Neil Littman enjoys two contrasting experiences at Asian restaurants in Cockfosters
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.
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
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:
Call 020 8440 1980