★★★☆☆ / Japanese / Japanese Noodles

Taro review – Cheap Japanese food, but is it cheerful?

Inexpensive and quick. I can’t complain about that. Or can I?

Oh God, I hear you cry! Not another review of a Japanese restaurant! Admittedly I enjoy Japanese food much to the detriment of my wallet and the boredom of my less-enthusiastic dining companions, but this will be the last Japanese restaurant review, at least for a little while.

Soho’s Brewer Street seems to have more than its fair share of Japanese-related businesses from a manga shop to the Arigato supermarket and my perennial favourite Ten Ten Tei. Just across the road from Ten Ten Tei is the original branch of Taro, a Japanese restaurant that does a roaring trade at almost any time of day, but the Lensman and I managed to grab a table during one weekday lunchtime due to an impromptu craving for ramen.

Technically, only the Lensman was craving ramen. It’s not that I dislike that particular form of noodles, I’m just not as hopelessly addicted to it as the Lensman is. He opted for the roast pork ramen in soup. His facial expressions, or rather lack of them, told me all I need to know about his ramen. While he wasn’t pushing the bowl away in disgust, he wasn’t jumping up and down, insisting I try some either. I suspect he’s already struggling to remember anything about the dish.


I had a similar experience with my chicken teri don – essentially crispy fried bits of chicken served with rice and onions in a teriyaki sauce. The strips of chicken were suitably succulent with crisp skins, but the sauce was surprisingly bland and tasteless which is very disappointing. Teriyaki sauce should taste very distinctive as it should be made from a mix of soy sauce, sugar or honey and either mirin or sake. There was plenty of meat and carbohydrates though.

Clucking hell!

Given the rather risible strips of onion included with the chicken teri don, I thought I should order some vegetables. My addled, meat-addicted lips somehow managed to utter ‘pork gyoza’ to the efficient waiting staff instead. The wafer thin skins on the dumplings were reasonably supple and moist, although a crispy bite wouldn’t have gone amiss. The pork and ginger filling was a little understated, but quite pleasant nonetheless. Not bad, but far from the best gyoza I’ve had.

Gyoza dumplings.

I’ve blogged before about my fondness for calpico, or calpiss, a slightly acidic, watery Japanese yogurt drink. The stuff can be bought in bulk concentrate and diluted to taste for individual servings, much like Ribena or other squash juice drinks. I suspect this is how Taro prepare their calpico as my glass would have benefitted from a good stir before serving – the top half was quite weak while the bottom half was very tart.

Stupid wonky camera angles.

The Verdict

Criticising Taro seems a little churlish given the low prices and efficient service, but the quality of the food was generally underwhelming and merely satisfactory – as if the kitchen staff were cooking by numbers rather than with care and enthusiasm. I haven’t tried Taro’s sushi and sashimi recently, but after this visit I’m not sure I will when the generally better quality Ten Ten Tei is just across the road. It’s not bad for a quick lunch or if Ten Ten Tei is closed or packed out and you can’t be arsed going somewhere else.

Name: Taro

Address: 62 Brewer Street, London, W1F

Phone: 020 7734 5826

Web: http://www.tarorestaurants.co.uk/

Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday midday-22.30, Thursday to Saturday midday-23.00, Sunday midday-21.30

Reservations: probably a good idea.

Total cost for one person including soft drink: £12 approx.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Taro on Urbanspoon

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