If you’ve been left disappointed by the increasing selection of restaurants that promise much and deliver little and are looking for an eatery that packs a quiet punch, then wedged conveniently in that niche between cosy snack joint and full-on restaurant lies a modest little Japanese restaurant called Tenshi. This superb establishment on Upper Street, Islington serves what it humbly describes as ‘traditional home-style cooking’ but it maybe nothing like you’ve ever had at home.
Everything inside cries compact, functional and unpretentious, from the standard-issue, modest two-seater tables which, quite rightly, force you to socially engage with whoever you’re dining with, to the proximity to the chef. Wherever you’re seated it’s always close enough to see him working away in an open kitchen. Many diners crave this type of intimate space especially where food hygiene is concerned. The head chef, you might notice, is indeed Japanese but the staff have an international flavour. Well the head chef is the one who cooks so essentially that makes it a Japanese restaurant right?
You’ll find a serving of Chicken Teriyaki Bento covers every area demanded by the discerning diner from its modest price (£10 with service included) down to adequate proportions and food variety. The starter is a traditional Miso soup of soybean paste, tofu, seaweed and a dab of choice aromatic herbs. The Chicken Teriyaki Bento has been prepared with such attention to detail that even the rice is just sticky enough to stay on the wobbly chopsticks of the pluckiest amateur.
This meticulous preparation extends to slices of the tenderest chicken flavoured to perfection, moist enough to melt in the mouth but with a crispiness that delights. The Bento is a complete meal which includes chicken, rice, two servings of salad and the delicious sea-salt dipped Edamame beans that will have you reaching for the tooth floss sharpish if you don’t Google how to eat them correctly. With the Edamames you’ll inevitably find yourself pondering whether there’s some custom of Japanese etiquette you’re currently stomping all over.
Without question the combination of price, cuisine and convenience takes it a world away from competitors. The food quality may well be matched or even surpassed elsewhere but you’ll no doubt feel it in your pocket. This restaurant has got everything just right and even the grumpiest of diners will struggle to complain. Few comparative eateries can retain that essence of authentic, quality Japanese plates without charging through the roof for it. Tenshi stands out a mile in this respect.