11 Wardour St
London W1D 6PG
Telephone: 020 7734 0808
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Average price per person: £10 (including non alcoholic drinks)
London’s China Town is a veritable treasure trove of restaurants to be discovered. Whether is along Gerrard street, between the red arches or a little side street, you can guarantee that there’s a restaurant which will be packed with people. One of these places which we’ve recently discovered for ourselves (and the rest of the Oriental student population in London) is Misato.
Wandering around China Town is an experience in itself, especially on the weekends around meal times. At these times, its as if the local Brit-Chinese population as well as tourists descend and fill these eateries to the brim. Misato is one of these inconspicuous places except for the queue of people outside. Each time her royal hag or myself have been passed it, there is ALWAYS a long queue of people outside. Finally one Sunday, her Royal hag and myself decided to make a date and see what the fuss was about. Her Royal hagness had a hair appointment at 1 pm so we felt that we could nip into Misato for a quick lunch, get the hair done and then off for a girlie afternoon of shopping. Well to paraphrase the old adage, you know what happens to the best laid plans. We arrived in central London around 11 am (would have been earlier if the Man had given proper instructions as we were driving) and almost all restaurants/cafes around China Town were closed. At this early hour, an injection of caffeine was required so we scoured a place near Misato for the required dose and ended up at Penang Kopi Tiam, just a few doors down. A simple coffee turned into coffees and a few starters as we were starving (review forthcoming). Much restraint was required to stop us having a meal right then but we persevered and saved ourselves for the impending Japanese feast. And it was damned good thing that we did too, as it will be come apparently later.
At about 11.55 am we made our way over to Misato and to our surprise, a queue had already formed outside Misato. The place wasn’t even opened yet and yet the groupies had descended. So we dutifully waited in line in bewilderment (can’t remember when I had to queue before opening time to get into a restaurant!) to see what the deal was. When the doors finally opened, the crowd swept us into the restaurant and in about 10 minutes, another queue had already formed for the full restaurant.
Thanks to our earlier “snacks”, the appetites of Her Royal Hagness and myself were a little subdued but never fear, the Man’s was raging a storm. We sat there for a while waiting for the countless waitresses milling around to get us the menus but after a few minutes, it was apparent that you had to help yourselves. The menu itself had quite basic Japanese fare – nothing too unexpected. The starters selection consisted of the usual suspects – sashimi, sushi, tempura etc. The mains selection is quite large with a large selection of bento boxes (pork, beef, chicken and salmon) mostly priced at around £9 whilst the noodles selection was a little more limited and priced around £5-7 per bowl. Also available are the set meals (mostly around £5-7) for the mains, a miso soup and a small serve of Japanese pickles. Being newbies at this place, Her Royal Hagness and myself settled for a noodle dish. The Man, slowly being eaten alive with gastric juices, had to go for the “larger” meal selection and chose the pork ginger bento box. For liquid nourishment, all of us selected a Japanese yoghurt drink, Calpico or also know as Calpis (cow piss, as the man calls it).
The other restaurant patrons who had ordered before us were tucking into their meals with great relish. As we looked around, we realised the enormity of the potion sizes – giant plates with American portions of Japanese fare were being devoured and suddenly her Royal Hag and myself were a little scared. Firstly, I’m all for value for money but then again, I also hate having to waste food. Our meals arrived shortly and both hags breathed a little easier. Both of us had ordered noodle dishes and although they were a good size, they weren’t in the same gigantic proportions as the set meals. The sweet bean curd with ramen was the preferred choice for the day of her Royal Hagness and met with the royal approval. The soup was quite well flavoured and very tasty.
My selection of the day was Ten Zaru Udon – cold udon noodles served with a portion of tempura prawns and vegetables with the dipping sauce. The tempura was crisp and tasty, if a little average. The perfect tempura batter is hard to perfect but at a Japanese equivalent of a greasy spoon, its not with quibbling about.
The Man’s bento box was a pretty good sized portion and definitely one for the larger appetite. The pork with the ginger sauce was very well done and the large portion of rice was more than adequate to accompany the lovely salty, ginger sauce.
Although we started out hungry, all of us struggled to finish our meals. The Man (aka the vacuum) had to urge us on to finish our food. Her Royal Hagness, whose eyes had almost rolled backwards as she reached maximum capacity made a great effort whilst the Man had to take shallow breaths. In less than an hour after we were seated, all of us managed to get a huge meal, which we thoroughly enjoyed and didn’t break the bank. One can see why this is a favourite haunt of students – the larger than average very tasty portions, combined with good value for money is certainly something worth queuing up for, if you got the time.
MISATO - Update (Posted on 24th May, 2005)
Yay!!! We’re on holiday!!! We revisited Misato on a Monday and hence had no trouble accruing a table. One thing I noticed with this restaurant is the lack of friendliness. Normally upon hitting a Japanese restaurant you’re met by ultra-friendly waitresses, bowing and smiling constantly welcoming you. No such thing here. Sullen faces and a look of boredom etched on every face. I asked where the toilet was and one waitress waved lethargically in some vague direction. The day had not even started yet.
No matter, we were here for the food. The prince consort had heard good things about this place and was looking for a challenge. He ordered the chicken katsu curry (£7.40) and I ordered the sashmi set (£7.90). As we were being entertained by Japanese jazz blasting over the speakers, our miso soup, pickles and seaweed with soybean came. A nice warm-up to the main.
I think I’ve told him so much about the enormity of the portions here, that he was a little blasé when his dish came. He attacked it with relish ignoring pleas to slow down and not eat too much rice. He palmed one chicken cultet off to me. The curry sauce is sweetish…which of course is how it’s meant to be. Nice when combined with the red prickles they provide. One cutlet was enough for me…let alone five. They also provided a generous portion of salad, on the side.
My sashmi platter came with 6 pieces of thick salmon, 2 slices of tuna and 2 slices of swordfish. The fish was of average quality only…but certainly nothing to quibble over given the price. It also came with a large bowl of rice.
We kept on checking nearby patons wondering if they could finish their sumo-sized set meals. There must be a lot of wastage, commented the prince consort wisely. A lot of ladies were eating and seemed to be wisely eating the meat or fish, hardly touching the rice. The rice can only be described as boulder-sinkers. It weighs in your tummy like cement, threatening to arrest the passage of the rest of the food.
The prince consort was in direct competition with a skinny diner next to us. The skinny man had ordered a similar dish but his was laden with deep fried balls of meat or some such. We were convinced there was no way he could finish it. One blink later, he was half-way through. Before seeing this, the prince consort turned a pinkish hue and proclaimed he was truly done. Nothing else would pass his lips. Upon visualising the skinny man’s prowess however, the prince consort was spurred on, not to be beaten. He plugged on through the dish, only peeling off the deep-fried crust on the last chicken and hiding it under a pile of salad. He had won. But at what price to his waist-line? I could only shake my head and tsk tsk.
Good value for money. We only paid £16 for the both of us and this included drinks. Go there if you’re super hungry and don’t mind being served by bored unanimated waitresses. The food there ain’t the best, but the size more than makes up for it.
Wanna see more restaurant reviews by us?