Shintori is a cool restaurant, let’s not beat around the bush. From the cavernous, double-height space and the mezzanine level that circles it, to the rumbustuous open kitchen (the most theater-like of theater kitchens I have ever seen) and the sine qua non accessory of fashionable eateries these days – the boutique by reception selling the restaurant’s ceramics. Take a date, take your parents, take anyone you are trying to impress.
Except don’t take someone who cares passionately about food. Or if you do, prepare for some heavy-duty debate. While the interior is designed to within an inch of its life, the food after all these years still comes off second best in its struggle with The Concept.
The menu is Western in structure but filled with mostly Japanese-tinged creations, as well as mysterious characters like Rock and Roll Salad. We tested its credentials with sashimi, including salmon (good), sea bream (less so) and pinkish fatty tuna (bland). Cuttlefish sauteed in butter was more intriguing, but didn’t feel very Japanese (save in its simplicity) thanks to something ressembling mustard mayonnaise lurking beneath. The final dish, assorted “grilled” seafood on volcanic stone was actually steamed; the fish was wrapped in foil and placed atop a hot rock. The waitress earnestly told us not to touch it for two minutes, then forgot to come back until we reminded her. Too late. The scallop had dried out, the prawn chewy, with only a meaty oyster up to the ordeal. A lesson in service: if you want table-side theatre, make sure the staff know their parts.
We left confused, a state of mind not helped by the esoteric signs on the toilet doors. Shintori rocks for its design and – hell – it’s fun to hang out at such a cool-looking place. What is going on with the food I don’t know, and I don’t think they do either.
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