Bone Daddies Shackfuyu Will Make You a Japanese Comfort Food Addict
Bone Daddies Shackfuyu is a Japanese restaurant with a pizza oven.
The menu features wings, mac and cheese, and prawn toast (plus French toast). Many of the dishes are roasted or baked. I can’t say I set my expectations too high in terms of authenticity, or even taste .
Then I tried the food, quickly returned for two additional meals, and abandoned plans to feature Shackfuyu as a single paragraph at the end of a review of Engawa, a nearby fine-dining Japanese establishment in Soho.
The dishes at Shackfuyu are way better than you might expect. They are enjoyable, not because of their novelty, but because so much thought has gone into them. They taste good and I shall keep going back, even though the menu is short and the room can be cramped and crowded.
The owner is Australian chef Ross Shonhan, who was in charge at Zuma before he quit to open his own restaurants. His menu is based on "yoshoku" cooking, the Japanese interpretation of Western dishes that has given rise to katsu curries and breaded cutlets since the Meiji period, when Japan opened to the outside world. The country's traditional cuisine is known as "washoku."
A Range of Influences
At Shackfuyu, Shonhan's short menu reflects a range of international influences, including Korea and China. My must-have dish is Hot Stone Rice, at £7.20 ($10.67). This beef-and-chili concoction is based on Korea's bibimbap mixed-rice dish, only the traditional gochujang chili spicing is replaced by a Japanese interpretation of the sauce used for dandan noodles in Sichuan cooking. There's also a sesame butter with onion and garlic, and corn on the cob is somewhere in the mix for extra crunch.
It's an umami tsunami: The flavor just comes at you in big, salty waves.
If you want to turn down the taste volume for a minute, the green beans (£4.20) are crunchy and delicate, with toasted Japanese sesame seeds, spring onions, and a ponzu sauce for a citrus after-taste. I have them every time.
One of my favorite dishes is Korean fried wings, at £5.90 ($8.74). The sticky red chicken looks as if it is going to be unpleasantly sweet, but it turns out to have a hint of sourness that sets it apart from toothsome mates on the barbecue. I sometimes feel I am the only person who doesn't enjoy getting messy with over-sweet fried chicken. (To be honest, I did use chopsticks to eat these wings, but I am sure they are finger-lickin' good.)
A Japanese Food Zone
Shackfuyu is only the latest opening from Shonhan. The Australian chef also owns Bone Daddies (ramen) and Flesh & Buns, an Izakaya bar and restaurant, in Soho. Over the past five years, the neighborhood has become home to several inexpensive Japanese eating establishments.
The daddy is Koya, which opened in 2010, serving large bowls of udon noodles and surprisingly delicate small plates. The dish Kinoko (£11.60) features hot udon in a broth with mushrooms and walnuts. It's hearty and authentic and warming. The place is always packed, often with people lining up. The bar next door is also popular.
Or you could head to the nearby Tonkotsu for great ramen. The stock is created by cooking pork bones for as long as 18 hours. The Tonkotsu signature dish (£11) features sea salt-based stock and thin noodles topped with slices of pork belly, half a seasoned soft-boiled egg, bamboo, bean sprouts, and spring onions. It has a deep, smoky flavor with a salty kick.
As at Koya, you're probably going to find yourself sitting next to strangers as you slurp noisily and spill stuff across your shirt and (in moments of great enthusiasm) even spray that stranger. It’s fine. You had to start a conversation somehow.
Bone Daddies Shackfuyu is at 14a Old Compton Street, W1D 4TJ; +44-20-7734-7492 or www.bonedaddies.com/shackfuyu.
Koya is at 49 Frith Street, W1D 4SG; +44-20-7434-4463 or koya.co.uk
Tonkotsu is at 63 Dean Street, W1D 4QG; +44-20-7437-0071 or tonkotsu.co.uk
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines)