Fukuro: izakaya in SoHo
A shout of “FUKURO!” greets you as you step into the dimly lit basement restaurant - a fright that almost had us tripping down the steps. Fukuro, Japanese for owls, is the name of Soho's newest izakaya, and night-owls are the restaurant's target demographic.
With wood panelling and exposed concrete, the modern izakaya is raw and minimalist, with a hint of Blade Runner futurist style.
Fukuro’s drinks selection has all the usual suspects: sake, shochu, whisky and of course, highballs. Of the two we tried, we favoured the Ken, a concoction of dark rum, umeshu and ginger ale, each sip fizzing away the hardship of the day.
Succinctly printed on a single A4, Fukuro’s menu is straightforward - as it should be for the ease of the work-weary or late night crowds. We started with Spinach ohitashi, a cold appetiser of locally grown spinach, blanched and then tightly rolled into cylinders and dressed with an aromatic sesame sauce made in-house. A plate of pickled seasonal vegetables followed. Pickled in yuzu, the vegetables were appetising and tart with a hint of citrus. It was a refreshing way to stimulate the appetite without the pungency of vinegar.
We were momentarily rendered speechless by oysters of mammoth proportions. Flown in fresh from Hyogo, the plump flesh was creamy and sweet, its flavours enhanced by the yuzu ponzu dressing. The oysters definitely brought the wow factor and set the bar very high for the rest of the meal.
Next from the raw section was the sashimi platter of market fish. The selection of the night was bonito, cuttlefish, red snapper, kingfish and baby abalone. The freshness was unbelievable, each variety with its own distinct taste and texture. Our favourites were the cuttlefish for its velvety, yet crunchy texture and the red snapper with skin, providing both a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and a gelatinous chewiness from the skin.
We were then stopped in our tracks by the Crispy caramel butter corn that’s been popping up all over Instagram. How good was it? Our friend said it best, “they need to package this and sell it everywhere”. The caramel butter enhanced the sweetness as each corn kernel burst in your mouth = it was golden, crispy perfection.
We had a brief flirtation with seasonal vegetable tempura coated in a seductive, almost sheer batter before we segued to the remaining hot dishes. The hamachi collar with fuji apple ponzu was a great alternative to the oft seen grilled fish collar/head at traditional izakayas (the kind that’s a bit dry eaten alone, but perfect with a beer). Swapping out citrus for fuji apple, the ponzu had just a touch of sweetness complementing the fatty hamachi.
We thought we were done by this point, but one look at the glorious egg yolk of the A4 Wagyu sukiyaki and we were back in the game! The beautiful fatty beef, combined with the creaminess of the cured egg yolk was the perfect unctuous mouthful. It was so good! The Yaki udon was another winner. Chewy strands of udon coated in a luscious crab miso butter and topped generously with snow crab meat - this is one dish crab roe fanatics would go crazy over.
Surprised to see only one dessert option on the menu, we’re glad to report the Monaka ice cream sandwich did not disappoint. Fukuro has spruced up the quintessential Japanese dessert with seaweed ice cream. Five kinds of seaweed, both fresh and dry, are boiled with cream at 85°C to impart a savoury, almost smokey flavour. Juxtaposed with the tart black cherry jam and sandwiched between thin Japanese wafers, this was the perfect way to cap off our night.
Our verdict? Of the twelve dishes we tried, only the prawn gyozas were a miss. That's not a bad hit-rate. From the ambience to the food and drink, and service, everything was executed to the T. One would not have guessed that this was just Fukuro’s opening night…