Donning my swankiest blazer (fnx mum), an empty stomach (to ‘sample as much of the menu as I could for the reader’ - selfless, I know), and an actual notepad and pen (no, I'm not related to Will from The Inbetweeners), I headed to Yama Momo in East Dulwich to lose my reviewing virginity. (There were there way too many parenthetical asides in that intro.)
(...Yes, I had to use google to find out that that they’re called ‘parenthetical asides’).
Although a little detached from the real hustle and bustle of the capital, Yama Momo resides on a main road (Lordship Lane, SE22) with plenty of bus stops nearby, so it’s easy enough to get to. But when the nice Google Maps lady told me that my destination had been reached, I couldn’t help but pull my phone out of my pocket to double-check that I wasn’t having signal problems. What surprised me upon my arrival, was just how unassuming this venue is. It’s self-effacing exterior does little to reveal the gem that resides inside. Without having already known that I’d be spending my evening in a swanky Japanese restaurant, I’d be forgiven for walking past this seemingly run-of-the-mill high street spot without giving it a second thought.
Alas, as I walk in, it’s like entering a secret city jewel - there isn’t a single free table or bar stool available in this dimly lit, effervescent eatery. My plus one and I are immediately greeted by friendly staff and swiftly escorted through this narrow diner to a table at the back, adjacent to the lively, open-faced kitchen. Food time.
The Food and Drink
Out of sheer excitement, I have to get this out of the way from the offset - Yama Momo serves some of the best food and drink that I’ve ever had in London. To start, my lovely plus one and I shared a few dishes - the Peri Peri Yakitori (£6), the Salt and Chilli Pepper Squid (£7.50) and the Nasu Goma (£6). Everything here was exceptional - ticking all of the boxes for taste, portion size and price. Best of all was the Nasu Goma - grilled chunks of aubergine sprinkled with sesame seeds and served up on a long slate-like board. Boasting fantastic texture thanks to the sesame seeds and big flavour from the dressing, this perfectly garnished dish was a treat to both the tongue and eyes. To follow, we then tucked into a huge board of spicy tuna & avocado sushi (£7) and lobster maki (£12) - both were exceptional in taste and presentation.
For my main, I opted for the big one - Gin Dara (£29). Coming in with such a hefty price tag, I had huge expectations...Was it worth it? Indubitably. This is probably the best dish I’ve ever had at a London restaurant. Dip it into the sweet miso sauce, tuck in, and transcend into a magical place - this dish has upped my benchmark of top quality London grub. My plus one went for the Roast Breast of Duck (£14); served drizzled in hoisin miso on a bed of green beans. This was succulent and full of flavour - so you don’t have to break the bank to get a good meal here. And for those of you with a sweet tooth, although there’s no dessert menu to be found on Yama Momo’s website, there are actually few sweet dishes available to see off your meal. We went for the Banoffee Sundae and the Chocolate Fondant, both £6.50, both heavenly.
To wash it all down, we sipped on some cocktails - the London Cocktail Week special, the Secret Sake Sour and one from the regular list, the Royal Dynasty. Coming in at a pretty standard price for a cocktail in the capital, I didn’t even really think about these cocktails after they’d been ordered, merely expecting the usual. Naturally, I was blown away when we were presented with two show-stopping concoctions. The Secret Sake Sour was served in a cute, almost ornament-like vessel and garnished with bright blue candy floss whilst the Royal Dynasty was served up with a miniature steamer dish filled with sorbet to mix in. It’s obvious that Yama Momo’s bar isn’t just an add-on to the restaurant. They can mix.
Atmosphere and Clientele
On my visit, Yama Momo was packed-out with a diverse range of diners - from an elderly date-night duo, to a table of young partygirls tucking into some grub before a big night out. And that’s the great thing about this restaurant - it caters to all types of nights. Whether you’re looking for a lengthy luxurious meal with a loved one or simply looking to grab a plate of sushi and a few cocktails before heading out, Yama Momo accommodates all. The staff on hand here are approachable, knowledgeable and attentive - anyone would feel welcome.
Yama Momo is not only an exquisite restaurant but an exceptional bar too - serving up mouth-watering grub and masterfully-concocted cocktails. Well worth a visit and then some.