Featured Restaurant: M18

23rd March 2018

16 Church Road, Stanmore HA7 4AR • 020 8420 7318

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

M18 opens onto a vast interior, cleverly partitioned to create two smaller spaces, with a dark and moody atmosphere: charcoal walls, accents of burnt orange – and some very funky lighting on both walls and ceiling. The chairs are comfortable, and the tables are a decent size. These things I like.

The restaurant promises fine pan-Asian cuisine, which the menu explains is served 'sharing-style': three to four dishes per person are recommended. There are plenty of challenges to navigate in determining the best combination, with options divided into small/rolls, dumplings, salad, sushi/sashimi, tataki, temaki, plus Robata Grill and Signature dishes, and a generous selection of vegetarian variants too. We order a dish of Edamame with Sea Salt to buy ourselves some time – but they're so pleasing that they prove more of a hindrance than a help, merely distracting us from the matter in hand.

Eventually we get our act together (the staff have been very patient) and order Chicken Gyoza; Chicken Wings with Sake, Sea Salt and Lime; Volcano Rolls (salmon, mixed salad, kosho and chilly mayo); Avocado Rolls; and Seared Yellowtail Tataki with Yuzu and Dai Dai Dressing. The principle here is that the food will be brought to the table as and when it's ready, although it happens that it arrives in exactly that order – and, moreover, that that turns out to be absolutely perfect.

The Gyoza are very light and moreish (fortunate that there are only two each…), with a delicious savoury chicken filling that is hot and soft. Dipped into the accompanying ponzu sauce, these set the tone for the feast to come.

I'm not a fan, generally, of Chicken Wings, and have been seduced into ordering these purely by the zing conjured up by the 'with Sake, Sea Salt and Lime' of the description. And how wise I was to follow my heart in this matter. These are just glorious: the sake creates a golden, almost caramelised coating that is not-quite-sweet, and the flavours throughout are both strong and subtle, and richly enhanced by the lime and the sea salt. The meat itself is tender and really well cooked.

Not being experienced sushi eaters, we find that attacking the Volcano Rolls is a messy business, but their clean, fresh taste has arrived at just the right stage in the meal. The Avocado Rolls, which appear at the same time, offer a pleasant, simple contrast to all the powerful elements we've enjoyed so far. And then there's the Tataki. Oh, the Tataki. It is out of this world. The citrusy Yuzu and Dai Dai make for a dressing that I'd be happy to drink; it coats the accompanying baby leaves beautifully, and the Yellowtail itself is so tender and soft and clean and slippery.

We have chosen so well, we tell ourselves, deciding that we do, after all, have enough appetite to share one main dish. Our waiter is adamant that we must try the Black Cod Marinated in Yuzu Miso – so we do. It arrives artfully presented on a dramatically blackened leaf; the fish has charred edges of its own, and an utterly beguiling aroma. Perfectly textured, it melts firmly in the mouth, releasing all its wonderful rich flavours. It would, I tell the waiter when he checks back in with us, have been utterly wrong of him to let us leave the restaurant without trying this. I'm so glad he knew his duty.

APPETISERS: £4 - £8
SHARING DISHES (3-4 per person recommended) £7 - £14
MAINS:  £11-£25 • DESSERTS: £6 - £13
HOUSE WINE: £21

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