Becky Fry finds a few changes at the canteen, but not in a bad way
IT’S a risky business revisiting a restaurant you once loved in your youth. There’s always the possibility that without the rose-tinted hue of nostalgia, things just aren’t quite as good as they used to be or, even worse, that the whole place has changed entirely.
even my enthusiastic slurping wasn’t enough to stop me leaving with a doggy bag
For me, one of those places that gives me the fuzzy-throwback-feels is Tokyo. From not knowing how to pronounce it (they’ve dropped the ‘u’ from the ‘Tokyou’ name now) to the enormous portions and teenager-friendly prices, we loved everything about that little place. I distinctly remember queuing out of the doors for their cheap and cheerful Chinese menu on more occasions than I’d care to admit.
Located on Berry Street, Tokyo sits at the busier end of Chinatown, squished in between a number of other much larger Chinese restaurants and nightclub giants Red Door. The menu now reflects the name more appropriately as the old Chinese offering has been replaced with a Pan Asian selection spanning everything from Japanese teriyaki and ramen bowls to Thai red curry and seafood. With all those options, you’d be forgiven for not knowing what to order but you needn’t worry since 'Inue the ninja guide' (no, I’m not joking) will take you through the menu, marking out his favourites and recommendations with his own little logo next to each dish… now that’s the kind of fun Tokyo touch I remember.
We order a generous selection of nibbles to share that range in quality but are all very passable versions of your typical Chinese starters. I’m not quite sure what they put on their crispy seaweed (£2.40) but I reckon with a few more bites I’d have a full-blown addiction to those sweet and savoury little strands. Prawn crackers (£1.70), prawn toast (£3.20) and spring rolls (£3.20) were pretty much the standard offering of each, though a generous filling of duck and softened veggies gave the spring rolls the edge over the toasts, which were sadly a little overdone. Honey spare ribs (£4.60) arrived looking pretty basic and not particularly appetising but those caramelised hunks of pork dripping in sticky honey turned out to be one of my favourite dishes of the day, the meat falling obligingly off the bone with only the slightest hint of coaxing.
Portions are as enormous as ever and easily big enough to rival Tokyo's over-the-road neighbours Big Bowl Noodle. A portion of Singapore vermicelli (£7.80) could have fed two greedy people easily and even my enthusiastic slurping wasn’t enough to stop me leaving with a doggy bag. Packed with strips of chicken, pork, crunchy veg and a couple of chopped-up crab sticks, it was like hunting for pick’n’mix inside a mountain of spicy noodles.
We took Inue’s recommendation on the crispy lemon chicken (£7.80) and it turned out to be a good one. Breaded and fried in a katsu style, the whole thing was swimming in that satisfyingly gloopy sauce that should be awful but somehow isn’t. Chunks of lemon and pineapple underneath gave the whole dish enough tang to help you get through the cushion of soft fried noodles underneath and again there was more than enough left over for a microwave lunch ‘al desko’ the next day.
If you fancy a pud, you’ll have to come earlier in the day since the dessert cafe that sits upstairs closes in the evenings. With shaved ice, bubble tea and matcha waffles, they’ve got the rest of the Asian continent covered. Still boasting generous portions and remarkably reasonable prices (our entire meal was less than £38 even with our over-zealous starter ordering and a couple of beers), you definitely get a load of bowl for your buck at Tokyo.
Tokyo, 7 Berry Street, L1 9DF
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Crispy seaweed 8, prawn crackers 5, prawn toast 5, duck spring rolls 7, spare ribs 8, vermicelli 8, lemon chicken 8
The food comes quickly but I aged 10 years waiting for the bill
A spattering of hanging lanterns takes it from cold canteen to cosy