21 June 2021

A Marriage of Japanese and Italian Cuisine at Angelina, Dalston

While cycling through Fulham recently, I overheard a woman describing a restaurant as "a combination of my two favourite cuisines, Italian and Japanese." I knew exactly where she was talking about because I was going to the same place, Angelina in Dalston, a few days later for a belated birthday dinner with my brother.

I too love Italian food and Japanese food, but I wouldn't necessarily have thought to combine the two in a ten-course kaiseki tasting menu. But the chefs at Angelina have created a menu that surprises and delights, bringing out the best in both cuisines. And sitting at the counter, watching the chefs at work, was definitely the best place to enjoy it.

We started with a cocktail — a pink one, as usual, in my case, featuring gin, beetroot and chilli, among other things, and a cheese-centric one for my brother. Later, I tried the fruity and aromatic Riso e Rosmarino, while my brother switched to the paired wine menu. 

Before long, the first dishes arrived: brioche with tuna nduja, ricotta and furikake (a dried-fish seasoning), focaccia, and deep-fried artichoke (all pictured in the top photo), and chawanmushi (a silky smooth steamed egg custard) with sausage and salmon roe. These were all delicious, but the former was one of the best things I've eaten all year, the spiciness and saltiness of the tuna contrasting perfectly with the sweetness of the brioche.

Next up were the 'raw' dishes, featuring sea bream sashimi with wakame (kelp) and the perfect soy sauce; brown shrimp with sesame and hazelnut; impeccable tuna tataki with capers; and sea trout with pistachios and blood orange in a creamy green sauce. We also upgraded to get a Cornish oyster each, which came with yuzu granita.

We also took the optional upgrade in the 'fried' section, and the chicken karaage with wasabi mascarpone and caviar was a real treat. We had enjoyed watching the chefs preparing the pea and wasabi tempura, and enjoyed eating it just as much. Tongue wasn't something I'd have ordered outside of a tasting menu but served fried in spiced panko breadcrumbs, it was really good.

Much as I had loved all of the dishes on our menu, looking on at the large bowls of buttery rigatoni being created for diners on the four-course menu made me feel a little envious. There was only one pasta dish on the ten-course menu — a solo raviolo — but it was worth the wait. The raviolo had an egg yolk at its heart and was served with asparagus, seaweed and a whole lot of butter. It was soon followed by the excellent 'main' course: pork belly and a scallop.

I was starting to get full at this point, but still had room for the cheese course (a bite of melted piadina cheese with yuzu tofu) and the pudding, panna cotta with shiso (a herb in the mint family) and mandarin. It even came with a candle in honour of my birthday, which was more than six months ago, but the various lockdowns meant I was able to stretch out the celebrations.

Whenever I travel, I like to go on a culinary journey as well as a literal journey, and I've missed that over the past year and a quarter. But a tasting menu experience, like that at Angelina, is the next best thing. It always rains on my birthday — even when I celebrate in June, it seems — but I was transported out of the unseasonably wet Dalston night. The dishes were well thought out and beautifully executed and presented, and the chefs and wait staff all provided excellent service. I might also have to return soon to try the brunch menu.

Angelina. 56 Dalston Lane, London, E8 3AH (Dalston Junction Overground). Website. Instagram.

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