Since throwing open its doors on the edge of Chinatown at the end of 2021, Japanese restaurant Yatay Soho has been transporting diners to the streets of Tokyo, delving out robata-grilled sharing dishes, skewers and small plates. The mantra? Ikigai, which loosely translates as life's bliss or purpose - appreciating the little things, being present and finding harmony being some of the main pillars. So, I was expecting some pretty big things from a dining experience here when I headed down one (very) hot day.
Black grid windows framed the light-flooded restaurant, revealing a modern interior that featured a bustling open kitchen space, sleek wood panelled walls and a cool canvas of posing Japanese models. Settling down in a secluded corner behind a curtain (a table I'd definitely recommend requesting for date night), we were greeted by incredible service and an enticing cocktail list. Kicking things off was the Natsu Meloni (£12), a delicious signature twist on a negroni that was recommended to cleanse the palate, alongside a Sakazuki Goto (£12) mixed from roku gin, umeshu (plum liquor), yuzu, matcha and egg white. Both were refreshingly fruity; the former punctuated by melon liquor and campari, while the latter had a healthy dose of sourness with a hint of earthy tea. Perfection.
For food, nibbles of smoked salt-coated edamame (£4) and moreish miso butter on warm sourdough (£4.50) really got our appetite going. Then came the cold plates: wakame salada (£7.50) and salmon tataki (£9.50) of plump, seared fish served alongside pickled daikon for texture, beautiful roe and a sudachi dressing that features four different kinds of citrus. The first dish, though, is a must-order. Mainly made up of seaweed, crunchy beanshoots and a spicy seasoning to balance freshness with salt, it's the ideal introduction to Yatay's brilliant grasp on flavours.
Having been told no trip to Yatay was complete without a taste of the chicken karaage (£9.50), we popped our order in. Unlike some others I've tried, you could fully taste the ginger and garlic on the meat itself, which are subtly underneath the flavours of the delicious crust and spicy tofu dip. Completing the hot small plates was butaman (£11): shichimi spice mix and kuromitsu sugar syrup-coated pulled pork, which was oh-so-juicy and slapped into fluffy buns, with crispy shallots to complete the comforting feel.
Next up was kushi omakase (£28), a selection of six surprise skewers chosen by the chef. The chalk stream trout was a highlight, which let the succulent fish speak for itself thanks to the subtlest taste of sesame and kizami wasabi. But, the belly pork with yuzu-miso and a shimichurri to cut through it all was our favourite dish of the whole night, fronting a gloriously sticky outside and melt-in-the-mouth middle. Although, the earthy-sweet cured beetroot had a garlicky wasabi kick that was the biggest surprise in this portion of the menu, as a truly clever use of the veggie.
The main event came after, pairing perfectly cooked hatcho kohitsuji (£28) (red miso and peppercorn lamb cutlets) with two sides: horenso (£6.50) and kinoko gohan (£10.50). While we were really impressed by the meat here, the sesame miso-dressed spinach and the mushroom baked rice really stole the show. Featuring the softest poached egg ever to complement the fungi and sticky carb, this final savoury offering was the icing on the cake.
But, as it turned out, we weren't done yet. My insanely tasty miso-cured ricotta dessert was smothered in a black sugar syrup and dusted with soy bean flour, boasting a flavour that can only be summed up by its name - umami (£8.50). It's one to add to the list of my favourite desserts of all time. The huge ichigo sando (£7.50) rounded off our evening. Its sponge was light, but a little dry, so it definitely needed its slathering of homemade strawberry jam and the bed of yuzu curd.
However, both were washed down with more of the restaurant's delish drinks. That's a gorgeous Japanese-inspired espresso martini, or Black Shadow (£12), for me and a divine Nagoya Chicana (£13) for him, where the taste of jalapeno was complemented by tequila, pineapple, agave and yuzu, without being too heavy on the spice.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Japanese food is always a winner for me, but not many can execute a modern, flavourful menu quite like Yatay Chinatown. This near-perfect meal was brimming with innovative flavour combos, savvy cooking and great portion sizes, alongside first-class cocktails to accompany. Whether you need a special occasion or group dining destination, a trip here is sure to impress.
💰 The damage: £184, plus service charge.
📍 The location: Chinatown, 22 Wardour St, W1D 6QQ.
👌 Perfect for: A flavourful feast with a date or mates.
⭐ Need to know: Service here is friendly and knowledgeable, giving amazing recommendations.