Soup (Engawa style organic egg roll dressed with Kobe beef dashi stock and shaved truffle); the tempura of the day, and the beautifully presented seven-piece sashimi course, which included scallop, tuna, salmon and seabass.
Food this creatively delicate and full of flavour needs complementary beverages, which is why we opted for wine parings (you can also opt for sake pairings for a seriously authentic experience).
Hero Dishes: The Kobe Beef main dish changes daily, but sirloin is the one to choose if it’s on offer. The seven-piece sushi plate served on a wooden stage, plus the cheesecake with green tea and white chocolate dipping sauce deserve a special mention too.
Star cocktail: We started the evening with an Engawa cocktail – a fresh combo of Crystal Head Vodka, green tea, sugar, lime and elderflower liqueur. As delicious as it sounds.
Anything else: The lunch menu offers bento boxes and set menus for a resonable £20 per head. But really, this is a reastaurant to bring your other half to for a special occasion.