Once upon a time, Camden felt like London’s epicentre of alternative culture. It was dirty, it was loud, and its pubs served pints to our spotty 16-year-old selves. These days it feels different to us. Still grubby, and busy, and full of shops selling t-shirts with ‘The Big Bong Theory’, or ‘Keep Calm And Buy Long Rizla’, written on them. Only now it’s quite overwhelming. Which is why you need to know about places to escape Camden when you’re in Camden. And that’s why you need to know about Shimogamo.
Shimogamo is no secret. In fact, much of NW1 seems to use this paired back Japanese restaurant on Parkway just as we do: as a calming and delicious haven from the trustafarian belting out Buffalo Soldier outside Camden Town station down the road. Almost every characteristic of this place is contrary to the area its in. The space, made up of a five person sushi bar at the back, a dozen wooden tables, plus some more in the front room, is completely (and welcomely) nondescript. The food, from fresh sashimi to crispy tonkatsu, is tasty and fulfilling. And combined with the always smiling staff, this makes for one big relaxing exhale of a restaurant.
Menu-wise Shimogamo dabbles. It dabbles in sushi, in tempura, in sukiyaki, and in soba. This may raise alarm bells for the purists or pedantic, but it’s important to know that Shimogamo’s specialism is in making everyone happy. There are smiling solo diners methodically getting through their excellent chicken karaage set lunch. There are family dinners complete with north west London’s foremost five-year-olds confidently ordering their own tempura donburi. There are couples going through sushi selections left, right, and centre. Nobody here ever seems to be anything but completely content, and the food plays a big part in that.
There are a few ways to approach Shimogamo. Yes, the menu is big, and yes, things have the potential to add up faster than a Ferrari driven by Alan Turing if you stick to sushi. It’s pretty easy to avoid this though. The set lunch doesn’t go over £20 and comes with miso soup, rice, pickles and salad. The chicken karaage set is just over £10 and it’s as crisp and moist as you’d want it to be. And if you are after sushi, we’d recommend the sashimi and nigiri sets at dinner-time if you’re unsure. They’re delicious and also decent value at under £20 each.
One of the reasons we like Shimogamo is because it’s off the DM and poppers beaten track at the far end of Parkway, rather than being smack bang in the middle of London’s longest running 28 Days Later immersive experience. Although some of the herd do find their way down here - and Shimogamo is constantly busy with locals - it’s rarely impossible to get a table. Which is something we’re always thankful for when we’re in NW1, and you will be too.
You can get five kinds - salmon, tuna, yellowtail, sea bass, and sea bream - for just over £20, or three kinds for £15. Both are delicious and sliced fresh in front of you.
This seven piece selection costs under twenty quid and like the sashimi is made to order. If you’re bad at making decisions, get this.
In theory breaded pork is a pretty straightforward thing to do. But like drawing a straight line or getting up on time, it isn’t. This tonkatsu ticks all the boxes: crispy, juicy, and it leaves you wanting more.
Any meat that falls apart through reverberation as you snap your chopsticks is, in our books, a fine piece of meat. This pork does just that and the miso-heavy sauce it sits in is deliciously smooth when mixed with the egg yolk. It also comes with a smidgin of Japanese mustard which, if you aren’t familiar, is absolutely essential.
In an ideal world we would never eat the same thing every day, but if we had to, this karaage would be up there. It’s crisp and juicy, and the set lunch is a steal at a tenner.
Made up of a mixture of wakame and tosaka seaweed, this cold and crunchy salad is a decent bowl to get you going or to have on the side.
If miso aubergine isn’t one of your go-to meals at home, then, well, you should at least try it here. This isn’t the most complicated or good looking thing in the world but that doesn’t make it any less tasty.
It’s sticky rice filled with vanilla ice cream and we will never, ever, not enjoy it.