I’m sure many of the people crossing town to come to Ealing Common, with its Japanese community with the nearby school, are mainly going for the divine sushi experience at Sushi Hiro. They’re probably not going to the little Japanese shop (Natural Natural) nor the other little Japanese shop (Atari-Ya) nor the great Japanese hairdressers (Camiyui). And little do they know that just down the road is an equally fabulous Japanese restaurant serving home style food and yakitori, as well as sushi and sashimi. Behind the bland exterior, with the windows blocked out too but with a colourful picture menu outside and bright orange and white signage, lies a little gem in west London.
I remember that we visited Kiraku not long after they opened and feasted on yakitori and nabemono and noodles. I also remember that for two impoverished grad students, the meal was quite expensive but we had big appetites and small budgets and luckily, things have balanced out a little since then (now we’re just one impoverished grad student)! We decided to return not long ago for lunch on a weekday.
We chose off their lunch menu, with its lists of set meals, donabes and bowls of noodles (though a la carte was also available). Both Blai and I opted for their sets, dishes that come with rice, miso soup, a simmered vegetable dish, and fruit. Each set came on its own tray with the dishes all individually plated and the whole lot arranged to beautiful effect.
I went for their service set (£10.00), or their set of the day, which changes daily and is written up on a board in both Japanese and English. That day, it included both tonkatsu and a pork rib and vegetable soup. As soon as I had my first sip of that soup, sigh….. oh, I was transported back to my parents’ dining table, drinking my mother’s pork and cabbage soup, with the broth lovingly boiled from pork bones for ages. The tonkatsu too was delicious – very crispy and porky and not at all greasy. The little pouring jar on the tray contained all the tonkatsu sauce you could ever want and more.
Blai had the yaki zakana set, grilled fish set (around £10.00, I think) and chose the mackerel over the salmon. Two generous pieces of the oily fish arrived with crispy skins and a soy based sauce to pour over. The fruit to end our meals was very sweet and fresh and I loved the variety they offer with each meal.
During our meal, the place filled up with Japanese businessmen (where do they work? Is there a secret big business building in Ealing Common?!) happily popping sushi into their mouths, digging into donburi and loudly slurping noodles, all while watching the Japanese drama unfolding on the television in the corner. Service was pretty good too and made quite special by one waiter who almost bent himself backwards to answer my questions about the special set.
We liked the place so much and were so upset with ourselves for not visiting more often that we made up for lost time by returning less than a fortnight later! And for lunch again but this time, on a weekend. Instead of Japanese businessmen, we were soon surrounded by Japanese families with their offspring.
This time, Blai had the mixed fry (£10.00) which turned out to be various meats, fish and vegetables covered in panko crumbs and fried. Once again the chef proved to be a dab hand at deep frying – everything was faultless (and the crumbed onion was both a surprise and delicious!). The simmered vegetable had changed – that day, it was simmered okara (soy bean pulp mixed with slivered vegetables), a very tasty dish I’d not had before. The fruit too had changed slightly – no strawberry but a lovely juicy bit of pineapple instead.
And wanting to try something different, I had a maguro zuke don & han udon, marinated tuna on rice and udon noodle soup set (£11.00). No miso soup with this set since the delicious, slippery, tender (yet they don’t give so easily) udon comes swimming in broth. The marinated tuna was very fresh though there was a not unpleasant slimy texture to it and the rice – I suspect a bit of raw egg? Of the two dishes, the udon really was the star to me in its simplicity; I look forward to having a big bowlful of them in the autumn!
Needless to say, I highly recommend this restaurant – I’m certainly going to be a more frequent visitor! I’ve always been sat at tables but I hope to sit at the sushi bar one day. As indicated at the beginning of the post, dinner is more expensive but only because you’ll want to order a million things off the a la carte menu. I remember that it also gets very busy at dinnertime so it’s advisable to make a reservation. At lunchtime, it’s possible to drop by though you may have to wait the later you get there. If you’re on a budget, go for lunch.
Sorry, final note – I’m sure this is one of the few restaurants in London that offers a Coke float!
8 Station Parade
London W5 3LD