Everybody has a different way of getting away from it all. It being London. The all being your inescapable life. Some people have The Archers and a CostCo box of PG Tips. Others have the cinema and a family pack of Minstrels. A lucky few have gym memberships and motivation. We, on the other hand, have Yen and a bowl of soba.
Yen is a big, high-end Japanese restaurant on the Strand making very nice handmade soba noodles and sushi. You enter here to leave out there. Because Yen is almost completely at odds with the outside world. The room is spacious and peaceful. The service courteous and considered. The food understated and tasty. Imagine being underwater, with noise cancelling headphones on, while wearing something from Muji. That’s what being in Yen is like.
Aside from respite, you come to Yen to eat. The soba comes hot or cold, and while the hot soba is good, we think the cold noodles with broth are the way to go. They lie there all pale and doughy, asking you to dip them like one of your French rolls. You’ll happily pick, dip, and slurp until you’re soba-less, before topping up the leftover broth with hot noodle water, and throwing it down the hatchet. It’s a delightfully satisfying process. And one that makes you think the British should really be doing more with leftover gravy. Like drinking it.
Besides soba, the sushi (seabream and yellowtail in particular) is good, and the homemade tofu salad excellent. That said, a lot of the prices can leave you feeling a bit chilly. 12 pieces of sashimi for £40 is steep, over £20 for cold dipping noodles with tempura is dizzying, while 30-odd quid for a small bit of chargrilled black cod gives us a mild case of vertigo.
But this is why we said Yen was ‘almost completely at odds’ with normal life. Because like a lot of things in London, and as the name suggests, it’s expensive. That said, despite the prices, Yen makes for a perfectly nice environment to have a bowl of soba, and a much-needed breather.
If you thought custard was best paired with a crumble then think again pal. This egg custard with foie gras and bits of scallop is rich and pretty enjoyable.
This bowl of super smooth homemade tofu with seaweed and tangy but (ultimately still foamy) ponzu foam is incredibly fresh. A definite order if you’re doing starters.
While the tempura is undeniably light and delicious, £22 is a bit much for this. Going for the cold plain soba is the best thing to do at Yen. It’s chewy and tasty, plus you get to drink all the broth at the end.
Depending on the weather - which is never something you can do in London - you may want a bowl of steaming hot soba instead of the cold ones.
Yen’s sashimi is very tasty, but it doesn’t come cheap.
We know black cod is expensive but, honestly, a bit of rice wouldn’t have gone amiss with this main.