Review of Kintan Japanese BBQ Oxford Circus
Kintan brings Japanese style social BBQ to the heart of London.
- Great social eating experience
- Broad selection of meat
- High quality food
- Lengthy wait for food.
- Grill plates are not swapped out as often as they should be.
- Presentation of food can be sloppy.
Kintan – Japanese BBQ
Kintan is a Japanese Yakiniku restaurant (where you cook raw meat yourself over a grill inset into your table) and social dining. I’ve visited Kintan 4 or 5 times over the past few months and decided that it was finally time to give my thoughts on it.
The menu is big, offering a huge variety of cuts of meat. The choice is a little overwhelming and it’s hard to understand what everything is (due to some Japanese naming) although the pictures of each item do help. Kintan also have set courses, like the ”Meat lovers’ or Ninja’ course that ease that paradox of choice and get the meat to your table a little bit faster.
There’s only one cut of Japanese meat on offer (Wagyu chuck roll), while most of the premium meat is USDA. Over the course of my visits I’ve narrowed down the best meats to: USDA premium kalbi short rib, the USDA premium flat iron, Toro beef, Pork Kalbi and Tiger Prawns (also throw in some beefy shitake mushrooms and Takoyaki – octopus pancake balls and at least one of the sauces for good measure). I don’t recommend the beef tongue (strange texture and taste).
Once you’ve ordered, be prepared to sit back wait. Now this appears to be a consistent problem with Kintan: they take so god damn long to serve raw meat. We’re talking about 30 minutes minimum. It doesn’t matter if you order starters first or cooked food, it’s just very slow. Just make sure you’ve ordered an ice cold Asahi (though you’ll probably be onto your second by the time the food arrives). What’s odd about this is that the presentation is still pretty sloppy, like its being rapidly put together.
Fire and meat
The Japanese are famous for taking an idea and perfecting it, Yakiniku is no different. Originally Korean Barbeque, Yakiniku is about cooking thin strips of highly marbled beef over fire while being seated at your table. I’m told that its customary for the youngest member of the family or group to do the grilling. Now this is a perfectly acceptable custom when I’m the youngest at the table, but otherwise I’m not prepared to let someone fuck up my meat.
Grilling is fun, but you’ll need to pay close attention as the heat is not evenly distributed (some parts of the grill will cook meat 2-3x faster than other parts). Typically thin slices of meat can be cooked in less than 30 seconds while the larger pieces in a minute. You can also grill vegetables, but only savages do that.
The USDA premium meats are melt in the mouth tender and deliver a buttery sweetness, while the pork Kalbi is possibly the stand out item on the menu (it’s incredibly tender, tasty and really cheap). The prawns are high quality and have an excellent meaty taste. Once you’ve finished what you’ve ordered you can keep ordering additional sets. The grills get dirty and frustratingly the grill plates aren’t changed as often as they should be. This means that either you need to hassle the staff to get a new grill plate or your meat will stick to the grill.
All you can eat
On Sundays Kintan offers an all you can eat menu. For two hours you can go nuts on all the flat iron, beef tongue and spicy addicting cabbage you want. There are two versions of the all you can eat menu. The ‘gold course’ (£45 per person) has more premium cuts (as well as prawns) but has a limit on two of the premium cuts (one serving of the flat iron and short rib) while the silver course (£35 per person) has a limited selection of cuts (and only one premium cut).
I found that the meat came a lot faster on Sunday than the other days I went. I was full with time left over but unless you’ve got a really big appetite I’m not sure that there’s much of a value difference between ordering a la carte and doing all you can eat.
The fact that I keep going back to Kintan is telling. It is a fun, social way of eating and the meat is genuinely good. If Kintan could sort out the presentation and delivery of food to table, then I’d have nothing to complain about.
Room for more
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Top tips for Kintan:
- Always have a reservation on Fridays and Saturdays
- Happy hour is at lunch time and all day on Monday (good discounts across the menu)
- You can sit at Kintan’s bar and drink pints of Asahi for £3 (any time)
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