Had read about this place and was then recced it by a Japanese friend so last night went along and gave it a try. It's been open 2 years and is in a space that was formerly a pub, quite a funky setting.
On to the food, very impressive based upon the 5 items we shared.
Tofu Salad - nice creamy tofu on top of fresh crunchy mixed leaves w/ tasty sesame dressing. I thought the tofu might have been home made but I checked and it isn't so alternatively it is well sourced.
Pan fried squid - tiny squids sauteed in a light, mild ginger sauce with a side salad, very good squid texture and sauce worked well in tandem.
Grilled Yellowtail Kama ("Collar") - a cut of the fish much prized across Japan, firm fleshy chunks of fish on the bone dressed simply with salt and lemon (some ponzu would have been a good accompaniment, I should have requested some, we ended up dipping the pieces in the ginger sauce from the squid dish)
Beef tataki - high grade beef that has been seared and then chilled, marinated and thinly sliced served with accompanying dabs of grated ginger and wasabi, a worthy rendition.
Chashu Ramen - my friend had specifically advised to try the noodles here so I did. Egg noodles with slices of organic pork in a [soy sauce based] chicken stock. The pork slices were excellent - as with the tofu and beef above, they are obviously sourcing fine ingredients - but I found the broth a little bit too salty and the noodles a little on the mushy side. More than just minor quibbles I guess but didn't detract from my enjoyment of the ramen on a cold wintery evening.
Desserts - green tea ice cream (and a second dessert of cheesecake) for my friend, chocolate tofu mousse for me, not spectacular but a nice way to round off the meal.
Opted against sake (there were 5 or 6 selections I think, plus various shochus) and shared a couple of bottles of rioja from the short, well priced wine list instead which pushed the bill up to around £40 each. A less boozy evening would mean around £30 each I guess. Nice touch in that they don't automatically include a service charge on the bill, very Japanese. Two menus, a regular and a specials.
I like this place, I'll be back to sample more dishes. I like Soho Japan too, we finally have the makings of an izakaya scene in London, here's to a few more places of this quality opening up.
Akari, 196 Essex Road (opposite Essex Road station)
020 7226 9943