Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sho Foo Doh, Pacific Social Club, Clapton

It makes me happy when my favourite street food traders move on to do pop ups, residencies and even open restaurants. I like to think there's something meritocratic about it - that anyone, in theory, with enough passion and wherewithal could set up a stall, earn a good reputation through  making good food and figuring out how to market it, and then other opportunities opening up...

...which is a nicely nuanced antidote to Dan Hancox's excellent piece in Vice, in which he highlights how pop ups are an advanced form of capitalism designed to inject novelty and urgency to fuel your consumption. Yes this is true in many cases, but pop ups can also be a chance for people who wouldn't otherwise have the capital to showcase their food/art/music to do so, use empty spaces between more permanent uses, and breathe a bit of life into staid settings.

Fumio (aka Sho Foo Doh) made his name as one of the early traders over at Chatsworth Road. His speciality is okonomiyaki - cabbage stuffed Japanese pancakes, topped with toppings like pork belly, prawn and cheese, and then with Japanese worcester sauce, mayo and dried seaweed on top - and he developed a cult following, including the venerable Marina O'Loughlin

After a few pop ups in different spots across Clapton (we enjoyed a quick fix when he was at the Dentist while we were deep in DIY), Fumio secured a residency at Pacific Social Club on Clarence Road, which is one of my favourite spots in the neighbourhood. It's a dreamy cafe, with lots of faded record sleeves on the wall, tropicalia, ceiling fans gently whirring around. They tongue-in-cheekily call themselves a 'drop out centre', but they're not far off the mark: PSC has captured laid back island life perfectly.

The menu is short and simple at Sho Foo Doh. There are some tasty appetisers, Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, and then something sweet. And you BYOB, with no corkage charge, so we got through a good stash of local beers from London Borough of Jam.

We shared a number of very different dishes to start. We had grilled lotus roots with dried seaweed, which were lovely, crunchy and earthy; seared salmon with soy sauce, mirin and garlic - the salmon was super fresh, and the flavours addictive; and pickled cucumber with soya sauce. All very delicious.

Meanwhile, Fumio was cooking our okonomiyaki, each of which had a unique combination of toppings and bits. You could have egg or udon noodles, they may or may not be cooked in lard, may or may not have anchovy mixed in, and could be topped with any combination of kimchi, cheddar cheese, pork belly, fermented soya beans, prawns, squid, sweetcorn...

Here, Fumio makes them Hiroshima style, which is where it starts off like a crepe, then with the mixture of cabbage, kelp, beansprouts, noodles, etc on top, before being topped, flipped and finished off with the worcester sauce, dried seaweed and copious spring onions.

We loved it. It's very filling, there's bucketloads of flavour, and with all that fresh veg inside and on top, you can definitely convince yourself that okonomiyaki are pretty healthy too. It washes down great with beer - and it's nice to see this more casual, hearty side of Japanese cuisine in London, in contrast to the numerous sushi chains and super high end restaurants.

Sho Foo Doh is on at Pacific Social Club every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You might be fine to rock up, but it doesn't hurt to drop Fumio an email (details here) and get a table set aside for you. You'll also soon have Clapton Craft open around the corner to pick up some nice beer too. Top Clapton night, guys!

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