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…
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.
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 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.
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.
Does London need another over-priced sushi restaurant? Admittedly good Japanese food is never cheap and Cubé has tried to go for a twist on the conventional by offering tapas as well as sushi, but I certainly didn’t come away from here in any sense wowed. I think the problem is one of identity...
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.
I lasted visited Miyama around a decade ago. It was very good then and it was pretty much as I remembered when recently making a return visit. Almost nothing had changed. This is not an exaggeration or under-statement. Part of the charm of Miyama is that it remains steadfast, stuck in time and relentlessly unchanging
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
For as long as I have been regularly dining in London Zuma has always had a fond place in my heart.
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.
If someone said ‘here is a fat dollop of cash, now go and design a restaurant’, what you may get is Sake No Hana. Of course, just because it looks good, doesn’t mean that it is good.
Being closer to 40 than 20 in age, it is rare to find myself in Covent Garden on a Friday night, and even more so without a plan. Nonetheless, this proved to be the case the recently, with my dining comrade for the evening (a non-Londoner) having requested a night out in the area at short notice.
Tucked away on a small side street in Little Venice, Maguro (Japanese for tuna) is well worth seeking out both for its food and its authenticity. With room for just 30 covers, locals in the know frequent this place and booking is well advised.
Roka has justly built its reputation for modern and innovative Japanese-style dining based on its original Charlotte Street outpost. The empire now extends to four restaurants in London and a further one in Hong Kong.
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.
The diner on Maddox Street is far from short of options, ranging from Hibiscus (over-rated in my opinion) and Goodman (well worth a visit) to the more mundane Patara (Thai) and Browns (part of the chain).
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.