A mash-up to make your mouth water: Nikkei is no crazy culinary flash in the pan

The century-old cooking style is a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines. Nicole Mowbray meets the restaurateur bringing it to the capital

It's ironic that Kurt Zdesar's new London venture opened on the last day of London Fashion Week last week. Food – as fashion – is always searching for the next big thing; the new sushi, the next cupcake, wondering if the dining public can handle yet another new twist on the burger (the answer to that is no)…

London's certainly has its fill of disparate dining options at the moment, but restaurateur Zdesar is hoping there's still a bit more room on the block for his new food baby, Chotto Matte, which promises something entirely different.

Under the guidance of the chef Peter Gordon (a judge on the New Zealand version of MasterChef), Chotto Matte – which translated means "please wait a minute" – will specialise in Nikkei cuisine; a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese food, which originated in Peru. After more than a century of immigration, the country now has the second largest Japanese population in South America, so Nikkei is not a new thing. Indeed, Lima is bustling with Nikkei restaurants, specialising in fresh fish combined with corn, aji peppers, yucca, potatoes and the like.

"My interest in Nikkei food, or Japanese food with a South American twist, goes back to my first involvement with Nobu in 1996," says Zdesar. "We always said the food we created there was inspired by Nobu's travels, so there were several different influences. Then when I left Nobu in 2004, I travelled a lot and came across Peruvian restaurants in Shanghai and America.

"Eating my way around, I recognised some familiar tastes… I started planning Chotto Matte in 2008, but had to stop due to bad economic conditions. Plans began again in 2011 and I spent a month in Peru tasting everything. There, they bring lots of foods out of the Amazon – fruits and fish no one's ever really seen before. Restaurants such as Central in the Miraflores area of Lima are just producing wonderful food, which is now making its way around the world. We hope we can bring something more to that."

Diners should expect lots of raw onion, lime juice and coriander, says Zdesar, but with a milder flavour than the Nikkei food you may eat in Peru. "When we initially arrived, we found the tastes quite harsh and acidic," he tells me. "But after a month, we were drinking all of the lime, chilli, onion and fish juices left on the plate from shot glasses – sounds unbelievable, but it's a traditional thing out there.

"We've changed the palate slightly here in London and toned things down a bit while retaining the flavours. The aim is a delicate balance of sweet and sour that's potent but not overpowering. We're using a lot of yuzu, coriander, garlic and chilli. Dishes will also include quinoa, cassava and potato. The food is so colourful, it's like an explosion on your plate."

The new London restaurant Chotto Matte is the brainchild of Kurt Zdesar (Abbie Trayler-Smith) The new London restaurant Chotto Matte is the brainchild of Kurt Zdesar (Abbie Trayler-Smith)
He's obviously on to something. Albert and Ferran Adria, the brothers behind the now extinct El Bulli, opened their own Nikkei restaurant – called Pakta – in Barcelona this April, which is earning rave reviews. It looks as if Zdesar's once again identified a food zeitgeist with legs.

But then again, he's got form. It was he who helped bring Nobu to Europe. The dim sum phenomenon Ping Pong is down to Zdesar, too, not to mention Hakkasan, Alan Yau's sleek Chinese hideout that single-handedly changed the way Londoners thought about Cantonese food. Although Peruvian food may be trendy now, does it have staying power? Zdesar says so. "You can have Nikkei food four days in a row and still be looking forward to it on day five," he says. "There's a lot of raw food, there's no overcooking so everything is very healthy."

The ground floor is also home to an à la carte restaurant and fixed-price raw bar in which master sushi chef Tetsuya Kato – previously chef to the Emperor of Japan – does his thing. Like so many of its contemporaries, Chotto Matte wants to encourage a relaxed environment, and much of the restaurant's menu over the top two floors concentrates on sharing plates. Dishes – such as avocado tempura with smoked purple potato; BBQ pork belly nashi pear salsa; grilled baby chicken with spicy pomegranate salsa – are all meant to be eaten leisurely with friends.

But it's the 10-seater exposed Robata Grill area upstairs that is Chotto Matte's crowning glory. Serving smoky Japanese barbecue specialties such as hotpots, wagyu beef, and seasonal grilled vegetables straight on to the plate, the Robata Grill area looks set to provide some of London's hottest seats for the months to come. Happily, too, the restaurant accepts reservations.

Zdesar is keen for Chotto Matte to be friendly to the pocket as well as the palate, too, describing the price point as mid-way between Ping Pong and Nobu. There's an eight-course tasting menu on offer for £45, or a slightly cheaper option at £35. "There are Peruvian restaurants in London – the likes of Coya, Lima, Ceviche – but we think Chotto Matte brings something more, for a lower price.

"Everything we use is sustainable, we're not cutting corners when it comes to produce, but we're trying to be as efficient as possible. There's no need to charge more when you can do it for less, and personally I think the price point in some London restaurants is so high it's disgusting – there's no other way to describe it when places charge £150 for one person to eat; when others are starving."

Chotto Matte's Nikkei cuisine combines sweet and sour flavours (Abbie Trayler-Smith) Chotto Matte's Nikkei cuisine combines sweet and sour flavours (Abbie Trayler-Smith)
One thing's for sure, if you're wandering around London's Soho, it's hard to miss Zdesar's new venture. Set over three floors with a retractable glass wall that enables customers to spill out onto the street in the summer, Chotto Matte is a mega restaurant; and the biggest premises in the area.

The ground floor is home to a swanky cocktail lounge where bartenders shake up concoctions using pisco, sochu and sake. Japanese whisky will be a speciality. And if spirits aren't your thing, there's a wine list almost 60-strong.

And the venue certainly looks the part. A sultry space, it's been designed by Andy Martin Architects (other projects include The Ivy, Quo Vadis, Oliver Peyton) with the intention of "evoking a sense of modern-day Tokyo". The interiors are dark – there's lots of lava stone and burnt cedar used – which have been "urbaned-up" by street artists; including Houxo Que, a Tokyo-based painter and graffiti artist who created a large-scale graphic illuminated by UV light to spread across the lower hallway. Upstairs, too, London-based graffiti artist Tom Blackford has created two 17-metre murals.

"Chotto Matte will be edgy," says Zdesar. "It's in Soho so it'll draw a fun crowd. We're open from midday to 1.30am so it'll be a place that people can come in and get a drink and some high-quality food at 11.30pm, if they want. It's something I feel the capital's really been lacking. I don't want to jinx myself, but we have a phenomenal site, a phenomenal team and have done everything we can to make this a success." And with his pedigree, I wouldn't bet against it.

chotto-matte.com

Brazilian - Japanese

This peculiar marriage of cultures is inspired by polyglot São Paolo, which has more Japanese inhabitants than anywhere outside Japan. Head to Sushinho on London's King's Road to try the salmon sushi with cream cheese – if you dare.

French - Chinese

Wolfgang Puck pioneered this mash-up back in 1983 when he opened Chinois in LA in 1983. Today the style – French techniques, Chinese ingredients – can be sampled at Yam'Tcha in Paris.

Thai - French

One of the happier leftovers of French colonialism is the Bánh mì, a peculiar combination of French baguette and spicy meat or fish. To be scoffed – rather than scoffed at.

Indian - Italian

The yoking of these two proud food cultures was possibly the worst idea purveyors of frozen food, Iceland, ever had, which is saying something. For £1 you can feast on – drum roll – a Chicken Tikka Lasagne. No, just no.

Samuel Muston

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past