“Hey, there’s a new Japanese eatery at Bishopsgate,” a friend told me excitedly the other day, “and they have curry katsu as well!”. There is this eternal fascination with Japanese curry katsu. Ask anyone to name the first Japanese dish that comes to their mind, I’m sure the humble curry katsu would be just behind the much loved sushi. It’s almost like dim sum to the Chinese cuisine.
“It’s at 201 Bishopsgate,” she replied when I asked for its location. Wait a minute, isn’t that the ugly looking metallic office building that came up not too long ago? She insisted that Tsuru has opened up another branch in the building. I found out later that Tsuru is hidden away from Bishopsgate and is in between two halves of 201 Bishopsgate under the gigantic slanted diagonal steel support. If you can’t find it, just walk around the entire building.
I’m just a bit curious about the choice of Tsuru’s location. Its first restaurant was hidden away behind (italics) Tate Modern and this time round, it is tucked behind 201 Bishopsgate’s huge metallic façade. But then again, there’s a lack of small eateries in the immediate vicinity. Tsuru is well positioned to capture the crowd heading towards Liverpool Street station’s Moshi Moshi and Spitalfields Market.
We stepped into Tsuru at around 8pm on that day. There were only two other tables occupied – one by a group of four who were feasting over sake and plates of sushi and the other by two ladies who looked more at home touring Tower of London than in the heart of Bishopgate.
The food arrived after what felt like a long wait to me. Perhaps it was the uncomfortable high stools that we were perching on but the cranes origami extended from the ceiling did distract me from my growling stomach.
Agadashi tofu (£4.10) was the first to arrive. Wife quickly pointed out that it was the soft tofu and not beancurd served at Crane & Tortoise. The tofu was thinly battered and was a bit better than the one served at Tokyo Diner.
Chicken karaage (£4.25) was up next. Though I’ve tasted worse, Tsuru’s chicken karaage was average at best. I thought that it should have been dripped dry before being served as there were already oily patches on plate that it was presented on when brought to the table.
The tonkatsu (pork) curry (£7.95) came soon after. The deep fried battered pork was done quite well and the short grain rice wasn’t mushy at all. However, the thinly shredded cabbage, which added the extra crunch to the dish, could come with a bigger portion.
That said, it was quite clear that the curry is not prepared from those instant curry powder (yes, I am referring to Wagamama) where you can actually taste the fine powder within. Tsuru’s curry is boiled for over 8 hours (according to its website) and served with potatoes and onions, just the way I like it.
The green tea mochi ice-cream was an afterthought really. We just didn’t want to be out too soon as the wind was clearly building up outside. Though a bit tough, we agreed that the sesame paste in one of the mochi was really good. We cleaned up the dessert in under a minute, so much for an excuse to stay in.
Though Tsuru is not exceptional, it is nevertheless a convenient place for a cheap (better deals during lunches) and cheery Japanese meal in Bishopgate. One surprising thing is that despite Tsuru’s promotional efforts (see Tom’s review), not many people working in the vicinity know about the restaurant. These days, Tsuru is getting crowded during lunches. I suppose it’s relying on the good old word-by-mouth publicity.