Monday, 17 September 2018

Louie Louie, Walworth Road

I should probably say up front, at the start of what will turn out to be a rather mediocre review, that of all the ultra-specialist Japanese restaurant types, I've always found okonomiyaki to be the least engaging. It's not that there's anthing particularly wrong about the combination of shredded cabbage, egg, bacon, mayonnaise and tamarind sauce (and whatever else you may find in there - okonomiyaki literally translating as "how you like"), it's just that I would seek my fill of kaiseki, yakitori, sushi, ramen, udon, soba and a few others, in that order, before I began to harbour a serious desire for cabbage omelette.

"But it's comforting, hangover food," I hear you say, "it's not supposed to be life-changing". Perhaps not. But it seems odd to me that Japan, a country that raises almost every aspect of eating out to an art form, would obsess (and they do obsess, based on the number of okonomiyaki joints I passed in Tokyo when I was there) on something so... well, ordinary.

It's also probably fair to say that to get the "full" okonomiyaki experience you need to be sitting around a hotplate with your dinner cooking in front of you - it's an interactive experience - and for various very sensible reasons this isn't possible at a popup in a café on Walworth Road. So, while the main events cooked backstage we got stuck into some starters, such as this very pleasant arrangement of pickled mushrooms and cucumber....

Fried lotus roots were greaseless and crisp, dressed in seaweed salt...

Japanese "tacos" were a bit wet and bland, but had a decent serving of fresh tuna so weren't a complete waste of time...

...and ssam short rib, Korean interlopers, had a lovely soft texture and plenty of flavour once paired with gochujang.

"Angry wings" were nice enough, certainly pretty heavy on the scotch bonnet, though could have done with a bit of a crisper skin. Also, rocket is the devil. But apart from that, fine.

After that, the okonomiyaki arrived. I have three photos here of the three different styles, but as you can tell, visually they weren't exactly distinctive so I'll leave you to decide which was which because I sure as hell have no idea myself. And it has to be said, they tasted pretty similar to eat too, despite one containing seafood, one involving beef & mustard, and one with pork and kimchi. This is probably largely to do with the fact that 90% of any okonomiyaki is egg and cabbage, dressed in mayo and tamarind sauce, and whatever else you add to the mix tends to get a bit lost. As I have mentioned, they were fine - not inedible, not wrong, just a bit underwhelming. And at £13/£14 a pop, not particularly good value either.

I should point out that by the time we left Louie Louie on that wet Thursday evening, every table in this attractive little space was taken, so there are clearly enough omelette fans in SE17 to make the numbers work - at least for now - and despite my own reservations, for this I'm glad. I may not have been bowled over myself, but anyone trying to do something a bit different, in an area of town that you'd usually only visit on the way to somewhere else, should be applauded. I doubt I'd be back, but if the idea of paying £12 for a cabbage omelette fills your heart with joy, well, you know where to go.



Lizzie said...

The only thing about the angry wings that I remember were that they were furiously salty.

Pasta Bites said...

I had no idea they did pop ups for japanese omelettes!I have been for brunch and was highly pleasant, found the staff a little unfriendly however. Despite being about 25 mins walk, I havent been back in a year.