Where the distinctive flavours of Japan meet the exoticness of Latin America, Samina wishes to go. Turns out she only has to visit Clapham…
In A Word:
Small and large groups of friends in particular, there are a few couples in the bar and outside areas, but mostly groups in the restaurant part. There’s a celebration happening too. Surprisingly, there are noticeably more women than men here.
As part of my culinary quest, I’m trying out as many different flavours and styles of cooking as possible. So, I was particularly excited to be invited to Mommi on Clapham High Street. A restaurant and bar specialising in Peruvian-Japanese cuisine. This style of food originated from Japanese immigrants who migrated to Peru, South America and began to combine the two cuisines. Being an expert in neither of these cuisines, I find myself eager to sample the fusion of dishes.
The restaurant is situated in an ideal location between Clapham Common and Clapham North tube stations and just a few minutes from Clapham High Street overground station. Pulling in the crowds should be easy, so, let’s take a closer look.
At first glance, this doesn’t have a ‘restauranty’ feel to it in terms of its exterior. It does appear to look more like a trendy bar or café with its generous scattering of tables and chairs. Here, it’s more laid-back and people are enjoying more drinks rather than food. So, what about inside?
It’s not what I’m expecting. It’s got a far more classy setup. On the right is the bar area and to the left is the restaurant/seating area. There’s a hint of opulence thanks to its gold, brown and brassy colour scheme. There’s lots of space too. There are booths, a long dining table (perfect for a large gathering) and an open kitchen at the back, allowing you to see the food being prepared. Quite ‘on trend’ at the moment.
The way the menu works here is slightly different compared to other restaurants. You can choose one of the four specially created menus: Machu Picchu, Fuji, Andean or Veggie – all menus have six dishes apart from the Veggie which only has three. Or you can go Al A Carte. If you go Al A Carte, they recommend you choose at least three dishes as some are small plates. I’m hopeless at deciding what to have from the menu – I just want to try everything! So, Jack and I choose the Fuji menu.
The first two dishes arrive shortly after we made our choice and immediately we’re delighted by the presentation. The plates don’t arrive in the order they’re set in the menu, which comes as a pleasant surprise. Although I can’t be sure if this is always the case. Our first two dishes are the Flame-Seared Tuna Tataki with Onion Ponzu, Truffle Oil, Heirloom Tomatoes and Hazelnuts and the Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Sweet Potato Chirashi Sushi Seasoned Sushi Rice with Aji Amarillo Crème Fraiche.
Being flame-seared means that the tuna is still quite raw, so it still has that silky texture. I’m not a big fan of tuna sushi because it tastes a bit bland to me, however, if you mix the fish with the onion ponzu and truffle oil, it really stands out on the palate. The tomatoes give it a fresh feel while the hazelnuts give it crunch.
However, I have to say, my favourite is the seasoned sushi rice. I’d be happy just eating a huge bowl of this. The vegetable components of this dish give a sweet, fresh taste while the crème fraiche provides a weighty splash of sour and an almost vinegary base. Amazing.
Onto round two and I can safely say I’m even more hungry than I was before! My appetite for Peruvian-Japanese fusion seems to have increased…The next dishes to arrive are the Yakitori Salmon with Lime Butter Sauce, Black Sesame Seeds and Coriander Cress, the Lamb Cutlets Yakitori with Green Tea Miso, Aji Lomo, Coriander and Salsa Ocopa and finally our side of Crisp Sweet Potato Fries with Aji Amarillo and Yuzu Mayo and Truffle Salt. Where to start?
The presentation of all these dishes are excellent and you can smell the smokiness of the grilled lamb cutlets and salmon instantly. Jack and I waste no time digging into these plates. The lamb is a little tough around the edges due to the grill but it has a distinctive, barbecue taste that makes you want to keep eating. The green tea miso is a genuine surprise, it goes remarkably well with the cutlets and salsa ocopa. Shame there isn’t anymore…
The Yakitori Salmon has crispy, burnt edges that usually comes with a flame grill. It gives the tender pieces of fish more bite and an enjoyably rougher texture. The coriander cress and lime butter sauce adds richness to the dish and a hint of freshness on the palate too.
I’ve eaten a lot of sweet potato fries and these are probably one of the very best I’ve had. Crispy, golden orange and of course, sweet. The accompanying Aji Amarillo and Yuzu Mayo gives it a sharp, almost limey kick. Just scrumptious.
Ding, ding! Onto the final round and I’m ready for more fusion delights. The final dishes are served quickly, I just finish the last piece of lamb cutlet when two more dishes arrive at the table. Again, the presentation is tip-top. I would consider these to be the ‘bigger plates’ on the menu and considering what they are, this will probably fill us up quickly!
So, we tuck into a bowl of Braised Sticky Short Rib of Beef with Quinoa Lime Picante, Ama Su Roots and Teriyaki Padron Peppers. There is an interesting mix of flavours. The beef is tender and easy to chew and it goes remarkably well with quinoa. Quinoa is often referred to as vegetarian or vegan food, but here it has a moreish, meaty twist. This is seriously filling. Jack and I slowing down now…
The other dish is the Nikkei Tempura Fish & Chips with Wasabi Mayo, Cassava Fries and Spring Onion Ponzy. Similarly to the beef dish, this is satisfying but fills you up quickly. The tempura batter is perfectly cooked and the fish is firm and delicate. The Cassava fries are crisp outside and fluffy inside. I’m not too keen on Wasabi, but that doesn’t bother me as the fish and chips work well without it.
Yes, I’m done now, but that was one beautifully crafted menu. All washed down with an exceptionally good Draught Kirin.
We are thoroughly impressed, especially with the food. I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed it as usually it takes me a while to get into a new style of cuisine. There’s lots of moreish, satisfying flavours and aromas and even though some of the dishes are small, you’ll end up feeling quite full by the end. The food is quite pricy, but it’s no surprise considering the high-quality produce and style of cooking.
I would like to have seen more dishes in the Vegetarian menu. It is basically half the amount of dishes compared to the other three menus and I don’t feel that’s enough to satisfy a vegetarian diner, so that’s something they could look at again.
Otherwise, this is an excellent restaurant, helpful staff, a cool, vibrant atmosphere and mouth-wateringly good food.
44-48 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UR
Tel: 020 3814 1818