Mu, like most noteworthy restaurants, will draw guests in from the moment they enter. Some will be delighted that it is named after the mu album by jazz player Don Sherry, and that a small fee will be added to your bill to pay the pianist or singer who will begin around 7:30 p.m. Others will say, “Why are you driving me into a graffiti-filled building to eat Japanese-influenced food in a dark jazz club? Is Café Rouge fully booked?”
You may find that last group totally unexperienced. When I perused the list while Dawn Mist by Freddie Redd was playing on the sound system at the same time as pianist Yohan Kebede of Kokoroko was preparing for his nightly group, I thought of several friends that this would be a little pocket of heaven. It’s a project by brothers Amit and Anish Patel, who also run Brilliant Corners in nearby Dalston and are behind the Giant Steps travel club/sound system, but at mu the food is taken very seriously as well.
It can be tempting in a place like this to just hit a list of faded skewers, spring rolls, and sliders, and hopefully the audience is too lost in the music to care about it. But no: Mo is a very decent experimental Japanese restaurant with charcoal robatayaki Grill serves the likes of I’ll admitCoated Tofu With Daikon Salad And Haki Tempura With Wasabi And Peas.
Both of these dishes are good examples of Mo’s reach towards high standards. The tofu comes in a generous mass, almost burnt, and is thickly covered in sweet soybeans commonly used on fish, along with a big but big salad of daikon and carrots in rice vinegar. the dead bandage. This is not a flimsy vegetarian option. It’s smoky, assertive and decidedly strong. Meanwhile, hake is a great portion of white fish in a wonderfully light batter, served with mushy peas in a hidden wasabi stream. It’s the missing link between Ormskirk and Osaka. Someone, somewhere, has really thought about these things.
Forgive me for sounding surprised, but I’ve frequented many music venues over the decades, and not once did I get up once the next day to applaud the postmodern fun of seeing the chef. How does it feel to eat here when the place is packed to the rafters for loud jazz performances late on a Friday night, I can only guess, as I went on a quiet evening in the middle of the week when the large horseshoe bar was serving a cocktail list of old classics for a few A softly spoken drinker and a handful of pianist lovers. Under these circumstances, Mo felt like a real restaurant, albeit more spacious and spacious.
We made our way through the short, but memorable, menu and ate a very good earthen tennis ball of beef with slices of dark green nori to smear it on. The yellowtail sashimi with yuzu and pomegranate was fresh and juicy, while the eggplant was a little less flavorful, grilled until black but with the squid innards dripping with white miso, still quickly disappearing. The same powerful grill will burn you a caviar-covered Dexter striploin, or smeared scallop skewers. Yuzu KochoThe magical chili paste that elevates fish, pasta, and even cakes to even greater heights. A side of baby gem dipped in miso and thickly carpeted with panko bread crumbs made that sheet a mock salad, turning it into something rich, sweet and more like dessert. The only musical note was a wet dry bowl of green peeled french fries purported to be nori potatoes but they were so nondescript and incompatible with the rest of the dinner that it was as if they were from a different kitchen.
Mu offers only one dessert: creme brulee. My sworn policy is to never have dessert in any restaurant that offers only one choice, because they clearly want to get you off the idea altogether; It’s the kind of good mind trick a lot of restaurants are doing right now, instead of hiring a decent pastry chef. And burnt custard isn’t anyone’s idea of an interesting pudding; That’s what MasterChef runners make for a quick second cycle after flipping 90 minutes in five-way pork chops.
However, I can forgive Mo for this. The food at this charming, bold and wonderful music venue, which really tries to give the young talents and likable but dedicated artists a platform, is much grander and ornately executed than it should be. They don’t get caught up in the list. This is a kitchen that plays with confidence. I’m not a big fan of jazz, but I know what I know about dinner, and I’m definitely ready for a second performance.
in 432-434 Kingsland Road, London E8, 020-7209 4187. Open Wednesday through Sunday 6-11.30pm (12.30am Friday and Saturday, 11pm Sunday). About £40 per person, plus drinks and service
The next episode of the fourth series of Grace’s Comfort Eating podcast is released on Tuesday, November 8. Listen to it here.