All you foodies out there, do you agree with me that stumbling across a good restaurant at random gives you one of the best feelings ever? The other day over the weekend, we decided to take a walk outside while the nice weather lasted. We walked towards Notting Hill and started weaving through the streets once we took a turn into the Portobello Market area. Somehow we wandered off towards Bayswater / Queensway direction, and that’s when we came across Izakaya.
Izakaya is a Japanese restaurant – something that’s close to home for me. Secondly, I spotted a halal sign at their door and menu! Immediately the other half stopped too and we were looking at their menu at the door. The next minute, we were both seated at one of their tables and in full dilemma on what to order.
Their menu mostly includes a range of classic Japanese snacks, sushi & sashimi, rice bowls & bentos, as well as Japanese grills. In terms of pricing, there are many options within the standard London price range. But they also offer dishes on the more luxurious end. For instance the Mixed Seafood Grilled Platter (including, lobster, tiger prawns, scallop, Alaskan king crab legs), Grilled Lobster with Caviar, Wagyu Beef, Chilean Seabss, Foie Gras Rice, etc – these are apparently more on the pricier end but still fairly reasonable in my opinion.
After a long read of the menu, we decided to keep it simple – just some snacks and a main dish for each.
Takoyaki, as explained in an old post about Carnaby Street Eat, is fried wheat balls filled with diced octopus. They are topped with mayo, brown sauce, aonori seaweed and bonito flakes.
I was so amused seeing the other half’s reaction when he saw the bonito flakes ‘dancing’ on the dish. He was absolutely mesmerized by the movement. Upon being placed on hot food, the heat waves cause the thin and light flakes to move about, giving it a special aesthetic look. Oh how I remember I freaked out as a kid when I first encountered a Japanese dish with bonito flakes. I don’t remember what dish it was but I remember myself screaming and trying to distance myself as much as I can from that dish haha.
Anyway, these octopus balls are definitely a delight. They are fried to a gorgeous golden colour and very crispy on the outside. As you bite into it, the inside reveals a steaming hot and soft texture. It’s soft yet firm where it wouldn’t fall apart easily after taking a bite. Each ball contains a little piece of diced octopus. The size of octopus included in each ball was consistent. It was a taste close to home for me, and I was more surprised seeing the other half absolutely loving it!
Tori Karaage £5.80
‘Karaage’ means deep fried in oil and ‘Tori’ means chicken. Putting two and two together, this is a Fried Chicken dish. The fried chicken are cut into pieces and fried to a beautiful golden colour. They’re served with a wedge of lemon and drizzled with teriyaki sauce.
I’ve always find it so interesting how fried chicken from different countries create such different but equally delicious flavours. These Japanese fried chicken carries a lighter flavour – light but still flavourful. It was crispy on the outside and the meat was tender. Only thing I would criticize is that it’s not particularly succulent.
Eel Fried Rice £9.80
I’ve always loved grilled eel. It’s my favourite thing to order at Japanese restaurants. However it’s often relatively pricey so my parents always say no to it. As far as I know, typically grilled eel is served as a sushi topping or in donburi (rice bowl). I would’ve gone for my familiar pick of Unagi Donburi (Grilled Eel Rice Bowl) but since it’s normally served with a large piece of eel, it’s pricier. Hence I opted for the Eel Fried Rice, which is the cheaper option.
The fried rice is very nicely presented onto the table. The fried rice is shaped into a nice round dome shape at the centre of the dish, with a piece of grilled eel on top that’s drizzled with teriyaki sauce. Japanese rice is used in the fried rice, which is short-grain and more starchy. In contrast to typical Chinese or Southeast Asian fried rice, Japanese fried rice carries a hint of sweetness. As for the grilled eel, it was such a pleasant. It was saucy and flakey, and hits straight at me with nostalgia. I cleaned the plate with such a huge smile on my face.
Spicy Ramen £9.80
So the other half decided to go for ramen. He chose the noodles in spicy soup base that’s served with stir fry beef, fish cake, nitamago egg, vegetable & bamboo shoots. The spice in the broth is quite mild. As opposed to ramen from a proper ramen house, the broth was really light. It was in overall nice and okay but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re seeking for actual proper Japanese ramen.
To sum it up, C & R Izakaya is an absolutely delightful find. It always excites me when I find a halal Far East restaurant. And this place is a bonus as it’s actually good! The owner of the restaurant is not muslim but is serving halal simply because they have a halal supplier nearby. Additionally, serving halal also expands your customer base as it is more open to people from different backgrounds. In that sense, I feel that restaurants these days should definitely get into it as there’s a huge market here to tap into! Anyway, we’re definitely going to return at some point to enjoy some of the grills for some celebratory occasion. And if you’re around the area, definitely check this restaurant out!
My Rating: 3.7/5
A lovely find in the area!
Halal Status: Halal
Address: 52 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5SH
Closest Underground Station: Queensway / Bayswater