On my last trip to Japan after a gorgeous meal in a lovely neighbourhood restaurant, I spoke with the chef about the food and his inspiration. We had had some wonderful dishes, a particularly sublime sandwich of sliced lotus root sandwiching minced chicken and fried in a marinade / sauce of soy, sake and mirin and wonderful rice. He told me that the most expensive thing in his restaurant was the rice, as it was the most important thing. Painstakingly sourced and executed with care and precision the little bowls of rice served there were bowls of perky joy soothed with all sorts of gorgeousness like that lotus root sandwich. TĀ TĀ Eatery want you to think about rice too.
TĀ TĀ Eatery centre their food on their rice, both as a vessel for eating and in congee. From Zijun Meng and Ana Goncalves, both former chefs at one of my favourite restaurants (that is sadly no more) Viajante, and the Chiltern Firehouse after. They are a street food favourite at Druid St Market where the serve ricewiches (rice sandwich with things like short rib, carrot and kimchi) and previously at Broadway Market where they were serving congee with Galician beef floss, egg and piri piri oil. I am still furious with myself that I didn’t run up there and get a bowl. For the month of March they are serving an all day brunch menu with a strong Asian accent at the lovely Newman Arms. I went on Saturday.
I was keen, to put it mildly, so much so that I was stopped mid order and asked if I really wanted to order that much. Yes, I did! I didn’t want to share my congee so we need two, and I don’t want to share my XO egg with katsuobushi either (who would?!). But I paused and reflected and took a couple of things off. In the end, we had the perfect amount of food.
Congee with chicken stock, herb sauce and crispy chicken skin with dough sticks started us off. A bowl each. Natch. The congee was gently and soothing with pops of crunchy intense skin and spikes of flavour from the herb sauce which had a Scandinavian flavour to it. Crowned with the slices of dough stick, chewy and gorgeous as they were.
Braised peanuts with edamame and celery didn’t last long. There was something very more-ish about them. I love a cooked nut. House made fermented vegetable salad was intense and vibrant with lots of small contrasting sharp bites with an underlining depth of flavour from the fermentation.
Prawn tartare was lovely, fresh and deeply savoury cured prawns with egg yolk and pops of tobiko (tiny flying fish roe). This is intense on its own with some bitterness underneath and goes very well with some of the rice with house dressing. Steamed tofu with spring onions and soy was simple and lightly dressed.
Time for the eggs. TĀ TĀ egg, fried egg with XO (a spicy sauce from Hong Kong made with dried seafoods like scallops) and katsuobushi (dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna flakes) was bright and also intense. It didn’t last long. We finished with butifarra, a Catalan pork and rice sausage with a perfect fried egg on top and some turnip tops. A star. Get two of those if it is on.
On the side we had a glass of sake each, a Ninki “Junmia Genshu 11”, clean and round and a great match for the food. I love sake and find it generally misunderstood as sherry is. Many think it is a spirit, but it is in fact rice wine, and it can be quite light too.
The bill came to £46. We had already paid £10 each for our tickets and this was deducted from the bill. Their residency at the Newman Arms continues through March on Saturdays, and I will go again. Check out their Druid St Market stall too, and Druid St Market generally. It is a joy. Tickets are available on Billetto.