Drink & Dine

Review: Chotto Matte – Brilliant Japanese/Peruvian fusion food let down by poor service

Chotto Matte first came to my attention via the Nudge due to the £35 sushi tasting menu. Seriously, £35 for sushi made by a chef who used to make the stuff for the Emperor of Japan?! Bargain! However, it seems that was an intro special as the tasting menu is now £40 or £45 and is more a Japanese Robata menu rather than pure sushi. That’s still a pretty solid deal for Frith St dining and the food turned out to be excellent. Sadly, the dining experience was overshadowed by the largely apathetic (and that’s putting it kindly) service we received. And that’s enough to make me think twice before ever going back, sadly.

Meeting friends?

The street level of Chotto Matte is a large bar area with plenty of seating and standing room. The bar itself is interesting with a cocktail list with intriguing concoctions and an emphasis on utilising herbs and spices. I tried a toasted cardamom Manhattan which was delicious with the earthy cardamom balancing the smoky whiskey and each sip finished with a hint of sweetness.

Alternatively, if you wish to avoid spending £10+ on a cocktail, head down the street to any number of pubs (the French House is a popular spot) and bars – you really are spoiled or choice here.

So tell me about this amazing food…

It was just that. Amazing (and yes I’ve got Penny from Happy Endings in my head now). The menu is a blend of Japanese and Peruvian dishes with several being great examples of well executed fusion cuisine.  We opted for the £45 tasting menu which included a trio of cold starters, hot mains of miso black cod and grilled lamb chops, a selection of sushi, and an array of desserts.

The highlights for me were the seafood ceviche, miso black cod (hard to go wrong with that), and the roast beef maki rolls (bear with me on this). The seafood ceviche (check it out below) was beautifully presented and contained shrimp, seabass, and scallops combined with sweet potato and crunchy toasted Peruvian corn. The end result is a mix of sweet succulent seafood that melts in your mouth balanced against the crunchy corn and tangy citrus sauce.

Mixed seafood ceviche

Mixed seafood ceviche

Next, we had the miso black cod which is usually a winner and here it didn’t disappoint. The flaky flesh was perfectly cooked with a light sear on the outside and a moreish miso sauce with just a hint of heat. My only complaint is that the piece was far too small – but then again for a £45 menu you can’t expect much more.

Seared miso black cod

Seared miso black cod

The roast beef maki rolls were topped with something approximating fine shoestring fries – essentially you have a tender roll contrasted against the crunchy topping. It served with soy sauce and a cumin cream which created a little bit of a problem. Both went well with the roll, but they didn’t pair well together so it was a bit of a dilemma of choice when taking each piece.

It’s worth noting that the term tasting menu is a bit of a misnomer for the menu on offer here. Your dishes for the most part are designed to be shared between two people. The term “sharing menu” may be more appropriate to set expectations. Also, desserts are nominally chef’s choice but you’ll get one dessert per person from a selection of four. We had 7 people so we had 3 desserts had an encore and the smallest of all the desserts was the solo show – a bit strange and disappointing as that was the best one.  It was a peanut cream with peanut ice cream – delicious if you like peanut butter. The salted caramel chocolate fondant was also pretty damn good – I could have eaten a couple more of those easily.

…and how did the drinks match up?

The cocktails, as mentioned above, are excellent but I’d steer you towards the actual cocktails rather than your simpler drinks (ie a G&T) to get the full value of the intricate flavour combinations. Case in point, the cardamom G&T barely had any flavour of the spice whereas the Manhattan showcased it nicely.

The wine list is respectable with our two choices (a Riesling and a drier white) offering a good choice to the party while both pairing well with the food. However, there didn’t seem to be a sommelier or knowledgeable waiter around so it was just lucky that our group included an expert bartender.

The Riesling was delicious and I must have had half the bottle – sweet without being cloying with honeyed fruits, it matched the sweetness of the black cod while enhancing the spice notes in the roast beef maki.

Alright, it’s time. How was the service?

It was bad – plain and simple. In all fairness, there were a couple of staff that were good – the lovely girl who brought most of the food and offered to hunt down someone so we could order wine and a tall Asian waiter who went above and beyond to track down a credit card misplaced by the bar downstairs – but in general it was slack.

It started off poorly as we rocked up about 8pm (when our table was booked) and asked if we should go up or have a drink at the bar. We were reassured there was no rush and to have a drink – great! Then when we wanted to go to the table at 8.30, we were told it would be 10 minutes before it was ready. Wait a second, it should have been ready at 8 and no one (bar a couple of couples) has come in since then. What’s going on? Finally we asked again 15 minutes later and were told our table was ready – I wonder how much longer we would have waited if we hadn’t asked – and were escorted up after a minor issue with leaving our bags at the cloakroom (they had run out of claim tickets).

Our main waiter seemed almost put off by the fact we knew ahead of time we were getting the tasting menu and proceeded to disappear. The food arrived in clumps (3 dishes at a time) so we had barely started into the first course when courses 2 & 3 arrived. It was a good thing they were all cold starters but this was unlike any tasting menu I’ve had. The general feeling was one of being rushed to wait as there was a long (c15-20 minutes) pause between courses 3 and 4. By this time, we finally managed to get a wine order in and flag someone down for tap water.

The pile of mess that accumulated on our table during the meal

The pile of mess that accumulated on our table during the meal

The rest of the night was more of the same (I’d rather not detail out everything – it seems petty and makes me sad) but it’s worth noting just one more point. The host at the front door a) refused to look up from the computer screen when we were inquiring about the wait for the table and b) huffed at us when we asked if we could get our bags and coats at the end of the night. To put it into context, when the member of your group who works in the hospitality trade and has the greatest patience for potential service issues gets pissed off, you know the restaurant has really dropped the ball.

Worth the dosh?

On a strictly food basis, Chotto Matte is great value for money. However, if the question is would I go back, I’d be torn. Actually no, no I wouldn’t – there are just too many excellent places to eat already in London to justify giving it the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry Chotto Matte, your chef rules and his food is epic but the level of service we received from the staff (barring the bright sparks mentioned above) was just terrible.

Find Chotto Matte here

11-13 Frith Street
London, W1D 4RB

0207 042 7171


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