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Flora Drury conquers her fear of Japanese food at Nakama in Crouch End

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»It might just be me, but I find Japanese food intimidating. The thought of sitting in a high-tech restaurant choosing dishes I don’t recognise and can’t pronounce as they speed past me on a conveyor belt is enough to make me break out in a cold sweat.

But there wasn’t a conveyor belt in sight at Nakama and, within minutes of being welcomed through the door of the Crouch End restaurant, my colleague and I felt relaxed.

Nakama is not Japanese dining as we have come to perceive it. It’s a family-run restaurant with Shigeki Matsushima in the kitchen, his wife Midori’s paintings on the walls and daughter Aki – instantly recognisable from her stint on Masterchef – helping out on the floor.

And while their authentic menu may have had a whole host of things I could neither pronounce nor recognise, it wasn’t frightening.

The details

Nakama, 50 Topsfield Parade, N8 8PT. Tel: 020 8340 7773

Web: www.nakamarestaurant.co.uk

Wine: From £15.50

Food: From £3, depending on what you eat

Children welcome: Yes

Disabled access: No

We started with tuna, salmon, mackerel, sea bass and yellowtail Sashimi, which was lovely, if slimy for those not used to eating raw sliced fish.

More courses – each lovely – followed: A mix tempura of king prawns and vegetables, tori gyoza (or fried chicken dumplings), teriyaki tori (which was made with chicken) and eel inside out rolls.

But there were two in particular which really stood out.

The carpaccio of tuna, which came dressed in a sweet ginger, spring onion and pomegranate sauce, was easily one of the best things I have eaten this year – proved by the fact the mere thought of it makes my mouth water – while Aki’s Traditional Japanese Platter introduced me to a whole new concept: savoury custard.

Aki’s unusual chawan mushi – a savoury steamed dashi custard with chicken, prawn and shiitake mushrooms – and duck-stuffed shittake mushrooms with a chilli-soy dip both made an appearance on Masterchef.

There, Aki made a name for herself cooking authentic Japanese dishes with her own twist. Having now eaten her food, I can assure you it is a very good twist.

We rounded off the meal with a kurogoma (black sesame) ice cream and a sorbet made of yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, washed down with Japanese plum wine.

It was the perfect end to what had been an outstanding meal. I think I can safely speak for both my colleague and I when I say make a booking today.

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