What: Parisian soba noodle specialist Yen has opened a London outpost in a shiny new development on London’s the Strand. Soba noodles, lesser-known in the UK than ramen or udon, are made from buckwheat flour, which is ground in a large mill in-house.
Who: Despite hailing from Paris, Yen is fronted by a strong Japanese team. Executive chef Hiyama Hiroki brings experience from a variety of Michelin-starred restaurants including three-Michelin starred Ristorante Da Vittorio in Italy. Head sushi chef will be Akinori Yasuda, who was head sushi chef at Zuma for six years. Noodles will be made by Maruno Hidenori and Katsuki Sakurai, both of whom have trained with the ‘master of soba’ Takahashi Kunihiro, in Japan.
The vibe: Yen is the only restaurant in the new 190 Strand development, a vast, modernist building into which it fits perfectly. The restaurant has high ceilings, a cocktail bar on the upper mezzanine, and is panelled with backlit Shoji paper screens imported from Japan, reminiscent of a Japanese tea house. A bespoke glass box houses the soba room, where the buckwheat flour is ground and the noodles are made twice daily. Solo diners can dine at the sushi counter seating, with a view into the open kitchen, and a private dining room at the back of the restaurant is available for events.
The food: Yen’s specialities are soba and sushi, but there is also a variety of dips, grilled meats and tempuras, including chargrilled black cod marinated in saikyo miso; courgette flower tempura; and hida-wagyu beef with magnolia leaf, marinated in miso. Soba can be ordered hot, in soup with toppings, or cold with a dashi mirin dipping sauce, spring onion and wasabi. Sushi can be ordered either a la carte or from an omekase menu directed by the chef. Drinks, curated by head bartender Alex Frattini will comprise cocktails, wines and spirits, and a variety of Japanese sakes, beers, shochu, plum wines and whiskies
And another thing: Yen’s flagship is located in the fashionable St Germain de Pres district of Paris, and the brand is owned by Onward Holdings Co — one of Japan’s largest fashion houses, established in the 1920s. The company also owns Jil Sander and Joseph - which might explain by Yen is such a stylish restaurant.