A tale of two shopping parades

Neil Littman enjoys two contrasting experiences at Asian restaurants in Cockfosters

Prawn summer rolls, Viet Chiefs
Prawn summer rolls, Viet Chiefs

Viet Chefs is located at the quiet end of a shopping parade in Cockfosters Road where several establishments – the once popular Alfresco, as well as the area’s only Indian restaurant – have come and gone in recent years.

This Vietnamese restaurant is trying to bring to the area a vibe that has worked successfully in areas such as Shoreditch and Hackney. While the anonymous interior lacked character, and I think they need to create a more engaging offer, the food itself is good.

For starters we ate summer rolls containing noodles, carrots and bean sprouts with prawns, wrapped in a translucent rice-wrapper, and served cold. We also ordered vegetarian spring rolls. Both came in impressive-sized portions and were served with dipping sauces. The spring rolls were freshly-made, bearing little resemblance to the freezer-pack portions that sometimes turn up courtesy of one of the many oriental supermarkets.

Our main courses were one-dish meals that arrived in generous portions; wok pho (stir-fry sliced beef with lemongrass, noodles and bean shoots, priced £9.80) and bún sả with seafood (including prawns, mussels and squid, priced £14.90). Again, they were good-size portions and also came with a generous amount of red chillies.

The Viet Chefs menu also has a lot of choice for vegetarians and vegans and, while I liked it overall, I think I prefer the noise and bustle of Vietnamese outlets in Shoreditch.

Black cod miso, Kiyoto
Black cod miso, Kiyoto Sushi

Kiyoto Sushi, by contrast, occupies a busy and attractive corner site of the shopping parade near Cockfosters Station. This Japanese restaurant opened two years ago and seems to have become a hit among the locals, attracting a younger crowd. Part of a fast-growing chain of restaurants (now four) and with a nod to the more upmarket Nobu chain on the menu, Kiyoto Sushi is thankfully more affordable.

For starters I wanted to order ‘super spider’, a crab tempura wrapped in rice with avocado, but it was sold out so instead I chose tiger roll with prawn tempura, also wrapped in rice and served with perfectly ripened avocado.

For my main I ordered the signature dish of black cod miso, known as sablefish, which is normally expensive thanks to its delicious taste, quality, and limited supply – as the fish is found only in the deep waters of the northern Pacific. Coming with rice and a salad of avocado and asparagus shoots, at Kiyoto it is served for £19 – almost a third of the price of Nobu at £53 – and I have to say it is one of the best dishes I have ordered anywhere.

The interior of Kiyoto is bright, with slatted wood walls, stylish downlighters and a house music soundtrack that doesn’t drown out conversation. If you cannot get a table (there are only about twelve in total) you can also sit at the bar – as I did when I arrived on a midweek evening – and watch the chefs cutting and arranging slices of fish and rolling their makiso (sushi mats). Fortunately, after a short wait, I was given a table.

While the service was slightly disorganised – my main course arrived before the starter – Kiyoto is one place not to miss.

Lastly, I must give an apology, as last month after I wrote about Sydney Rocks I noticed it had since been closed. The sign in the window said it was being refurbished, but a few weeks later it still hasn’t reopened. Hopefully it will be back.

Viet Chefs can be found at 24 Station Parade, Cockfosters EN4 0DW, and is open 12pm-10pm every day except Monday. For more information and to book:
Call 020 8886 1988
Visit vietshefs.co.uk

Kiyoto Sushi can be found at 18 Cockfosters Parade, Cockfosters EN4 9EB, and is open 12pm-3pm, 5pm-10pm every day. For more information and to book:
020 8440 1980
Visit kiyotosushi.co.uk