Where: Bincho Yakitori, Soho With who: Citizen Smith, the New Boy, Telly Alex and his other half How much?: £30 a head gave us a their pre-theatre special, a few extras and a massive (and I mean massive) bottle of sake...
Bincho seemed like an obvious choice for a group meal with a random set of likes and dislikes. It wouldn't have been a first choice to be honest, but it ticked enough boxes. In hindsight I wish the food had been one of those. It opened to some fanfare a several years ago in the Oxo Tower originally, the reviews were fine, though nothing out of the world and the model seemed to be an interesting one. They have a large grill in the front of the restaurant where they grill your yakitori and kushiyaki on bamboo skewers, the former exclusively chicken 'bits' and the latter assorted other meat, fish and vegetables. These are mostly served family style for the group. The staff are lovely. Absolutely lovely. They couldn't have done more to make sure that we were happy, up to and including organising impromptu sake drinking demonstrations for the group. The menu was very impressive. Simple skewers and an assortment of accompanying rices and salads. Nothing held back for Western appetites, proud of their gizzard and tripe and heart. This was food I was very much looking forward to.
We went for the pre-theatre menu and following a starter of miso soup and a rather ordinary salmon 'salad' (a small portion of cooked fish dropped on a bed of mixed leaf) we were then served a mixed plate of yakitori and kushiyaki. The skewers are usually cooked with salt or tare, a sweet mix of mirin, sake and soy. These were definitely cooked salty. The mushrooms and spring onions were chewy and virtually inedible and the assorted chicken parts were drenched with salt. The one saving grace for me was a perfectly cooked belly pork, thankfully the sweet white fat put off a couple of the other members of the group and I was able to load up on the tiny piggy nuggets. Additionally to the set meals, we ordered a handful of other items to share. The chicken hearts were small, salty bombs of fibre. Any give in the normally soft sweetbreads had been blasted out of them by the strength of the grill. An oily prawn skewer came wrapped in the type of plastic over-smoked bacon you'd expect from a late night petrol station sandwich.
The desert was a dust dry pile of soya milk doughnuts served with a green tea ice cream necessary for the moisture it gave. I managed two of them before running out of ice cream and the will to live. I had expected better from reports read before the visit, certainly more enjoyable experiences than ours. I like the model, the staff and the location but I'm sticking to Roka for my grilled Japanese treats.