Ross Shonhan, former head chef of acclaimed Japanese restaurant Zuma in London’s Knightsbridge, plans to launch two solo ventures in the capital next year, a Japanese steakhouse and an Izakaya, a Japanese pub.
Tell us about your plans for your Japanese pub or Izakaya.
The overall idea of it is to make it relaxed, fun, and funky. It will have a casual approach to Japanese food and will take inspiration from the feel of Japanese pubs that I have visited in Japan. In Japanese pubs, the emphasis is more on food than drinking. So while it will be a pub, it will still be very much a restaurant but with a casual approach to Japanese food and a no reservations policy. Also, at around 20 to 30 covers, it’ll be a smaller venue making it easier to change the menu and take advantage of limited season, small volume ingredients.
What about the steakhouse?
The steakhouse will be bigger, around 120 covers, and offer a more serious dining experience. But it will still have a fairly lively bar element to it too, focusing on Japanese beverages such as whisky, sake, shochu, Japanese vodka. The steakhouse will combine experiences that you would expect from a Western steakhouse with those that you’d find in a Japanese steakhouse. As well as offering traditional dishes including sukiyaki, it will also incorporate a large variety of cold dishes, grilled meats and fish. There will also be a lot of seafood and vegetables on offer. All in all, there will be a lot more to it than just meat. The steakhouse element is really a point of difference to separate myself from Nobu and Zuma. Also with a background in meat, I thought it made sense to call it a steakhouse.
What areas are you looking at?
While the focus of the area of the Izakaya is Soho/Covent Garden, the focus for the steakhouse is Mayfair/Knightsbridge/Belgravia. Ideally I would like the venues to be next to one another, but the logistics of the London property market make it near impossible to do this.
What will the design be like?
Both venues will include some of the POP art of Japan, like Manga. I want the steakhouse to be an open flowing space, where the energies of the kitchen, bar and dining room can combine. The design will feature elements of both Western and Japanese steakhouses. I would like to get a Japanese designer to help with the overall design.
Where has the inspiration for these two ventures come from?
My travels, my dreams, my ambitions. I’ve seen the successes of both Nobu and Zuma and I would like a piece of that for myself! I am young enough to still have the energy to do it, and old enough to have the maturity to do it.
Have you got other members of staff lined up?
I’ve got some good friends whom I’ve worked with and whom I trust. I would like to think they’ll come onboard nearer the time. However, it’s a bit too far off to identify any of them just yet.
Australian Shonhan moved to London in 2001 and joined Asia de Cuba as senior chef de partie before moving to the Dorchester Hotel as junior sous chef. He then moved to the USA where he worked with Stephan Pyles and in 2005 joined Nobu to oversee the opening of the group’s Dallas restaurant together with Nobu Matsuhisa himself. In 2007, he was head hunted by Rainer Becker and joined Zuma in Knightsbridge as head chef.