Tom was not the right person to take to dinner at Bamboo Mat’s second restaurant in Stratford. 

The restaurant is the sister location to the original Layton venue and serves Peruvian Japanese dishes, a thing I vaguely knew happened but didn’t understand why – like poodle crosses – until now. It even has a name.

Nikkei cuisine goes back to the waves of Japanese migration between the late 19th century and World War II which saw thousands of Japanese people work in Peruvian fields.

The Resident: The hamachi tiraditoThe hamachi tiradito (Image: Bamboo Mat)

Also known as Nikkei, these people started to cook Peruvian ingredients with Japanese techniques resulting in a style of cooking that looks and tastes very much like familiar Japanese dishes, but much more maximalist. It is busy clean eating.

Not that Tom cared.

He arrived in an Eeyore mood; forlorn and overthinking things with a girl he had just started to date, lamenting the Stratford location.

He had a point. Stratford is a weird place. Thankfully though, Bamboo Mat is away from the trauma of Westfield and nestled amongst a string of restaurants housed on the ground floors of the numerous apartment towers and looking onto a park. While it feels far enough away from the chaos of the mall, it is in fact only a 15-minute walk from TK Maxx.

I imagine these restaurants serve as locals to the thousands living in the apartment blocks hulking over this little suburban piazza. However, it was a pretty dreary day, times are tough and strata fees are high so there were seldom people about. Still, I would be happy if Bamboo Mat was one of my neighbourhood restaurants.

The Resident: The anticucho chicken came lightly charred and off the boneThe anticucho chicken came lightly charred and off the bone (Image: Bamboo Mat)

In contrast to the neon rave bathrooms, Bamboo Mat’s interiors are streamline with low lighting, while its outside area would be a great spot for people watching on a sunny day.

Tom had left the ordering to me as he went to the loo, and I left the ordering largely up to the waitress as the good-looking menu, with its various sections, had a lot on it.

Grilled sweet potato with feta and anticucho (a lemony sauce) yoghurt made the short list, as did the anticucho grilled octopus with lentil mash.

If you like madcap takes on Japanese minimalism, head straight to the maki rolls which are stuffed the likes of mango puree, eel sauce, yuzu truffle and even salsa.

The Resident: The selection of maki is varied and unusual The selection of maki is varied and unusual (Image: Bamboo Mat)

Tom came back and brought me up to speed with the drama playing out in his head.

As a bowl of grilled padron peppers rolled in a sweet mango sauce arrived as a starter, along with a pretty plate of hamachi tiradito, he interrupted his line of thought to tell me he didn’t eat raw fish.

His subsequent chat of parasites didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the dish. The thin, moist slices of raw yellowtail kingfish sat in a delicious briny pool of soy brightened with yuzo, gently heated by the blobs of aji amarillo puree dotted around the plate. It was the standout dish of the evening. 

Luckily, Tom eats chicken and broccoli. He tried to eat some of the hefty portion of plump chicken thigh which came smoky grilled and off the bone, rubbed in a tangy herbaceous a sauce. Meanwhile, I tried to save him some. 

He also did a good job on the char-grilled broccoli that sat in a pool of soy and under a mound of fried shallots, however unlike everyone else, Tom loses his appetite when he’s feeling heart-strung and emo.

The Resident: Nikkei cuisine comes from Japanese immigrants cooking Peruvian ingredients with Japanese techniquesNikkei cuisine comes from Japanese immigrants cooking Peruvian ingredients with Japanese techniques (Image: Bamboo Mat)

While Tom delved into the evils of dating apps and what they are doing to the younger generations growing up with an online presence as the norm, I hoed into a couple of elegant pieces of salmon aburi nigiri. Torched at the table for a little bit of drama and dotted with wasabi mayo, they were simple and delightful.

The volcano maki were also given a once over by the waitress’ portable flame thrower. These little squares of rice were stuffed with blanched asparagus, but you had to get through the squidgy pile of creamy avocado, salmon and seabass loaded on top to get through to this final crunchy bite.

By the time I got onto the crispy mozzarella maki, Tom was talking dividends, I think. I was focused on the dish.

It was everything you don’t understand maki to be. The eccentric, extra-as dish was lightly battered and fried, warm and had cheese wrapped around the very fishy piece of salmon in the middle. I didn’t dislike it, but it confused me.

And just when I thought no one could find fault in a crème brûlée, Tom launched into his problem of dairy-induced tonsil stones, which are as revolting as they sound.

That said, even the threat of calcified food didn’t stop Tom from going in for what was a particularly creamy and dense bowl of custard, encrusted in a satisfyingly brittle crust.

Would I go again to Bamboo Mat? Yes, but not with Tom.

Address: 21-24 Victory Parade, East Village, E20 1FS; 625 High Road, Leyton, E10 6RF