*Tamashii is now closed – they were hoping to extend their pop up into a full operation, but it didn’t happen 🙁 *
Popping up in Kings Cross is Tamashii restaurant with their mix of Japanese, Chinese and Asian fusion. You will find it hidden down a side street between York Way and Caledonian Road, opposite the Premiere Inn. I was invited along with the Love Pop Ups London crew to eat and review!
*Full disclosure: my meal at Tamashii was free in return for this honest review*
When you walk in a large wall of containers screens the bar area from the rest of restaurant space, which was mostly closed off when we visited. Kings Cross has certainly come up a long way since my days as a student at UCL, however Tamashii seems to lack the atmosphere of some of the nearby restaurants and bars. This might be because the restaurant space is vast, so if you need to seat a large party, it’s ideal. For an intimate meal, it’s not so good and in fact I’d recommend bringing a crowd so you can share all the dishes!
There are some low tables in the bar area by the back wall and the red neon signs. The walls are covered with a collage of old posters, giving a vintage feel. We ate at a high table in the bar area for six and most other diners were seated in this area at the front of the restaurant also.
Much is made of the cocktails on their website, so naturally we had to check them out! I started with the Yuzu No-Groni and others tried the Geisha Girl and prosecco by the glass
I like the idea of pimping a negroni and this Yuzu version worked really well. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit, but not as sour as lemon and lime. The negroni was well balanced – still retaining the classic bitter notes of the drink. I’d try this again for sure!
When we got the main courses I switched to wine. The white wine by the glass was reasonable at £6 for the Sauvigon Blanc – which is very accessible. However this isn’t the place to go for fine wine, I’d recommend sticking to the cocktails – they all have a twist!
As we were being hosted, they served us family style, with lots of dishes in the middle of the table to share. We certainly got to taste a lot of the items on the menu (albeit not all of them!).
Loads of dishes came out to our table, so we were able to sample a lot of the starters on the menu.
Starting with the class Japanese ‘healthy’ snack of edamame. I love these steamed soya beans, so simple and so tasty and they go well with a beer too! Also shown above are the veggie gyoza dumplings and the Shichimi squid.
Also listed as small plates / sides
I think these Kushiyaki prawn lollipops were my favourite starter. You just squeeze over the lime and then pop the whole thing in your mouth. I took most of the chili off, would you eat the whole lot?! They were perfectly grilled – cooked to perfection and super tasty.
I didn’t get to try the Ebi Katsu or deep fried prawns as we only had three between 6! But I was assured by the others that they were good.
The presentation of the food at Tamashii is always considered, including these beautifully presented spring rolls.
Unfortunately I didn’t rate the spring rolls themselves. I’m not so keen on the veggie ones as they sometimes lack the flavour of the meat options. These I found a little disappointing in lack of filling and flavour, but also they were a tad soggy in the middle – so perhaps not fully cooked?
The veggie gyoza however were the complete opposite. These were perfectly cooked, with crispy bottoms, and filled with such a flavourful veggie filling that I didn’t realise they were veggie! The dipping sauce with herbs really complemented them too.
I always love some salt and pepper squid. I loved that they used baby squid in this dish – very tasty with green chili and vegetable garnish.
However I think the Shichimi chili squid might be my favourite. It certainly packed a punch in the flavour and heat side!
Again we had a table full of food to share for the mains. The selection was from across the menu, including the house specials, salad, teppanyaki, ramen, curry and wok.
The special barbecue beef spare ribs were amazing. The meat fell of the bone and was succulent and tasty, without the barbecue flavouring being overpowering. An amazing special dish for sure! This is where Tamashii moves from straight up Japanese food into a wider selection of pan Asian dishes.
The cripsy duck looked amazing, more on that later…
This aubergine hot pot was a highlight for me. There is something about a meaty, rich aubergine dish that is perfect for winter. This one is pan fried aubergine, stuffed with prawns and cooked with a black bean sauce. Not a vegetarian dish, but something very special that I’ve never seen elsewhere. The closest I’ve seen is a Vietnamese hot pot dish.
Yaki Soba stir fried noodles with chicken and prawns. This is a classic Japanese Teppanyaki dish. I love the flavours, especially of the garnish of sesame seeds, pickled ginger and fried shallots.
Not like any regular ramen noodle soup, the Roast Duck ramen was superb! The duck was perfectly cooked with a lovely crispy skin. They also have other ramen options should you just want to pop in for a warming bowl of noodle soup.
The Yasai Katsu curry is a great vegetarian option. It’s panko breadcrum coated vegetable slices served with rice and Katsu curry sauce. A hearty complete meal.
The raw salad was a lovely light and refreshing side to have with the heavier richer dishes. They also have a pad thai salad (no noodles!) and a steak and shiitake salad, if you are looking for a lighter meal.
Back to the crispy duck. After presenting us with the whole duck, the staff shredded it up for us. We then made our own duck rolls with all the normal additions of cucumber, spring onion and hoisin sauce.
I haven’t had crispy duck pancakes in ages, so these were great to have! I love the sharing nature of them also.
However I think the most amazing dish of the evening was the lobster noodles from the Wok section of the menu. Cooked with ginger and spring onions these noodles were great and the lobster fantastic. It does require getting involved with your food – they give you all the implements to break into the lobster shell and release the sweet meat. I did need to wash my hands afterwards though!
After all this food we thought we were done, but no! Dessert was still to come.
I love mochi! However it’s not for everyone.. mochi is a traditional dessert made from ice cream of different flavours wrapped in glutinous rice. The consensus was that the chocolate was the preferred flavour of the table. My favourite will be always be the black sesame, but it is an acquired taste!
Tamashii Kings Cross is not a traditional Japanese restaurant. It doesn’t specialise in just one cuisine, instead covering the best of Japanese with Chinese and other Asian influences thrown in too. However what it does, it does well. The special dishes are amazing – different to what I’ve tasted before and all so full of flavour. I’m lucky in that I can eat everything on the menu and I enjoyed having a group so we could share and try out most of the dishes.
Some of the spectacular dishes, like the lobster noodles, are not things you would order normally. At £24 for the dish, this is definitely a special treat. However between 6 people it’s a good thing to share. Hence why I would recommend Tamashii for larger groups if you want to try a big feast.
However the curated breadth of the menu means that you can also pop in to Tamashii for a katsu curry stir fried noodles or a bowl of ramen noodle soup from £11.
Big thanks to Tamashii for hosting us and for Love Pop Ups London for the invite! To find out more about Tamashii and stalk the menu online, check out their website at Tamashii.