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Wednesday 26 August 2020

Flat Three's *Exquisite* Japanese, Korean & British Inspired 5-Course Menu

 Name: Flat Three

Address: 120-122, Holland Park Ave, Notting Hill, London, W11 4UA, https://flatthree.london/

Cost: 5-course tasting menu (with 2 additional appetiser courses) at £59pp with an optional sake and wine pairing for £49pp. There is a lunch menu priced at £33pp on Fridays and Saturdays (when you are welcome to bring your dog(s) with you).

About: Opened in 2015 by Juliana Moustakas, a Korean-American and former London City banker, Flat Three is a restaurant that is tricky to label – think top notch British produce with touches of Japan, Korea and Scandinavia and you are in the right direction, but Flat Three is much more than just a label.

Flat Three refers to Juliana’s home in Holland Park where she used to host her supper club. It was here that Juliana developed her ideas and recipes and hatched her plan to open Flat Three a year after leaving investment banking. Today, Head Chef Joseph Timarchi, a Peruvian who grew up in the USA, leads the kitchen while Juliana oversees the front of house and the wine and sake offerings. More on the exceptional wine and sake pairing in the What We Drank section below.

Timarchi is an avid forager and is the man responsible for much of the fermentation taking place at Flat Three – they make their own miso, natto, garum (fish sauce) and vinegars and countless number of pickles. In fact, Kathrin, the restaurant manager, tells me that there was little if any wastage of ingredients as lockdown was announced – mushrooms were dehydrated, vegetables were fermented into pickles, vinegars were created and aged. Incredible.

The food at Flat Three is innovative and thought-provoking – I love Timarchi’s lightness of touch, and how he incorporates Japanese and Korean ingredients into his non-Asian cooking where nothing seems forced or out of place. Though the ingredients are the real star here - they take pride in sourcing some of the best produce available in the UK, and rightly so, as the quality really shines through.

If you are one of those culinary purists who think everything should taste like your granny’s cooking, perhaps Flat Three is not for you. But if you have an interest in knowing about your shoyu from your Italian garum or your Korean kimchi from your Japanese dashi in dishes that combine them in perfect harmony, you will be in for a treat at Flat Three.

What We Ate: We opted for the 5-course tasting menu with the wine and sake pairing. Menus change seasonally and most of the below dishes plus many others are also available a la carte.

We started with a delightful tartlet made of Japanese kombu and buckwheat flour topped with a brunoise of raw yuzu-marinated courgette, marigold dressing and Shungiku leaves (edible chrysanthemum). The pastry was crisp, toasty and delicate, the yuzu marinating subtle.

Next up was the bread course in the form of grilled ‘mochi’ flat bread with house-cured salmon and wild garlic capers foraged by the chef (during lockdown). A kind of Japanese blini or crumpet, it was made from glutinous rice flour, wheat flour and yeast. It had a lovely toasty, caramelized outer layer and a creamy, chewy interior. This was a great dish.

Heritage tomato and gooseberries came dressed in homemade Tosazu (a Japanese dressing of fermented rice vinegar, bonito flakes and kombu, here enriched with roasted tomato skins) topped with wafer thin toasted rice crackers and Shungiku petals (edible chrysanthemum). A flavour and texture explosion, this was my favourite dish until I tried the octopus below.

Timarchi’s charred octopus and courgettes glazed with smoked pork fat in a kimchi dashi, with fennel flowers and wild garlic was one of the most exquisite dishes I have eaten for quite a while – the dashi and the plump, soft octopus pieces were bursting with intense umami flavours, the sourness and refreshing acidity of the kimchi offsetting the richness of the lardo so
exquisitely. Perfection on a plate.

Wild seabass cured for 2 days in salt, was firm and well textured, served with Kabu (Japanese radish leaf) and Shiso (one of the most popular of Japanese herbs, similar to a cross between basil and mint), in a rich creamy dashi flavoured with chilli and garlic.

Equally good was the Sussex chicken, cooked sous vide, served with charred Kabu (Japanese radish leaves), brown butter and chicken fat. The chicken was plump and succulent, the jus rich and full of savoury flavour, I could not help using my spoon to lap up every last drop of this heavenly sauce. An excellently judged dish.

Dessert was milk ice cream made with pokeweed custard (a native American plant from which the berries are used for their red colour and flavour), with whey caramel and a tahini-like sunflower seed sauce. With flavours of Ovaltine, and a light, refreshing texture, this was an original dessert to end a well-accomplished dinner.

What We Drank: A wine connoisseur, Juliana put together a wine and sake pairing for us that was exceptional on many levels – classic French wines, alongside American and other New World bottles all interspaced by some excellent Japanese Junmai sakes. Juliana knows many of the wine producers personally and had always some interesting anecdote to tell about each of their wines. It was evident that much thought that had gone into those pairings. The wine pairing is priced at £49pp.

There is a wide range of wines and sakes available by the glass and bottle, apart from the wine and sake flight. On Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays, it is BYOB with £15 corkage per bottle, maximum 2 bottles per table.

With our tartlet amuse bouche with started with a sake aperitif - a floral Junmai from Miyazaki prefecture, this was aromatic and with a rich, creamy finish.

This was followed by Chanin, a Chardonnay from Santa Maria vineyard, Rita Hills in California, made by Gavin Chanin, who paints his own labels. Oaked, rich and aromatic with citrus and stone fruit flavours, it had a very long finish.

Next up was a biodynamic orange wine - Gut Oggau Timotheus Weiss 2015 from Austria, a blend of Grüner Veltliner and Weissbergunder. A cloudy, unfiltered orange wine, this had a savoury quality.

Our 2nd sake of the evening was Akitabare Daiginjo, “Moonstone” – a rich and aromatic yet pure and light sake.

With our chicken main, we had a Southern Burgundy Ruilly 1er Cru from Jean-Baptiste Ponceau. Rich, complex with well integrated oak, flint, and cedar, this was a fine example of a top white Burgundy.

Dessert was served with a 3rd and final sake - a Koshi no Kanbai, Sai “Blue River” from Niigata. Enjoyed as a Spring drink to celebrate plum blossom season in Japan, this sake had notes of caramel and a rich, savoury finish though refreshing and clean on the palate. This was a great pairing to the lightness and not overly sweet dessert by Timarchi.

: wonderful, thought-provoking food, dog-friendly restaurant (on Fridays and Saturdays at lunchtime only), BYO on Tue, Wed and Thu (max 2 bottles at £15 corkage/bottle), fantastic wine pairing, super friendly and knowledgeable service, loved how the 5-course menu turned out to be a 7-course menu and at £59 for that quality of cooking and ingredients, it is a real steal!

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: Exquisite Japanese, Korean and British inspired dishes that are packed with umami flavour and gorgeously presented. I truly cannot fault a single one, Flat Three’s tasting menu just got better and better after each course. Probably one of my favourite London restaurants right now, I cannot wait to return and try the other dishes on their menu. Very highly recommended.

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