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Itadaki Zen (Restaurant)

Picture of Itadaki Zen in Kings Cross, London

139 King's Cross Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 9BJ
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Tel: 020 7278 3573 | Email to Itadaki Zen | Transport: Kings Cross St. Pancras | Write review

Itadaki Zen Review

Itadaki Zen is featured in these Guides:

Best for: vegetarian and vegan food; organic food and drink, sustainable food.

Great: Japanese food, service, tempura.

I haven’t been to King’s Cross for quite a while, so on my way to Itadaki Zen near the station I was surprised by the absence of women in fishnet stockings touting for business, or men sitting in doorways smelling of ammonia. This turned out to be not the only pleasant surprise of the evening.

Arriving at Itadaki Zen, I looked through the large glass frontage at what appeared to be part sauna, part Ikea light pine furniture section. Unlike a sauna visit, though, I opted to keep my clothes on, and once seated, I was handed a bundle of bound distressed paper, which I soon realised was the menu.

Printed at the top of each page were the words ‘Europe’s First Organic and Vegan Japanese restaurant.’ I couldn’t help thinking that I might not be in for a great meal. I am simply not convinced by vegetarian and with vegan being a more radicalised form of vegetarian, my hopes receded further. I fear that both vegetarian and healthy are synonymous with dull when it comes to food and lifestyle; one of my brothers is vegetarian and he does little to change my opinion.

Itadaki Zen is not just a restaurant, it is a social project. It is seeking to become self-sufficient, growing produce on its own farms. It tries to engage with the community and develop its ideas on building and maintaining physical and mental health through food – a world away from whaling with which I sooner associate Japan. The menu is split into set menus that offer a selection of foods to provide the body with a boost using key vitamins and minerals; plus main dishes providing a greater choice or something to share. The menu is reasonably priced throughout, this is not somewhere that will break the bank.

In light of the menu’s theme, it would be easy to envisage that the clientele would be a hemp poncho-wearing crowd surrounded by a whiff of soya beans. This was not the case, however. The tables were filled with suited types having a healthy bite, couples and friends having a relaxed evening out, and a family bonding over sticky rice.

Seeing a sushi section on the menu my heart jumped. Thoughts of red snapper perched on rice sprung to mind – that was before I came back to earth with a bang remembering I was in a vegan restaurant, so the picture was replaced by one of plain rice.

The sushi was first to arrive; a beautifully presented selection of 6 parcels. Even though I didn’t hold out much hope for my first bite into the grated carrot on sushi rice, it was actually rather good, with the sauce bringing it to life. Over the next hour or so I tucked into dish after dish that was fresh and full of taste; often turning an everyday vegetable into something that I had not seen, or tasted, before. The huge dish of vegetable tempura was crispy, without the slightest hint of grease (far removed from the tempura that now seems to be on half the restaurant menus in London). I can’t say I knew exactly what I was eating at times. I recognised sweet potato, onion and aubergine. It was the tempura-covered seaweed that looked otherworldly, whilst extremely enjoyable, one in particular looked strangely like battered pubic hair.

With the exception of a bowl of steamed vegetables - which he didn’t see the point of - my dining partner also enjoyed the meal. Being someone whose diet consists mainly of sausages and fried poultry, his positive feelings towards Itadaki Zen demonstrate that this food really is for anyone.

To wash everything down there was a selection of organic beer, wine and sake – or, of course, an ever so healthy tea selection. The service was friendly and eager; happy to help decipher the menu to ensure we ended up with something to enjoy.

The music, quite surprisingly, was a soft jazz that I felt added to the mood in the restaurant. I’m glad they opted for this over the seemingly obligatory Japanese lute music that plagues many restaurants; though even that is preferable to karaoke as an accompaniment to dining - something that I have experienced elsewhere in London recently.

Overall, Itadaki Zen was a very pleasant surprise. In a London jam packed with generic gastropub food and a mix of ‘Modern European’ fare, it offers something new and enjoyable. This is not the place to go for a long and boozy dinner, but when looking for something a little different, tasty and fresh then it is worth a mention. It’s not a restaurant just for herbivores, even a staunch meat lover like myself left full and satisfied. And it’s clearly not just me that thinks so: the tables were full, despite it being a Monday night. All positives aside, it still failed to convert me to tofu. I maintain that the only way to make tofu enjoyable is to stuff it with foie gras, wrap it in pancetta and fry in goose fat.
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Customer Reviews for Itadaki Zen

Average (based on 2 votes): 2 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Itadaki Zen.

“As a veggie I love this place - not much to look at; but certainly makes a change and even my meat eating friends like the experience of having something new to try.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Simon G, Bethnal Green (7 years 6 months 23 days ago)

“Certainly very different but really good. Nice to try something new in London and at a good price. Recommend.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Martin, london (7 years 7 months 22 days ago)

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Additional Information

Itadaki Zen Food & Drinks

Itadaki Zen Food Menu

Specialising in Vegan cuisine.

Updated 21/05/2010

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