First of all what is Sukiyaki? Sukiyaki is a popular Japanese dish that is cooked in a hot pot and often served at the table. It consists of thinly sliced cuts of meat (usually beef), vegetables, tofu, and noodles added at the end. The ingredients are simmered in a sweet soy sauce flavoured broth, and traditionally dipped in a raw egg before eating. It’s a great winter dish to eat together with friends and of course you don’t have to dip anything in raw egg if you don’t want to. So where is a good Sukiyaki restaurant in London?
Sukiyaki Restaurant options in London
Like Tanakatsu when it comes to Tonkatsu, it seems there is only one Japanese restaurant that specialises in Sukiyaki – Tokyo Sukiyaki Tei in Chelsea. Several restaurants also offer Sukiyaki on their menu such as Kiku in Mayfair or Sushinoen in Whitechapel. A few months ago, we noticed that Cocoro offers an all-you-can-eat Sukiyaki or Shabu Shabu course. It costs £35 per person and you have a two hour time limit. If you’ve lived in Japan, you may remember the Tabehodai (all you can eat) system being of high quality. With this in our mind we decided to test out Cocoro’s Sukiyaki course for ourselves.
Cocoro Bloomsbury Restaurant Atmosphere and Interior
The Cocoro restaurant where you can eat Sukiyaki is the Bloomsbury branch, located a few minutes from the British Museum. It’s close to Abeno Okonomiyaki restaurant too. On the Friday evening we visited in early December, the restaurant was not so busy with only half the tables with diners. Possibly this was due to many people attending end of year work parties?
My friend got to Cocoro first so when I arrived the staff showed me to our table in the middle of the restaurant. On the way, I passed some excellent “Shokuin Sampuru” (food replicas) decorating the wall on the left. In Japan, you can see these outside many restaurants. They represent the food you can eat inside and are always colourful and full of detail. It’s quite rare to see this in London so it was a nice touch. Then we had ceiling-high photos of Japanese buildings with neon signs covering the wall near our table. It was interesting trying to figure out which area of Shinjuku the photo was taken and to spot some familar internet cafe signs.
What did we order?
Even though we looked through the menu (mainly to see the drinks), we made the simple choice of ordering the Sukiyaki course. Within a few minutes, the staff brought over the cooking stove and then the hot pot itself. Like on our other visits, the presentation of dishes was excellent and very photo worthy. Our hot pot included Enoki mushrooms, Tofu, sliced carrots and onions, Shiitake mushrooms, and Hakusai (Napa cabbage). In addition, there were Shirataki noodles (konjac strips) and Shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves). Our friendly server set up the hot pot and then brought over the first plate of beef. It was fun to catch up with my friend while watching everything cook. Every few minutes the staff came back to adjust the heat and added in the beef at the right time.
How did it taste?
First, considering that it was all you can eat, the beef which comes still frozen before being cooked was decent. While it was not melt in your mouth Wagyu, it was good quality and there was no tough meat or anything like this. Personally I was very happy with the vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu. They were all fresh and full of flavour from the slightly sweet and salty broth. A highlight was seeing and eating the chewy Shirataki noodle-like strips and mild tasting Shungiku. We can buy Shungiku in Japanese or Asian supermarkets but I rarely do, so it was a comforting treat. Also, we did use a raw egg to dip the hot pot items into, and it added both sweetness and richness to the beef and vegetables.
While we ate, our server came round frequently to check if we wanted another serving of vegetables or an additional plate of beef. To try and make good use of the all you can eat system, we asked for one more of each, before asking for the last part of the course – thick udon noodles. These are also cooked in the same hot pot, and pick up all the hearty flavours of the broth. Despite being rather full by this stage, we did manage to find room for a small ice cream plate which was also included as part of the Sukiyaki course. My friend went with his favourite – black sesame while I went for the vanilla ice cream.
Cocoro Bloomsbury Sukiyaki Restaurant Rating
Although it was our first time to visit the Bloomsbury branch, this was our third dining experience at Cocoro. Each time without fail, we found we can enjoy authentic Japanese food that follows traditional preparation methods. The Sukiyaki all you can eat course at Cocoro definitely makes for an enjoyable night out with friends seeking Japanese food. Also if you have a sudden desire to get your Sukiyaki fix, it’s a great option but please note this course is for 2 people minimum.
We would give Cocoro’s Sukiyaki course 4.6 stars out of 5 stars. On top of the high quality food, the service was excellent and the staff were friendly and attentive. While it may not be the same on every occasion, we really loved how we could call out “Sumimasen” (Excuse me) to get the attention of the staff. Definitely for this part we felt like we were back in Japan!
It is likely we will be back at Cocoro again very soon. One thing I personally would like to try out are their ramen bowls so you can expect a new Cocoro review in the near future. If you have been recently, please let us know how your experience was at Cororo in the comments below. Also if you are looking for more authentic Japanese restaurants, here is our top ten list in London.