No9 [Restaurant] Pot luck in West London

no9r-300x123Pot luck in West London

There are several well-known one pot dishes in Japan. Sukiyaki, which we`ve covered in ZOOM magazine before, and Shabu-shabu, are meals either cooked by you, or cooked in front of you. A portable stove sits in the middle of the table, with a nabe pot simmering away on top, and fresh ingredients at the side, ready to be dropped in. A social, sharing way to enjoy food, everyone helps themselves, as more is added to the pot, and the steam rises, and conversation and sake flows. A lesser known version of this style of cooking is Udon-suki. Originating from Takamatsucity, Kagawa prefecture in the Shikoku region of western Japan, it is reputedly only available in two restaurants in London. One of them is Momo in Ealing. This west London borough is home to a large community of Japanese ex-pats, students, and businessmen on long term secondment with their firms. Momo is situated in Hotel 55, a stylish boutique hotel, a short walk from North Ealing station. The dining room of the restaurant is modern, low lit, with a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere. There is seating outside, on decking in the garden, perfect for when the weather turns balmy. Order Udon-suki and a gas stove is first brought to your table, with the nabe pot filled with a stock, or broth of soy sauce, katsuobushi (flaked smoked bonito) and a secret ingredient known only to the owner and head chef Kondo-san. The main ingredients of the dish: shrimp, salmon, clam, scallop, sea bass, cod, chicken, leek, cabbage, sliced carrot, tofu, three varieties of mushroom, daikon (white radish) and pink kamaboko (a kind of processed seafood often served with noodle dishes), are all freshly prepared and laid out on a dish. When the soup is hot enough, they are placed in the pot, not just chucked in of course, but gently dropped one by one. As they cook away, the colours of the fish and vegetables change as the aroma grows stronger. Once ready, simply pick out a succulent piece of cod, glistening shiitake mushroom, spoon some soup into your bowl and enjoy. As the pot continues to bubble away, the flavours intensify, growing more powerful and rich. And when the pickings finally become slim, the udon noodles are brought out, along with harusame (also known as Chinese vermicelli or ‘glass’ noodles). They are added to the soup, the fat white udon and clear, spongy harusame soaking up all the flavours, filling your stomach, and rounding the meal off perfectly. A warm, hearty and healthy dish, Udonsuki is served throughout the year at Momo (£29.50 per person, minimum 2).

Alexis Brown