When a man is tired of eating meat on sticks and drinking Japanese whisky, he is tired of life. I think we can all agree with that age-old proverb; for many it shapes our very existence and defines our identity. ‘I eat grilled meat skewers, therefore I am.’ The Woodstock Kushiyaki Bar is here to help.
The former boozer just round the corner from Bond St tube has been decked out as a Japanese pub or ‘izakaya’ serving a range of kushiyaki (grilled in teriyaki sauce) and kushiage (deep fried with tonkatsu sauce) skewers.
They’ve kept the original pub name, risky business if you ask me given the proximity to an Angus Steakhouse. I can’t begin to imagine how many #lads come through the doors looking for the nearest pint of Wife Beater and exit #confused.
J and I got a mix of skewers and other dishes to share, all delicious and surprisingly enough to satisfy two burly (weedy) men. Pork belly kushiyaki were outstanding, big sticky chunks of meat with fat that melted on impact. I also loved the beef fillet which had a rich iron-y taste that reminded me of offal. The king prawns with lime and chilli and chicken thigh varieties were also tasty if nothing special. I spruced the latter up with some extra teriyaki from a nearby spray bottle. Nice touch!
My mandatory calamari fix was a highly enjoyable one, the batter light and calamari fresh as you like. By contrast the courgette tempura was inoffensive but under-seasoned. I have no idea why they have pimientos de padron on the menu. We’d ordered some assuming a Japanese twist on the Mediterranean staple, but they were just your run-of-the-mill peppers. Weird.
Our last two plates pulled it back to the glory of the kushiyaki. A pair of plump and golden kushi age drizzled with tonkatsu were perfectly crisp, with moist chicken breast waiting inside.
Top of the tree was the soft shell crab. For low-key dining our crustacean was stunningly presented; the delicate crab flavour broke through the tempura batter, legs and limbs ready for dunking into a creamy wasabi mayo. I could have plucked and dunked for hours.
These guys seriously know their booze too. There’s a complimentary Japanese green tea cocktail waiting for you on arrival laced with midori, vodka, gin and the tiniest smidge of something non-alcoholic. Japanese whiskies got the nod from my aspiring Yakuza friend J, whilst the manager gave us a taste of a few sakes from the lengthy menu. There’s an impressive range of flavours and a few with alcohol content high enough to fuck you up if the mood takes you. I wobbled somewhat when getting up to leave.
What we’re dealing with here is Next-Level bar snacks, yet The Woodstock Kushiyaki so much more than that. Their small plates don’t cost much and are mostly top notch (even the duds are worth finishing); staff are super friendly and there’s a relaxed air of authenticity to the place. They may have difficulty tapping into their demographic with the double-edged sword of being just off Oxford St, but with more quality meat than you can shake a stick at, I’m quite happy keeping Woodstock my little secret.
11 Woodstock Street, W1C 2AE