Friday, November 21, 2008

Japan Centre - London's bit of Japanese comfort

London-Japan-Centre212-213 Piccadilly
London W1J 9HX


Although there is a sizable Japanese community in London, I can't seem to find a Japanese enclave in London, unlike that of the Korean's in New Malden.

However, for fans of Japanese food, groceries, crockery and literature, there's always the Japan Centre, which is strategically located along Piccadilly - a stone throw away from Piccadilly Circus Tube Station.

Real estate is highly priced in Japan due to scarcity of land and the Japanese are known to be able to maximise every square foot. Likewise, the Japan Centre is packed right to the brim with merchandise imported from Japan.
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There's a small section carved out just right next to the entrance, accommodating a grand total of three tables for the famished souls to feast on sushi rolls obtained from a refrigerated shelf just behind them.

London-Japan-Centre-instant-noodlesThere is a huge selection of Japanese instant noodles, tidbits and Japanese curries. Pork and beef slices for shabu shabu and sukiyaki (£3 - £5 per portion), and dorayaki ( £1.50) are also available.

Thinking of revamping your entire crockery and utensils? You've come to the right place. Japan Centre not only offers clay pots and pans of various sizes, there are potable gas stoves, plastic and earthen bowls with ceramic spoons and even 'training' chopsticks for the uninitiated.

London-Japan-Centre-shabushabuThat's not all. An inconspicuous staircase led to the basement, which houses a Japanese travel agency and a small Japanese honya (bookstore). Stocked with the most current editions of imported magazines featuring Japanese celebrities and shelves of Japanese novels and language textbooks, the store is packed with Japanese and non-Japanese alike during the weekends.

I'm a sucker for shabu shabu. Nothing beats tucking into thinly sliced pork lightly cooked in a small claypot of chicken soup over a portable gas stove during a wintry evening.

That with a bowl of instant noodles cooked in the same soup is just heavenly.

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12 comments:

mega said...

If a Japanese visits London for the first time, the person won't feel isolated as there is sizeable Japanese community in London. Your blog has mentioned this and it is 100 percent true. A Japanese can always visit the Japan Center in London to get a taste of their home food.
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My Bug Life said...

Great place for all things Japanese.Over here, we have a place called Japan club which offers sporting and Japanese commnuity activities as well as a restaurant catering to Japanese and locals...the food there's good.

I am a sucker for salmon sashimi. I don't like salmon cooked any other way except raw and eaten with a dash of soy sauce and wasabi :)

lina said...

Wow! Awesome! At least any homesick Japanese (or wannabe) can find comfort knowing that there is a place for them in London, eh?

Martin Miller-Yianni said...

I never know the difference between Chinese and Japanese foods, love all foods oriental anyway. Do you know what the main differences are that distinquish between one and the other?

SheR. said...

Hey CK. I've heard from a Jap friend of mine who lives in London for over 7 years that there is indeed a Japanese hideout.. somewhere...near Green Park or something?? Or Piccadilly? That's what I've heard.

Oh.. I LOVE the Korean food at New Malden!

Not to mention there are plenty of Thais in London too!!

Dutchie said...

My fave japanese treat is Teppanyaki !

Pity that japanese restaurants tend to be on the high-end even tho it's simple fare, otherwise more people would give it a go I think.

My bamboo mat for rolling the sushi is sitting in the dust after catching the rage in Sg. Hubby finds the nori too tough to chew. He actually prefers my loh-mai-kai bec it's much tastier !

iWalk said...

Japan centres or China towns are both interesting phenomena to me.

Any kind of nation will try its best to keep its root and culture wherever they live.

Joerup said...

CK - We are walking the same path! LOL I go to Japan Centre at least once a week to pop in and see what they are offering. Psst... After 9pm, all the sushi, bread & Bento go off at half price!!! Muhahaha

C K said...

@mega,
I was there at Japan Centre the other day and there were a couple of Japanese gesturing excitedly when they saw the Centre.

They were like 'Daiso! Daiso!', which is the name of a budget shop over in Japan.


@My Bug Life,
I guess one way to find out whether a Japanese restaurant is good is to see whether it's patronised by Japanese themselves. So I take it that the Japan Club over at your end is filled with Japanese?

Hmm... salmon sashimi is a bit pricy for me. Looking at how much I have to eat before I'm done, I think a serving of curry katsu don would suit me better. Btw, do you know that the real wasabi is grated from the wasabi root? The ones that we are used to is actually made from horse radish.


@lina,
Yep. Like I said, nothing beats shabu shabu in the cold temperature that engulfs London now.


@Martin,
Hmm... Chinese rarely eats anything raw... so that rules out sashimi and many varieties of sushi. Also, most Chinese cooking involves stir-fry and steaming whereas Japanese cooking favours deep frying.

That's my take on the differences. Anyone has got anything to add?


SheR,
I noticed that there are quite a few Japanese eateries/restaurants over at Piccadilly/Soho area. Is that it?

Oh, Korean cuisine is one of my favourite as well. Btw, there's a really good one over at Soho area, very near to Windmill Theatre. Will be doing a write up on that soon.

Interesting observation about the Thais. I don't see them alot in London - perhaps I mistook them for Chinese? :)


@Dutchie,
What's 'nori' by the way? Is that the rice or seaweed? Ah... we tried making some loh mai kai with limited success. Did you cook it using a pot or cook it using rice cooker?

I'm a bit ambivalent about Teppanyaki. After awhile, it all taste the same to me... lol, that of the soy sauce seasoning.


@iWalk,
Oh yeah, the funny thing is that the further you're away from home, the tighter you'll cling to your culture. I wouldn't be surprised if a Japanese in London is more 'Japanese' than one in Japan.


@Joerup,
Really?? I was waiting till 9pm before paying it a visit (after reading your comment) only to find that all sushi and bento has been cleared off the shelves! lol.

Hey, for all you know, we might have met each other in the store. Well, look out for the bespectacled and blur looking chap who hangs around at the shabu shabu shelves the next time round!

Dutchie said...

CK, nori is the seaweed.

We dont hv a rice cooker :-/ It's unknown with the dutch shops.

I cooked the sticky rice in a pan, leave to cool, then fry it with the brown onions/spices. Separately, the chicken fillet/chinese mushrooms (or lap cheong n char siew) r fried with spices/ginger juice/oyster sauce n spooned into a bowl n topped with the rice. Steamed until it becomes cohesive n shaken out onto a serving plate. Make soup with the mushroom water, u just hv to add ginger slices/salt/MSG n some chicken meat n u hv a complete YUM meal :-) It's quite alot of work but worth the effort leh :-D

Anonymous said...

Japanese enclave...
...is in North London....

not as big as it used to be
( which was possibly at its peak when Yaohan Shopping Plaza, the largest Japanese shopping Mall in Europe was opened.. - which then became the now defunct Oriental City...)

angmoh said...

there's a bit of a Japanese enclave in West Acton along Queen's Drive. it's a beautiful street full of cherry blossom and (mock?) tudor houses they've got their own kindergarten and estate agents