Inauthentic, uninspired Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant in need of a rethink... or at least a refurb
Sen Nin, Camden Review
Sen Nin is a family of two Japanese Teppanyaki restaurants with branches in Islington and Camden. Antonia and I needed another pre-gig meal and Sen Nin Camden sounded just the ticket.
I found Sen Nin Camden on restaurant booking site, Quandoo, who give users a £10 restaurant voucher (which can be used at any of their participating restaurants) for every 1,000 loyalty points they collect from bookings, reviews etc.
For those who may not know what Teppanyaki is, guests are seated around a large hot-plate (also known as a teppan or Hibachi grill). The teppan is then used to cook pretty much everything, in real-time, right in front of you. Generally by a quite theatrical chef full of flicks and tricks.
As well as a good range of Teppanyaki dishes, the menu also has a selection of other dishes you’d expect from any self-respecting Japanese restaurant like sushi, sashimi, tempura, gyoza etc.
As we arrived, our booking was confirmed by a manager, sitting on a table with his laptop. It all felt a bit amateurish and hardly filled me with confidence for the rest of our visit. Each Teppanyaki station (of which there were 4 or 5) sits about 10 people, which probably provides a nice atmosphere when full, however there was only one other couple there when we arrived and not many more by the time we left.
The Islington branch got a full refurb las year and the Camden branch could do with the same. We were handed some worn, slightly grubby food and drink menus and went straight for the cocktail list as it was happy hour with 2-for-1 on all cocktails.
We had a Margarita (£6.95) each, which was only marginally better than the kind you’d expect from an all-inclusive resort in Lanzarote (not great) and were later told that their 2-for-1 works per person. Confused? We were too. Apparently ordering 2 cocktails here doesn’t mean one is free, it means the second one each person has is free…
We had words and got the 2-for-1 put through on our bill.
On to the food, we went for the Sushi & Sashimi & Tempura Platter (£18.00) made up of 4 pieces of nigri sushi, 4 pieces of sashimi and 6 pieces of mixed tempura. The sushi and sashimi were average at best and near tasteless but the tempura was pretty decent with a mix of crispy prawn, squid and vegetables. We also had two nice pieces of Grilled Eel Nigiri (Unagi) for £3.50.
The Chicken Gyoza (£5.55) were also disappointing. Having had some amazing gyoza in Japan these were a poor imitation with thick, stodgy wrappers. The best gyoza in my opinion are fried on the bottom so you have a crispy, coloured base and then steamed to cook the top half. I assume these were just boiled, in which case some kind of broth would keep them moist and make for a much nicer dish.
We then chose a couple of Teppanyaki meals to share. Tiger Prawns (£15.95) – tiger prawns with fresh lemon and homemade dipping sauce and Duck Breast (£16.95) – Gressingham duck breast grilled with a plum sauce glaze. Both came with a bowl of miso soup plus rice and seasonal vegetables cooked on the grill.
Our chef turned up and got straight on with making a hell of a racket! Smashing his tools on the metal edges of the grill like an 8 year old trying to play the drums for the first time before pulling off some impressive, cocktail flaring style moves (video) as well as more than a couple of awkward fumbles and drops.
As part of the entertainment, he asked if I’d like to try catching a piece of egg in my mouth… Naturally, I thought “this guy does this all the time so his throw will be spot on”. Three seconds later I had egg all over my shirt and trousers… I don’t think he’ll be winning Britain’s Got Talent any time soon.
None of the staff I saw were Japanese, which was disappointing – a bit like going to Thailand to watch some Muay Thai only to find out all the fighters are Aussie backpackers or spotting a Geisha in Kyoto only to find out she’s actually an Essex girl call Daisy.
Our Teppanyaki dishes were both nice enough but the prawns came with an odd, almost creamy sauce which masked any tasty prawn flavours and the plum sauce with the duck couldn’t have tasted more shop-bought. The rice cooked on the grill was nice but nothing special and the vegetables only landed on our plates once we’d finished. Pointless.
Sen Nin was a general let down. Average food, most of which is overpriced coupled with poor service makes for a forgetful experience. Sen Nin lacks authenticity and much of the cooking lacked inspiration.
If you’re going to go, I’d recommend going as a group to the Islington branch with it’s shiny new decor on a Tuesday as it turns out every Tuesday is Super Tuesday where everything is 50% off.
|Sushi, Sashimi & Tempura Platter||£18.00|
|Grilled Eel Nigiri (2pcs)||£3.50|
|Teppanyaki Meal - Tiger Prawns||£15.95|
|Teppanyaki Meal - Duck Breast||£16.95|