Updated: Oct 13, 2022
I celebrated my wedding anniversary recently, so my partner and I visited Chisou in Mayfair for a lunchtime bite out. Chisou advertised itself as a sushi bar and izakaya (which roughly translates as a Japanese style pub). Chisou is part of the Saga Restaurant Group, which operates 2 restaurants, the Mayfair branch and one in Knightsbridge. The company also operates Sushi Atelier in Fitzrovia and the bento delivery brand Go Chisou - busy people obviously! The company describes Chisou as "tranquil, intimate and exciting" with the food being taken "very seriously, creating menus filled with exceptionally well presented dishes." That all seems quite a claim to make, so, I went along expecting to be wowed.
Chisou, Mayfair is very easy to find. It's less than 5 minutes from Bond St. tube station at the bottom of Woodstock St. Stepping inside, the first thing I thought was that I was glad I made a reservation as the place was pretty busy for a Tueday lunchtime. I'm not sure that I would describe Chisou's interior as intimate or exciting but it's light and quite spacious.The interior looks authentically Japanese and has some nice fun touches like the lighting made from illuminated sake bottles. As you would expect from a restaurant that
advertises itself as a sushi bar, there's a sushi counter with seating for 8. Apart from the counter, there is table seating for around 35-40 diners. There were 5 or 6 staff waiting the tables and two chefs behind the sushi counter with more chefs in a serving/plating area at the back, plus a kitchen in the basement.
I got the impression that things were well organised and that the service was going smoothly without too much pressure on the staff or diners left waiting for their orders. There was plenty of natural and artifical light and no piped music. Ah, I though, a place to contemplate and enjoy some good Japanese food.
What did we eat? We ordered the following:
Tempura Lunch Set (Tempura, miso soup, Japanese salad, rice, Japanese pickles.)
Spinach & Shimeji Musrooms in a Sesame dressing (Goma Shimeji Ohitashi)
Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs
Salted grilled chicken wings
Deep fried chicken
The Daikon Salad, Spinach and Shimeji, Miso soup and Japanese salad all arrived within 10 minutes of our order. The other courses arrived over the next 15 - 20 minutes so we weren't left waiting for our food at any time. One minor criticism, at one point our table was overflowing with plates, so if you visit Chisou feeling hungry, make sure you're seated at a table for four not two.
How did the food score?
Daikon Ribbon salad 8.5/10
As you might know, daikon is used a lot in Japanese cooking. I like using daikon in salads because it has a fresh taste and a curncy texture. Chisou's daikon salad was a winner with me. The daikon was sliced into long, thin ribbons and decorated with radish and cress. The salad was dressed with a plum (ume) dressing which had just the right balance and a delicious astringent but sweet taste that complemented the daikon very well.
Conclusion: A very good and creative salad dish that was a pleasant surprise.
Goma Shimeji Ohitashi 7/10
I am a big fan of spinach, so I had to order this dish. I liked the presentation although the spinach was a little difficult to break up into edible pieces - I suspect it had been prepared and then frozen or deep chilled and hadn't hd time to come back to room temperature. Tastewise though, I really couldn't complain, the sesame dressing really was a good pairing with the spinach and the shimeji mushrooms were a nice touch. I could eat a large portion if this with some rice for a lunch or supper and be perfectly happy.
Conclusion: A good vegetable dish, well flavoured dish that I was happy to eat.
Tsukune Yaki 7/10
Chisou gives you a choice with this dish, you can have the chicken meatballs served salted or with teriyaki sauce. I opted for the teriyaki sauce. The "tsukune yaki" were generously sized and the chicken was mixed with some vegetable. If I had a complaint, I would say that they were under-cooked and could have done with a minute or two more to create more contrast between the softness of the minced chicken inside and a harder outside - but perhaps that's just my personal preference. What was also a little disappointing was that there just wasn't enough teriyaki sauce. As I said, the "tsukune yaki" were generously sized but there was no sauce left after I had gotten through the first skewer.
Conclusion: Well made, nicely served, but more teriyaki sauce, please!
Teba Shioyaki 8.5/10
Although most chicken wings seems to be put into the stock pot in Japan these days, grilled chicken wings - teba yaki - remains a favorite in Japanese izakaya style restaurants. Chisou's version were served with just a slice of lemon to complement the salty, grilled flesh. I thought Chisou got these just about right - grilled but not overgrilled, a good salty flavour and in the background the slightly gamey aroma of the freshly cooked chicken wings.
Conclusion: A dish very well done and presented.
Tori Karaage 9/10
These Japanese deep fried chicken nuggets worked very well on several levels. The flour coating was cooked to a perfect crunch and was a visual treat. The chicken inside was cooked through but still soft and a little juicy. The pieces were on the small side and some might complain about this but using smaller cuts of chicken probably does make it easier to produce the perfectly deep fried coating. The dish was served with lemon and a dish of mayo.
Tempura Lunch Set 7/10
When I order a Japanese lunch set like this, I don't necessarily expect anything to be outstanding but I do expect everything to rank at least as good. And that's what I got with the Tempura set. I couldn't complain about anything but at the same time, nothing wowed me. The miso soup and the salad were what I expected. Ditto the rice and the pickles. The tempura itself was fine - nicely cooked, the batter crispy. There wasn't enough tempura sauce supplied with the dish as it had mostly gone when I was only half way through my tempura.
Conclusion: A good lunch set without being outstanding.
Tempura Lunch Set £19.00
Daikon Salad £10.90
Goma Shimeji Ohitashi £ 5.90
Tsukune Yaki £ 7.60
Teba Shioyaki £ 6.00
Tori Kara Age £ 9.15
Total £72.39 including VAT & Service charges
Summary: I liked Chisou. The restaurant was spacious and nicely decorated. Best of all, the place was well lit - I really dislike sitting and eating my food under poor illumination - part of the pleasure of food after all, is being able to enjoy the sight of it. The table service was pleasant, friendly and willing to help. Minor criticisms: First, the table was too small for the number of plates that we ordered. Our waiter upset one plate when he brought it to the table - not his fault - the table was already brimming with plates. Second, please Chisou, increase the amount of sauces in your servings - neither the teriyaki sauce or the tempura sauce was adequate to fully enjoy these dishes. I would happily go back to Chisou for another lunch - I'd be confident that anything I ate there was well prepared and nicely presented.
Food: ★★★★☆ Ambience: ★★★★☆ Value for Money: ★★★☆☆
You can find Chisou at 22 Woodstock St, London W1C 2AR. Booking via the website at www.chisourestaurant.com
(PS: the restaurants I review are unaware that I am reviewing their fare and service. I pay for what I eat. My opinions are honest and unbiased....)
And how about making it yourself?
We all love to dine out and you certainly won't be disappointed by Abeno's offering. But don't forget you can make Japanese food at home which will not only taste good but for a fraction of the price too! I've listed two recipes below for items I ordered during my review. Why not give them a try? Just follow the links to the written recipes and Youtube tutorials.
Recipe #1 Daikon Ribbon salad
The daikon salad served at Chisou was very good if a little expensive for what is a very quick, easy dish to produce. You can make this at home in under 30 minutes and it will taste every bit as good as the restaurant version. Apart from a good quality, fresh daikon, the other ingredient you will need is some Japanese instant dashi stock granules. You can buy these online from Japanese stockists, Amazon etc. If you would like to tke a closer look at this dish,
simply click Daikon Ribbon Salad to go to the recipe page.
Recipe #2 Tsukune Yaki Grilled Chicken Meatballs with Teriyaki sauce
If you enjoy Japanese Tsukune chicken meatballs, you don't have to only eat them at a restaurant as an occasional treat - they are not difficult to make at home and if you folow my recipe, you will have some Tsukune ready for the table in 30 minutes - I promise that once you've eaten these, you might not want to order them at a restaurant ever again! If you want to try these out, just click Tsukune Chicken Meatballs to go to the recipe.
About the reviewer:
Hi, I'm Kurumi, a cooking writer and blogger. I'm Japanese but I have lived in London for the last
30 thirty years. Back in the days before the internet (and Youtube), I was a food writer. My first book published in English was called Japanese Cooking for Two which I wrote in 1994. It has become the 9th best selling Japanese cookbook ever… yippee!
My other books were ‘The Noodle Cookbook”, “The Soy for Health Cookbook” and “Healthy Noodles.” I also published a book in Japanese “English Home Cooking”. Then I had children and my life changed!
By the time my children had grown up, the world had changed quite a lot too! Internet, Youtube, Insta etc. So, these days, instead of books, I publish recipe and articles on my website and on my Youtube channel. I hope you'll check out my recipes - they are all tried and tested (some more times than I care to mention!) until I think you will get them right first time when you make them and enjoy eating them.
If you’d like to read more about me or my books, then follow the link here: