Titu in Mayfair: Japanese favourites with a modern infusion
Hidden away in a cosy corner of Shepherd Market, you’ll find Titu – a Japanese gyoza bar. The restaurant is small. In fact, it only seats around 15 people at a push, giving it a really cosy and exclusive feel. A quick peruse down the menu reveals a selection of drinks, snacks, small and large plates with a modern twist, where you can expect to discover intriguing dishes like chicken and foie gras gyozas, Chicken Popcorn and Shiitake Rice Balls. We went to find out if this quirky take on Japanese dining would pay off.
We started with a couple of cocktails – the Smokey Old Fashioned made with Japanese whisky (Hibiki) which made quite the entrance arriving at the table in a bell jar infused with smoked sugar. This is a punchy and robust cocktail that’s all about letting the whisky speak for itself. We also had the Igho Dragon which was made with Japanese sake, matcha, apricot syrup and lemon – perfectly sweet with a hint of sour.
For the food, we started with a selection of small plates to share. The Crunchy Prawns were deep-fried, with shells intact, and served with a spicy mayonnaise. Packed full of flavour, these were incredibly moreish – with the shells giving an added crunch – and finished off with just the right amount of seasoning.
The Shiitake Rice Balls – an inventive take on arancini balls – were made up of rice and shitake mushrooms and filled with mozzarella. These were absolutely delicious, with the rich, smoky flavours of the mushroom cutting through the gooey, salty cheese.
We also had the Tuna Caviar Tartar which was not only beautifully presented but tasted exquisite. The delicate cubes of fish were wonderfully contrasted with the caviar and puffed rice, making this an indulgent dish to be savoured.
We then moved onto the Soft Shell Crab Salad which was served with grapefruit, pomegranate and coriander. Though there were a lot of flavours going on here, it was certainly reminiscent of a typical Asian salad. However, the flavour of the crab was perhaps a little lost in this one.
Afterwards, we moved onto the large plates. We ordered the Dream Steak – a simple but solid main. I was expecting an unexpected twist but instead, we were served a tasty tender steak accompanied by a fiery sauce. This was one of the safer options on the menu, but certainly worth trying.
Then it was onto the much-anticipated gyozas. We ordered chicken and cheese and they arrived in a pretty formation. They were perfectly browned on the outside and filled with minced chicken and Bourgogne cheese which is strong and salty in flavour, giving the gyozas a really rich and indulgent quality. Although slightly heavier than your typical dumpling, this was a winning combination for me.
We just about had room for dessert and went for the Chocolate Fondant which oozed a warm, velvety hazelnut centre while covered in tangy dried passion fruit, resulting in a wonderful sweet and sour aftertaste. We also had the Green Tea Crème Brûlée topped with chopped strawberries. The green tea helped to counteract the sweetness of the custard, but hardcore crème brûlée fans would argue that the caramelised sugar topping just wasn’t there.
Overall the experience at Titu was relaxed, enjoyable and a lovely way to spend an evening trying an assortment of dishes. The snug venue is not for the claustrophobic, but I found it wholly charming and intimate. The food was experimental without relying on trendy gimmicks and the balancing act between modern infusions and Japanese favourites was spot on.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Titu, 1A Shepherd Street Mayfair London W1J 7H, call 020 7493 8746 or visit their website here.