Teishoku is a Japanese set meal, where all of the dishes are served together as a set. It was based on the ichiju-issai (one soup – one side) traditional meals offered at Zen temples, consisting a main, soup, rice, and pickles. These convenient set meals are found at restaurants and cafeterias across Japan.
There is an etiquette and position for each item of teishoku. Most set meals are placed in front of you with rice on the left side and soup to the right. The main item is placed at the back. Generally the more important item is placed on the left in Japan, hence the position of the rice.
Common types of teishoku include tonkatsu (pork cutlet), yakizakana (grilled fish), and tempura (deep-fried battered fish and vegetables). These main dishes are served on a tray along with a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso soup, and various side dishes known as ‘souzai’, such as salads and Japanese pickles.
The best thing about teishoku is the wide variety of side dishes so you can enjoy many different flavours and textures. These include healthy salads like carrot and daikon radish, shiro-ae (mashed tofu salad), kinpira gobo (burdock root salad), and hijiki seaweed salad. Japanese pickles, known as ‘tsukemono’, are a frequent accompaniment; made from cucumber, radish, cabbage, and other vegetables.
Miyama Restaurant, Mayfair
38 Clarges Street, London W1J 7EN
Phone Number: +44.(0)20-7499 2443
Underground ‘Tube’ Station: Green Park
Over the last two decades, a plethora of “Japanese” style restaurants have opened in London, UK. Alas, with the sheer weight of numbers, we can never be sure of authenticity and quality. Having lived in Japan for many a year, my personal and professional standards are set high and I’ve been disappointed frequently. I set great store by the presence of native Japanese clients for a modicum of reassurance.
Miyama in Mayfair is well patronised by staff and diplomats from the nearby Japanese Embassy and corporations. There is also a sister Miyama restaurant in the City of London.
Located in Clarges Street, the entrance and signage are discreet and unassuming. The bar and storage shelves groan with the selection of available Japanese sake.
Like most high-end Japanese restaurants, Miyama offers a selection of dining rooms, both public and in private. The main dining room is on the ground floor but at lunch time, Japanese insiders are directed to the basement, which also has a sushi counter. The decor is Japanese chic with the obligatory centrepiece.
Premium Miyama Lunch Set
I dined alone but my fellow diners in that room were all Japanese. We mostly chose the various teishoku set lunches. I pushed the boat out and selected the Premium Miyama Lunch Set (£30 / $41 before taxes) .
The beer was extra but also obligatory.
As Miyama is a cut above your average cafeteria or restaurant, the teishoku is not served on a single tray but individual dishes served in courses.
Dobin Mushi shrimp, chicken and vegetables’ broth served in a clay teapot. The key to a good dobin mushi is the clarity of the broth and balanced flavours of fresh ingredients. Although there may be pieces of shrimp, chicken and vegetables in the pot, it is non-U to pick them out for eating. All the ‘goodness’ should be in the broth already.
In “rougher” local restaurants, I have been known to sneakily eat the meats but certainly not in this high-class establishment!
Kani Kara-age deep-fried soft shell crab with ponzu dipping sauce.
The crispy fried crab was free of oiliness, pointing to the correct oil temperature and technique. Within the crispy coat, soft, creamy unctuous crab and it’s gooey goodness awaits to impart umami-ness “like angels dancing on your tongue”.
Assorted Tempura was technically competent but nothing special. The shrimp was fresh and the batter was gossamer-light coating on the vegetables, as expected.
Sushi Moriawase assorted sushi main course is the specialty of Miyama. Known for it’s fresh fish skilfully cut and warm sour rice, the platter did not disappoint.
One would not expect top grade fatty tuna belly at these prices but the grilled unagi eel, chuo mid-fatty tuna and firm sea bream made up for that. I’m not usually a fan of American style sushi rolls but the California Maki Roll here was subtle and delicious.
Other main course menu choices were Assorted Sashimi, Gindara Miso Yaki (grilled miso-marinated black cod) , Unagi Kabayaki (grilled eel), Chicken Teriyaki, Iberiko Tonkatsu (deep-fried Spanish pork cutlet), or Beef Teriyaki; all with a bowl of rice to the side.
All main courses served with a Maki Roll and Miso Soup.
Dessert was pristinely cut fruit that had been de-pipped, de-seeded and skinned (strawberry, melon, orange segments and grapes) served with a quennelle of ice cream.
Until modern times, Japanese did not eat dessert with their meals but adopted the practice to fit with Western culture. Japanese sweets are usually served as a counterpoint to bitter green tea.
As a discreet oasis of Japanese lunchtime cuisine and peace, I award Miyama Restaurant Mayfair Branch with the AlphaLuxe Three-Tongues.
Everything was just ‘right’ from the kimono-clad waitresses to the calm ambience, at least in the basement room. I’m sure a sojourn in the dining rooms for evening dinner could garner a higher rating but that is yet to come…..
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Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).