I say ‘cooking’ and all the smug foodies around me cheer “great!” “rewarding! ” and “inexpensive!” Sure, I agree with them some of the time, but to be real for a minute, cooking on a daily basis can be as tedious as hell’s kitchen. A good restaurant is something everyone can agree on; the giver of deliciousness, the remover of our personal labour. So I was somewhat suspicious when hearing of Hot Stone, the new Japanese joint in Islington promising you cook your own food. What is this sacrilege I wondered? Naturally, I went to investigate.
So it turns out, Hot Stone is actually rather specific as to what cooking you can do. Clue is in the name, they give you a hot stone, and you cook the meat or fish on it that they’ve loving prepped, along with dipping sauces and seasoning. Essentially they’ve taken all the rubbish bits of cooking out and reduced it to its most pleasurable. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, for Hot Stone is so much more than its namesake. Kicking off the evening was the series of sake, and a selection of starters.
The sake flight itself has an award winner in its ranks, and was a great accompaniment for the Hamachi carpaccio – which Hot Stone import from Japan twice a week – eely, eely good.
This was the first time in my life I’d tried takoyaki with okonomiyaki sauce, and I now think of them as the grown up’s Kinder surprise. In place of the toy, these wonderful balls have a delectable surprise of octopus as their centre, and the delicious battered rice surrounding it is the chocolate. These alone are worth venturing out of your house for.
Named after Hot Stone’s address, 9 Chapel Street was unique in that it’s placed briefly under the grill. Earthy yet fresh, with the spicy sauce that kept the heat at a moderate level, this is not your normal sushi. Hot Stone know how to create a signature dish, and the heated element gave it another level entirely.
Later, we tried the sashimi and sushi platter, which rest assured was the rawest for all the purists out there. The wondrous plate showcased how Hot Stone deals with high quality, fresh ingredients with flair and finesse. This kind of finesse is hard to rival in even the most enthusiastic amateur foodie.
Now for the main attraction. A large hot stone was placed on the table, along with the fish selection of salmon, tuna, king prawns, scallops. Despite my reservations, I found there is something warming about cooking your food, it really adds a sociable level of dining with something that isn’t always a given. The stone itself gave a tiny subtle, enhancing flavour to the fresh fish whilst Hot Stone provide option of 3 different sauces for dipping to add to the fun.
Hot Stone offers bimibap in addition to its plethora of Japanese dishes and adhering to its own vibe, it serves them in hot stone bowls. The wagyu beef in mine was tender and flavoursome, and obviously worked incredibly well with the sticky rice and vegetables.
After this feast, there wasn’t much room for the sweets. But the manager insisted on us trying the Yuzu cheesecake. Cue Hot Stone’s twist on it – the couli was salty, making the dessert intriguing to the point of moreish.
On reflection, it’s hard to say what was the best part about the restaurant, they were all equally great. You may be drawn in initially by the promise of cooking your own food, but given the Hot Stone experience is faultless from start to finish, it will be the whole of it you’ll come back for.
9 Chapel Market, Angel, Islington, London, N1 9EZ