Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Sen Nin Upper Street review - Islington Japanese teppanyaki with MTV music


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Address: 206 Upper Street
London N1 1RQ
Tel: 0207 704 1890
Nearest Tube station: Highbury and Islington

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £35pp (50% discount off meal)
Service charge: 10%
Taste: ***
Service: ***
Ambience: ***
My first teppanyaki was a treat from a teacher bringing the class out for an outing. We were at a food court at Junction 8 in Bishan back home. As it was one of the first instances teppanyaki was brought into food courts, it was still a novelty.

Come to think of it, it must have been a harrowing experience for her. Just under twenty adolescent boys making a din over two huge tables with temperatures that could cook meat in seconds; with us balancing precariously on the high stools and attempts at slugging food at each other, it was a miracle that no one got hurt. I could still recall the look of resignation when the teacher footed the bill at the end of the meal. Small wonder that it was the last class meal we had together.

Unlike sushi, there's nothing subtle in teppanyaki, which literally means frying on a metal plate. After a minute or two of constant chopping and tossing on the hotplate with copious amounts of teppanyaki sauce, salt and sometimes sesame seeds, the taste and texture of meats and vegetables don't vary much. In short, it's more about the novelty of having your food cooked in front of you while you nurse your sake.

We popped by Sen Nin, the only Japanese restaurant that offers teppanyaki in Angel, the other day. In a way, Sen Nin had the look of what I imagined a teppanyaki bar should look like: dim lights with strategically placed spotlights trained on the three teppanyaki booths (or stations as Sen Nin calls it), and the bar just right next to them. The MTV music playing in the background with no Japanese staff in sight reminded me that I was still in London.

Sen Nin's menu seemed to be pushing for its Samurai Teppanyaki meal. At £42 pp (minimum of two persons), it comes with starter, rice, three meats of your choice and dessert. Currently there is a 50% discount on the meal. With that in mind, it would be a more worthwhile meal compared to its ala carte mains, which cost between £15 upwards for vegetarian options.

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As we had quite a heavy meal earlier, we went for something lighter instead. The tiger prawn tempura (£7.50 for six) though still a bit damp under the batter, was nevertheless lightly fried. At that price, it was a much better deal compared to Akari.

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Sen Nin's British prime steak (£19.50) came with rice, miso soup and stir fried vegetables. Perhaps I was spoilt by Akari's miso soup but Sen Nin's was like what we get from the run of the mill Japanese eateries. The stir fried vegetables was mainly bean sprouts with a blend of cucumber, carrots and cucumber with teppanyaki sauce. The beef at medium rare was suitably tender. If only it could be a bit warmer when it arrived.

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For something a little different compared to the usual Japanese fare, it might worth your while to check out Sen Nin for its teppanyaki stations. Unlike Matsuri, which setting is more open, Sen Nin's teppanyaki stations seat a maximum of ten diners each and the ambience is cosier as well.

Sen Nin Japanese Teppanyaki on Urbanspoon

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