The food still dazzles at this venerable Soho institution

Chotto Matte has been serving Japanese-Peruvian cuisine for the past decade (Kate Ng)

Chotto Matte has been serving Japanese-Peruvian cuisine for the past decade (Kate Ng)

Please forgive me. I’m always late to the party. So when I first heard the words “Japanese-Peruvian” uttered in the context of fusion cuisine, the skeptic in me bristled. “Fusion?” I complained. “Very few ‘fusion foods’ are actually any good. I bet it’s damn good.”

Well, hit me in the face with a tortilla (as per the TikTok challenge), because Japanese-Peruvian food is actually quite amazing. It’s also been around for most of the last decade, so I’m about 12 years late to the party, a new record for me. But better late than never, right?

It was Chotto Matte in Soho that revealed to me the joys of this marriage between East Asia and South America. The massive three-story establishment, which features a cocktail lounge, à la carte restaurant, sushi bar and robata grill, has been feeding Soho parties for the past nine years.

Admittedly, the interior looks pretty tired – they’ve seen a lot. The chairs are low and feel like a million bums have sat in them (which is probably accurate) and the boring floors have been crossed countless times.

But the food still dazzles at Chotto Matte. The tangy, spicy nature of Peruvian cuisine lights up the palate and brings the umami flavors and soft textures of Japanese sushi to life even more. Even as a fusion food skeptic (with good reason – the mid-nineties were full of terrible fusion restaurants headed for disaster), I have to say this is definitely a good pairing.

As expected, fish is the star of this partnership, with ceviche, sashimi and sushi galore. Chotto Matte’s repertoire of fish dishes is extensive, which may be cause for concern in some places, but not here. The sea bass ceviche swims in a mouth-watering sauce that leaves you wanting more, while the spicy tuna roll on a bed of crispy rice is a delight. Popping a whole thing into your mouth can be a bit risky, but worth it in my opinion.

One of my absolute favorite items on the menu was the black cod aji miso, a lovely, generous piece of black cod marinated in white miso and then cooked on the robata grill. The perfect bite includes a caramelized corner of the fish along with a big bite of the sweet, tender flesh. Heaven!

The perfect snack: black cod aji miso (Kate Ng)

The perfect snack: black cod aji miso (Kate Ng)

We were also served a dish of pollo den miso, which is chicken marinated in miso and covered with a fresh topping of carrot, daikon and a yellow chilli yoghurt. Unfortunately, this was a pretty forgettable dish – stick to the fish, I’d say. Honestly, I would go back for the black cod alone. And also ceviche. Maybe also the spicy tuna, if I have room…

Speaking of room, it took a little break between courses before I had room for dessert. The magic chocolate ball is a lovely piece of restaurant theatre. Who gets tired of watching hot sauce being poured onto a chocolate dome, then melting away to reveal a delicious pudding inside? Although, after eating so much fish, a cooling green tea ice cream would be just the ticket.

Chotto Matte is a renowned Soho institution, and it’s only a good thing the owners knew an update was overdue. The restaurant has been temporarily closed for refurbishment and has promised to reopen with a dramatic transformation by September. But you don’t have to wait three months for your Japanese-Peruvian fix, because Chotto Matte recently opened another London branch in Marylebone, with new dishes such as fatty tuna and robatayaki salmon.

Chotto Matte Marylebone, 26 Paddington Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 5QY | 020 7058 4444 | chotto-matte.com/london-marylebone

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