More than just sushi

Neil Littman samples the variety of Japanese cuisine at a popular venue in Southgate

Temaki with avocado and salmon
Temaki with avocado and salmon

One of the big changes in eating out over the past 20 years has been the proliferation of different cuisines.

Japanese food has often been perceived as expensive or exotic and this wasn’t helped by the design of some restaurants; often hidden behind shutters or screens. For some diners their first experience was chasing plates on a carousel at Yo Sushi.

My own first taste of Japanese food was lunch with the illustrator Brian Grimwood in Covent Garden in the 1980s. I left the ordering to him as I could not decipher anything on the menu. When I was working in Japan several years later, I knew what a ‘sushi set’ was but still wasn’t sure how many you could eat or how many pieces would arrive.

There is more to Japanese food than sushi, however, as demonstrated at Tonnbo in Southgate. Here they are dedicated to changing perceptions, offering a dining experience taking on influences that represent a range of Asian cuisine from Kimchi (Korean) to Laksa (South-East Asia) as well as sushi, with some Thai and Malaysian dishes added to the mix.

Opened in 2019 by Simon, an international food consultant and chef, Tonnbo survived the pandemic and is back open six days a week. Simon says that some customers make the journey to the restaurant from other parts of London – giving Enfield at least one ‘destination’ restaurant.

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Tonnbo has been my go-to place for some time. It’s where I am happy to eat both at lunchtime and dinner. The space is cool and understated with formal seating at the back and a front section with a mix of tables and bar stools alongside an open-plan kitchen.

Across a couple of recent visits I ordered vegetable tempura, miso soup, grilled salmon with miso and rice, temaki rolls with tempura prawn and avocado, sashimi, fried noodles with chicken, katsu curry and chilli pepper squid. The sushi arrived with generous amounts of wasabi and pink ginger.

Out of curiosity, I also ordered Japanese lemonade but had to ask for assistance to open the bottle. It turned out there was a plastic grommet hidden in the removable clear plastic wrapper around the top of the bottle and you had to bang it into the cap to break a seal, displacing a glass marble! I could not work out if this was a ritual or just a piece of clever packaging.

Service at Tonnbo is efficient and friendly and Simon, or other waiting staff, are happy to explain dishes to customers or how much to order, which is one of the conundrums I still experience. Ultimately, they serve great food at good value.

Tonnbo is at 7 Dennis Parade, Winchmore Hill Road, Southgate N14 6AA. It is open Monday to Friday (except Tuesdays when it is closed) between 6pm-10pm, and at weekends 12pm-10pm. Set meals, including sushi sets, cost from £11-£29. For more information:
Call 0208 882 4996
Email [email protected]

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