A year after opening their first restaurant in Leyton, Bamboo Mat chef-owners Denis Gobjila (ex Chotto Matte) and Victor Rosca (ex Sushisamba and Lucky Cat) have just opened a much larger second site with a fabulous sunny terrace in Stratford, East London.
The restaurants serve Nikkei cuisine, that is, Peruvian-Japanese fusion. This is not fusion as dreamed up by a marketing team but fusion that has developed organically since the late 1800s, when a wave of Japanese immigrants into South America found themselves having to use local ingredients to recreate their traditional dishes.
The clean simplicity of Japanese cuisine and the fiery exuberance of Peruvian food may not be the most obvious match, but it really works. This beautifully presented Hamachi Tiradito is a yellowtail kingfish ceviche with yuzu truffle soy, enlivened by vibrant coral dots of aji amarillo (a spicy Peruvian pepper sauce) and garnished with chopped chives,
Another good example of this happy marriage is this meticulously-sliced sea bass ceviche with a delicious sweet-sharp passion fruit & mango tiger's milk, sweet potato, red onion and chanca corn - a Peruvian corn that doesn't puff up like popcorn but is light and crispy.
This was the standout dish for me; lamb chops, marinated in anticucho sauce (basically a marinade/sauce used in Peruvian barbecues, usually with beef) with coriander and bright pools of chilli sauce. The lamb was cooked to a perfect gentle blush, and so succulent and juicy; just made to be picked up by one of those invitingly frenched bones, wiped through the sauce, dipped in chilli and devoured.
Padron peppers, in a tangy mango miso and topped with crispy bubu arare rice, work well as a stand-alone snack or as a side to balance the sweetness of the lamb.
Sushi, as you would expect in Nikkei cuisine, is more showy than sedate. The Bamboo Mat house-blended soy, which has an umami boost from bonito, accompanies these generously-topped maki of salmon, sea bass, cucumber, asparagus and avocado. The dish is called 'Vulcano' as it is seared tableside with a chef's blowtorch. Lacking the romance of a tableside flambé, I'm yet to be convinced that this more utilitarian technique isn't best left in the kitchen, but it does add an interesting smoky flavour.
The dessert, a creamy yuzu cheesecake with jam and berries, was not too sweet and an ideal end to a wonderfully fresh and fiery meal. Sitting on their sunny terrace watching the world go by, life felt pretty good.
They even have a private dining room, should you have a business or social event coming up. Interestingly, over the course of my lunch my fellow diners ranged from dates and young families to friends meeting up and solo diners. If you are in the area - or near their original site in Leyton - I thoroughly recommend a visit.
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Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
Amanda David is a freelance food writer specialising in London’s restaurants, bars, exhibitions and events. She is the Events Editor and a contributing writer
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