Japanese

Dinings: Dine out on this

Dinings: Dine out on this

Blink and you might miss it. Dinings is located in a tiny Georgian townhouse on an obscure side street in Marylebone. Spacious, the venue is not. Rather, it is distinctly cramped and bereft of decoration, but the food is so supremely good that it is well worth a visit…

Kurumaya: Turning truly Japanese

When is Japanese food not Japanese food? This isn’t a question from a specialist philosophy paper, but more an observation about how much of the Japanese dining scene in London has seemingly morphed into what has been dictated as ‘cool’ and instantly Instagram-able by many trend-setters. If, however, you’re looking for authenticity (and the antithesis of a venue such as Sushi Samba), then consider Kurumaya. Located on one of the oldest streets in the City of London, Kurumaya has a long pedigree and a head chef who has been making sushi for over 25 years. Pass the take-away pit-stop on the top floor and descend to the basement for an experience which may not seem out of place in Tokyo. Beyond the stark and austere decoration, the wood and lacquer finishes and the prominent sushi counter, there is even a room replete with tatami mats, for those who want to go the whole hog here. Onto the food, and it is broadly what one might expect: a raw fish range (sushi and sashimi) followed by an offering of more substantial mains. The emphasis is on locally sourced produce, prepared to the highest standards. Both our sushi platter and our chirashi (meaning ‘scattered around’) bowl of fish on a bed of rice had that amazing sense of freshness, so much so that one could almost taste the sea. The presentation showed the fish off to its best effect, a vividly hewed rainbow spectrum. Meanwhile, a beef teriyaki main was comparable to similar offerings sampled in Japan, with pungent beef paired against bean sprouts. Pricing was not cheap, but then it is rarely is for Japanese food. Perhaps the best indicator of the success of the venue was simply how busy it was. This is a well-kept secret worth seeking out.

Titu: If gyoza dreams were not enough

Titu: If gyoza dreams were not enough

Any restaurant that adorns its windows and website with the caption ‘#gyozadreams’ risks setting itself up for disappointment. The bar is set high, with an implied suggestion that the chef has the temerity to be able not only to interpret, but also to fulfil, my dreams. The message is also a somewhat misleading one: the gyoza served at Titu did fortuitously live up to their billing, but the restaurant is about much more than this - overall Titu shows how good modern Japanese cooking can be

Zuma: Living the dream

Zuma has become almost an institution on the London dining scene. Even more than 10 years on from opening it can still be hard to get a table here. It would be easy for a restaurant in such a position to dine out on its success, but standards have stayed consistently high. A recent lunchtime visit demonstrated that the food remains as good as ever. The atmosphere, however, left quite a lot to be desired.

Roka Mayfair: Doesn’t rock for me (October 2017)

I first reviewed this branch of Roka not long after it opened in summer 2014. Since then, I have been back probably half-a-dozen times both for lunch and dinner, but on each occasion – and despite being willing to give the place the benefit of the doubt (again) – I have been disappointed. A recent weekday lunch did nothing to change my impression.

Ippudo: Ramen comes to London (July 2017)

Back in the early 2000s when I had the misfortune of working in Canary Wharf, it was a culinary graveyard, redeemed only by the fact that the West End was at least reachable in around fifteen minutes. Although the Wharf remains (to my mind) a thoroughly depressing place in which to work with woefully inadequate transport infrastructure, it is at least pleasing that the range of dining options seems markedly to have improved. Indeed, on each – increasingly rare – occasion I venture to the area, several new places are open. A recent visit to Ippudo, a newish Japanese outlet specialising in ramen impressed, location notwithstanding.

Sakagura: Show me something different (April 2017)

Sakagura constitutes a recent addition to the self-styled Heddon Street ‘restaurant quarter’, located one block to the west of Regent’s Street. Given its location and the fact that it is the only Japanese offering here, it will probably do well enough. However, a recent visit was profoundly uninspiring

Chotto Mate: Classy – but, wait a minute, check the prices (October 2016)

Chotto Mate ticks many boxes – it is cool, serves excellent food and wines and has enthusiastic and engaging staff. The catch, however, is the cost. The menu is somewhat bewildering in its complexity, the dishes are small and the bill can therefore rack up quickly.

Ikeda: Good food, but not cheap (October 2013)

Diners in London in search of authentic Japanese food and service have it good in Mayfair. Ikeda can comfortably hold its own against the likes of Sakana-Tei (Maddox Street) or Kiku (Half Moon Street) among others. If there is a common factor across these restaurants, it is that they – like much of Japanese culture – are discreet and under-stated.

Sumosan (October 2012)

About the worst thing a restaurant could be faulted for is not being made to feel welcome and in every sense this was the impression I took away from Sumosan. The exterior of the restaurant looks forbidding with a passer-by not being in a position at all to discern what may be happening inside, the interior being hidden by full-length blinds.