What’s the draw
A Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant with a hidden Tokyo-style cocktail bar that employs a strict no-phones policy? Yep, that sounds like Dalston, alright. While the capital 'C' concept might sound like something that should only ever come equipped with ironic air quotes, the dining experience executed at Angelina is nothing if not sincere. Owner Joshua Owens-Baigler, an ex-River Café trainee who more recently handled the front of house at JW3's Zest kosher restaurant, has ensured Angelina's fuss-free tasting menu takes itself just the right amount of serious. Accompanying Owens-Baigler on the open kitchen side of things is chef Daniele Ceforo, formerly of Italian belter Bocca di Lupo. Yes, there's foliage dotted around a minimalist marble dining area. And yes, your prosecco will come served in a chawan. But with Earth, Wind & Fire and other '80s disco slappers administering a lively soundtrack over an array of sapid dishes, Angelina has a groove that hinges on more than a gimmick.
What to drink
Each Italian wine pairing, personally curated by Owens-Baigler, gives both the food and drink ample room to spread their respective legs. We began with a fruit-forward 2017 Réserve della Contessa from Italian winemaker Manincor – an amicable blend of pinot bianco, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc grapes fermented in old wooden barrels. A chilled glass of 2017 pale gold Verdicchio di Matelica Cambrugiano Riserva followed suit, and played awfully nicely with the savoury spank of unagi risotto. The 2000 Poerj e Sandri Merlino that concluded our onslaught of wine is a heady composition of lagrein and brandy, blessed with an almost chewing-tobacco quality that took to dessert like a duck to water. Even if wine isn't your thing, Angelina will see you right: the adjoining Golden Gai cocktail bar is a cinched-in six-seater absolutely screaming out for a nightcap. 'The Big Cheese' does a fun little number on pecorino (!), pear, sochu and Poire Williams cognac liqueur, while the 'Can’t Believe It’s Not Pepper' offers an inventive twist on the G&T thanks to the addition of Japanese sansho pepper – a stronger version of the Sichuan pepper, which packs a numbing, citrusy punch.
What to eat
Seeing as it's a tasting menu, you'll eat what you're given. In this case, that happens to be four courses of palate-pleasing fare. A fritto misto of tempura battered broccoli rabe, pork croquettes and artichoke are among the first crop of small plates to arrive, each gratifyingly grease-free and squired by an assortment of dips that includes an abstruse but moreish popcorn mayo. That being said, the opening crudité of raw toro, sea bream and sweet Sicilian prawns (seethed in rosemary oil and dotted with rice powder) is what'll really have you weak at the knees. The unagi risotto with burnt soy butter and dashi that follows? It'll cave them in with a sledgehammer: perfectly to-the-tooth risotto is given a silky lipidity by the eel swimming in its midst; an unctuous and subtle medley of Italian and Japanese flavours where the best is brought out of each. A ruby-red beef onglet draped over a soy and sesame-glazed hunk of radicchio ends the savoury dishes on a satisfying high. The dessert – black sesame panna cotta and milk chocolate cream – gets a little Troy McClure with a nutty pep you may remember from such foods as: yesterday's hummus and sesame snaps. It, like the majority of the menu, is dangerously good.
£38 for the five plate tasting menu; £35 for drinks pairing. 56 Dalston Lane E8 3AH; angelina.london