Healthy Competition 

A colleague of mine, who has also visited Japan, recently said that he had found better versions of all of his favourite Japense dishes here in London. I was initially shocked by this, thinking of all the delicious food I enjoyed in Tokyo and Kyoto. I quizzed him a little further and he admitted that sushi was certainly an exception. I mentioned that in the case of okonomiyaki, although my visit to Abeno came close, it was not  better than in Japan. His response to this was to ask if I had sampled the okonomiyaki in Brixton Market at Okan. Just like that, I was already planning my visit.

I live half an hours’ walk from the market, so there was no excuse. I waited for a lovely sunny day and made the short trip. Before going in to the restaurant I stopped by Federation for a hot chocolate. This gave me time to soak up the market atmosphere. It is an interesting mix of trendy, hipster cafes and restaurants, alongside art and craft shops and traditional fresh produce stands. Throw in street food from around the world and it becomes pretty exciting. I have been to Borough Market a few times, but that is quite a different vibe. Here in Brixton you can wander the shops without feeling trapped amongst hundreds (if not thousands) of tourists. The smells drifting through the place are quite tempting.

Okan is in the main market area under the covered roof on ‘2nd Avenue’. Take the time to explore a bit before you go in. The restaurant itself is small, given that it is based in a market. Inside is rustic with Japanese signs and lanterns adorning the walls.


The menu is simple street food: Okonomiyaki, Yaki Soba and Yaki Udon. I went for the lunch time deal, the okonomiyaki of the day (pork), miso soup and an edamame salad (£7.50). My boyfriend had the pork Yaki Soba (£7.85), but of course sampled a fair amount of my miso and salad. I got my own back by having some of his noodle dish. It had a delicate aromatic flavour, especially when eaten with the kimchi (pickles). Both dishes were sprinkled with bonito (fish) flakes. I really loved the plate the okonomiyaki was served on. The ‘pancake’ itself was a good size and thickness, with the thinly sliced pork grilled on the bottom. I enjoyed it, even if it could have handled a little more sauce, and thought the meal was very good value. Service was fast and friendly. It’s a fantastic place to stop off for a quick lunch, and is great value for money.

The big question is, was it better than the okonomiyaki I had in Japan? Sorry, the answer is regrettably still no. It came close, and was better than Abeno given the price and atmosphere. Having sampled the Yaki Soba, I am keen to go back for a whole plate. Perhaps I will have the Omu Soba instead (the same as above but wrapped in an omelette).

One reason we came up with, for better dishes in the UK, was the unfair advantage that we have produce imported from all of the world. Whilst some people promote the benefit of only eating food in season, few of us actually follow this rule. We are lucky enough to be able to enjoy fresh ingredients all year round. In Japan however, food is very much seasonal. The best is made of what is available. I believe this means we can throw everything at our (for example) ramen, making it just a little better. In my opinion there’s only one way to make this a fair competition…I’ll need to spend a year in Japan (I wish).


From the New to the Old

A little while ago I took a trip back to my home town. I travelled from London to the old capital of ancient England, Winchester. The city was first made a capital by King Alfred in 871. It remained important until the 12-13th century, when London became the capital. However, it remains beautiful and historic, with plenty to see and do. In fact, recently it was voted the best place to live in Britain.

I was lucky enough to grow up nearby, and go to school in the city. I always enjoy popping back for a weekend and wandering down the sleepy high street. The featured photo was taken in the Cathedral grounds a few summers ago. It’s shows one of a few bronze monuments to the soldiers of WWI.

Anyway, back to our main topic of interest before I get too distracted by history. A short side note. If you do visit Winchester be sure to see the following:

Ok. Now I’m done. I’m sure the tourism board will thank me for my shameless plug.

Rather than eat in a Japanese restaurant and not tell you about it, I thought I’d find a tenuous link to my blog’s title ‘Capital of the Rising Sun’; I think it’s allowed. My boyfriend and I have had a £50 voucher for this restaurant for well over a year. So it was about time that we found ourselves in Kyoto Kitchen.

On previous visits here we found that the best dishes are the starters and sushi. The mains are average and a little pricey. So with our voucher we decided to have a selection of small dishes. This included: Chicken Gyoza (£6.95), Vegatable Gyoza (£5.95), Torikara Age (£6.95), Ebi Tempura (£8.50), Ika No Pirikara Age (£6.95), Salmon Avocado roll (£7.95), and the Futo California roll (£11.95).

Both the varieties of gyoza were delicious, served with a smoky mirin based sauce. The Torikara Age (Fried Chicken with sweet chilli sauce) was succulent and moreish. It was probably my favourite starter.

Ebi Tempura (lightly battered king prawns) is a bit of classic. This dish had large, juicy, perfectly good prawns. Ika No Pirikara Age (Spicy deep fried squid) came as a large portion but unfortunately lacked flavour. I would have preferred larger pieces of squid with more seasoning.

The sushi was nicely presented. The Futo California roll which is filled with cucumber, avacado and crab was a little dry. However the salmon roll was very tasty. Top tip with sushi. Don’t forget to add the wasabi paste to your soy sauce. You can add as little or as much as you like to get the spice just right.

Until reasonably recently, I used to put the slices of ginger on top of my sushi and eat it all together. However, I have been informed that you should eat the ginger on its own between pieces. This acts as a palette cleanser.

I enjoyed my meal with a slightly unique gin and tonic. The gin used was Scotish made ‘Jinzu’. It is a British gin with Japanese citrus yuzu and cherry blossom. It was severed with a slice of apple and fever tree tonic, and was very refreshing. I will be on the lookout for a bottle myself.

All in all the meal was pleasant, and the atmosphere calm and welcoming. We look forward to going back.