I’ve been a mild Japanophile since I was a teenager. The best games of the time came from Japan; you had to import them at extortionate prices. As such we pored over every detail and absorbed a lot of Japanese along the way. I took a Japanese module at university to bolster this further, reading James Clavell’s Asian Saga along the way. I’ve always dreamed of going to Japan some day.
It’s against this backdrop I gleefully accepted an invitation to Matsuri St James in the heart of London’s Mayfair. Established in 1993 as a joint venture between the Kikkoman soy sauce manufacturer and a Japanese rail company, Matsuri was among the first restaurant in the country offering tableside teppan-yaki, food freshly cooked on a hotplate.
With a glut of other food writers we were treated to an excellent four course meal. We sampled sushi first, as the sushi chef prepared identical nigiri at astonishing speed. He told me the first month of his training was entirely spent measuring out 15g portions of rice repeatedly, so he is now blindingly accurate. The sushi itself was just as you expect, subtle, refined and clean-tasting. This was followed by crisp and light Tempura vegetables, with an umami-rich dipping sauce flavoured with daikon.
And then the teppan-yaki mains. And what mains they were. The ginger-scented black cod was delicate in texture but dynamite in flavour, packing an awful lot into the innocent looking portion. If you go, make sure you try this one.
An enormous steak arrived next, angry dark meat picked out by creamy yellow fat. After searing on one side the chef flipped it and CAKED it in sea salt. After a few minutes more he scraped the salt off having done it’s job, and sliced the now rare-cooked meat and served it immediately. This is where teppan-yaki works; if you’d simply been served some slices of meat you would’ve missed the spectacle of an enormous hunk of beef being served. The steak itself was excellent, served with a garlic fried rice.
The meal finished with a bafflingly underthought ice cream, crepes and pineapple, flambéed for no other reason than to make people go “ooooh” when the Grand Marnier flames licked the ceiling.
The meal was sensational. Really good ingredients treated with respect. I’d love to return but the pricing is so far out of my bracket a visit would have to be very special indeed.
As a tribute, I cooked a Japanese meal for some friends. We started with sushi…
Followed by tempura veg…
But the recipe I really wanted to share with you is my interpretation of the steak ‘n’ rice dish. A humble piece of ribeye steak (my favourite cut) cooked sous-vide (not essential but the way I like it; if you don’t have one of these contraptions you can cook your steak the way you prefer) in Kikkoman’s teriyaki sauce and egg fried rice cooked with plenty of garlic and vegetables. It’s not quite the same as a visit to Matsuri St James… but it’s a darn fine dinner.
- 1 250g ribeye steak
- 100ml Kikkoman's teriyaki sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 bundle asparagus, sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 mugful cooked rice, cooled
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Sea salt
- Sous-vide the steak with 70ml teriyaki sauce at 60C for 1 hour. Put aside until ready to cook.
- Get a wok and a frying pan over a very high heat. Put a splash of oil in the wok and add the garlic and sugar. After just a few seconds add the onion, carrot and asparagus and stir fry for 3 - 4 minutes until starting to go tender. Add the rice and continue to stir fry until warmed through.
- In the other frying pan sear the steak for 60 seconds on each side, adding half the remaining teriyaki sauce to the pan at the end to glaze. Remove to a board then slice into thick fingers.
- Add the egg and last of the teriyaki to the rice and stir for another 60 seconds. Spoon into bowls and serve with the steak slices on top. Sprinkle a little sea salt on the exposed flesh of the beef.