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Omakase sushi at Yashin

Omakase sushi at Yashin

Cuisine: Japanese

Visit: March 2013

Price: High (high quality ingredient come at high price, especially when imported to London – the Omakase of 15 pieces costs £80, while 8 pieces come for £30).

Can a Westerner imagine a sushi restaurant serving dishes without soy sauce? Hardly, but this is what they do at Yashin Sushi just off Kensington High Street, and they do it well. “But if you want to …” – as the neon banner on the wall behind the sushi counter says – you can order some. The reason for the chefs doing so is to show to their diners how all the Japanese ingredients you might know really taste without the overpowering sauce.

Sushi chef at Yashin

Sushi chef at Yashin

Chef: There is a number of sushi chefs along the counter working on some impressive creations of food art. The head chefs though and also the co-founders are the ex-Nobu group chef Yasuhiro Mineno and the youthful Shinya Ikedo. Their innovative approach to sushi and other Japanese meals sparks up the London’s dining scene.

Atmosphere: Modern design, rabbit-shaped lamps, attentive service, long sushi bar and tall chairs. Yashin Sushi is a great spot to enjoy the omakase (chefs own creations of the best ingredients of the day served one after another). You can dress up or wear something casual, just leave the sneakers at home.

Large omakase sushi platter

Large omakase sushi platter

Food: Edo-style natural flavours showing dishes. First you will be served a trio of original and tiny amuse-bouche, then you can start with the tofu foamy and warming miso soup and move to one of the cold dishes.

The omakase though is really tempting. You can order from eight to 15 pieces, list all your allergies and then just enjoy the purity of the flavours. We did it after trying a number of cold and warm starters and did not leave too over-filled.

Tiny amouse bouche at Yahsin

Tiny amouse bouche at Yahsin

From the new style sashimi dishes the White Fish of the Day Carpaccio with crunchy lettuce on the top was refreshing and delicious. I would have the fish tartare with salmon eggs enriched by the creamy sauce and freshened up by a cover of chopped green chives and shiso again as it was a truly genial raw fish dish.

White fish sashimi salad

White fish sashimi salad

The generous slices of Wagyu Beef Loin slightly seared around and served with savoury truffle jelly was outstanding. The fatty meat was succulent and was wonderfully elevated by the jelly-like truffle dressing. A sip or two or red wine cut through the fatness of this dish and refresh your palate ready for the next course.

Wagyu Beef

Wagyu Beef

There are not many Maki rolls but they are nice and usually there is at least one vegetarian choice. Look for seasonal dishes as I had amazing Seared mixed mushrooms when I dined at Yashin this month.

Drinks: The wine list and sake list is good. Many of the wines are served by the glass, carafe and bottle. One of them is also the interesting Japanese pinkish Koshu from Grace vineyards. I love this wine for its freshness and delicate nature. Most of the wines are also organic or biodynamic. If you are not in the mood for alcohol, you can have the lovely green tea poured warm from a pot into your glass every time your it is empty.

Soon a new Yashin in Knightsbridge is lined up to be open, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep up the same level of attentive service as in the original one in West Kensington.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun for lunch 12:00–2:30 pm, dinner: 6:00–11:00 pm

Address: 1 Argyll Rd, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London W8, UK.

Contact: Tel: +(44) 020 7938 1536

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Table at Takah

A booth table at Takah

Cuisine: Western Japanese, sushi.

Visit: February 2012

Price: High (good fish and sushi in the mountains far from the sea cannot be cheap unless they are fake, the prices at Takah are appropriate, high but not through the roof).

Takah

Takah

Atmosphere: Busy, casual and friendly. Takah is very popular between the younger generation, therefore during prominent events such as the winter X Games, not just Takah but the entire town of Aspen is full of teenagers and twenty-somethings. It is quite casual so wear anything you would in other mountain destinations.

Food: The rolls dominate the menu and Takah rally rolls them out, yet you can find other modern Japanese as well as other Asian dishes such as Pad Thai on the menu.

Starting light with either a Seaweed salad which is great or the white fish SASHIMI COLORADO STYLE with Cilantro, Serrano Chilis, Yuzu and Garlic Sauce you get yourself ready for the heavier, saucier dishes that are about to come. Both of these are quite nice, but a far toss from the excellent sashimi at the nearby Matsuhisa.

White fish sashimi with shiso

White fish sashimi with shiso

Now moving to Takah style (let’s be original and mix lots of ingredients together) with the ATOMIC LOBSTER. Tempura fried lobster is served with asparagus, masago (Capelin fish roe looking like small orange eggs that are crunchy on the palate) and Takah’s Spicy Atomic Sauce. Not sure what the Atomic means, nevertheless this was just too much of stuff together, out of balance, very sugary and intensely flavored. Some palates might like it, yet not these seeking refining taste.

Another small plate we went for was the BIG EYE TUNA TARTARE mixed with fresh basil, lemon, cucumber, tomato, shallots, garlic, ginger, mustard and ponzu sauce and served with wonton chips. First of all I always though that wontons are Chinese dumplings, I guess I was wrong. These were more like Mexican tortilla chips, so popular in California, but wonton sounds more Asian while style catering to local preferences. The tuna fish in the tartare was mediocre, we might juts have had bad luck, but we got a bad one so I cannot say anything flattering about it.

BIG EYE TUNA TARTARE with wonton chips

BIG EYE TUNA TARTARE with wonton chips

The sushi rolls are very popular at Takah. We went for and exotic blend called the DIABLO ROLL of a tempura shrimp and asparagus rolled inside, and with spicy diced tuna, serrano chilies and rich eel sauce on the outside. Yummy mash up indeed, but I cannot have this one every day. The shrimps were crunchy and tuna with chili spicy, adding a bit of diabolic fire into the roll, thus being devote to its name. Unless, I was not through my second glass of wine though I could not have more than one piece of it. Just too much of seafood – fish and shellfish, rich sauce, rice, spice, sesame seeds, … not for me, thank you.

Creative sushi roll

Creative sushi roll

Although Takah is not in Colorado the popular CALIFORNIA ROLL features on the menu along with more far-flung sounding creations such as the THAI ROLL. The sesame soy paper roll filled with spicy tuna (very popular in Takah’s ingredients), cucumber & cilantro (type of parsley) was topped with green curry coconut sauce & crushed Peanuts. that sounds to me as if I just have had a three course Thai menu in one roll! One can try the quirky named ME SO HAPPY ROLL – sounds good to me, although slightly tacky. The tempura fried sweet potato is topped with spicy tuna (here we go once again!), eel sauce and radish sprouts. Fun, but different things make different people happy, so do not take this roll’s name too seriously.

Drinks: Good selection of sake and good international wine selection (from Europe to Argentina). Napa is the main focus of the list though, which I approve of because of the more sustainable impact of bringing wines just from a nearby state versus across half of the globe. Wines from Oregon are featured as well and my penchant for their Pinot Noir brought my palate’s attention towards the ARCHERY SUMMIT, PINOT NOIR “PREMIER CUVEE” from Willamette Valley in Oregon. Lucky me, since this refreshing Pinot guided me through the intense menu, easing out the gustatory shock my subtle palate experienced throughout the dinner.
Opening Hours: Every night from 5:30 pm. The sushi bar seating is on a first come first serve basis, the rest you need to reserve.

Address: 320 S Mill St  Aspen, CO 81611, USA.

Contact: Tel: +1 (970) 925-8588

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Cuisine: Japanese

Visit: February 2012

Price: Medium for the superb quality you get (except when you order the abalone – a rare type of sea snail –  which is always very expensive).

Artichoke salad

Artichoke salad

Chef: Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (known as Nobu) is a legend in Japanese cooking worldwide. His partnership with the actor Robert De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent bore the famous global network of Nobu restaurants known for the chic atmosphere and innovative cuisine. Nevertheless, Matsuhisa was and still is his baby. He usually stays in the first one in Los Angeles, but supposedly from time to time he visits its second branch in Aspen, which is almost as good as his most cherished L.A. baby.

Atmosphere: The Aspen’s Matsuhisa is also more casual than the usual fancy Nobus elsewhere. It is quite similar to its LA base, yet bigger and with a large bar just by the entrance downstairs. Large Tv screens coveting the local football and cricket fans watching their teams over a decadent japanese meal, make the place very welcoming. Some locals just pop for a bottle of Asahi (japanese beer) and a small snack, yet the food is like for sheikh in terms of quality. These contrasting aspects of the most fashionable and for years the most popular restaurant in Aspen make it special and attractive. You will see young folks with their ski heats, middle-aged elegant ladies and older comfortable couples enjoying the food or just the buzzing atmosphere. Book ahead otherwise you might not get a seat.

New style salmon sashimi

New style salmon sashimi

Food: Nobu’s creative and often high taste-profile (flattering the American taste) cooking mastery shows off at his namesake restaurants in the most vibrant colors. Like a rainbow his dishes cover the entire spectrum of taste from the delicate and lighter side to deep, rich and intense plates. It is wise to start light and move to the more powerful dishes so your taste buds manage to detect the suppleness of some of the delicate fish and seafood creations such as the refreshing peruvian style tiraditos (which Nobu learned during his time living in Lima many years ago) or plain sashimi. The staff knows the best in what order to serve the food and if you order a number of dishes at once they will bring them in an appropriate sequence. The New style sashimis are already moving towards the richer side as the fish is marinated in an oil-based sauce with sesame so get them after the simpler lime and lemon based courses such as Tomato ceviche or the fish tiraditos. My favorite from these more intense creations is the New style salmon sashimi. The fatty salmon is smooth and goes hand in hand with the oily sauce. A refreshing white wine with higher acidity such as Riesling is my best choice of wine with it.

Mushroom salad

Mushroom salad with lobster

Nobu does wonders with mushrooms. In the Nobu chain as well as in LA I usually order the sizzling hot Mushroom tobanyaki, but in Aspen they had something I have not seen on the menus before so I had to try the Mushroom salad with lobster. It proved to be a great choice as most food at Matsuhisa. The thousand flavors of the mushrooms showed that these forest gems top up even the best lobster in the world, the Maine lobster. Although the soft and juicy texture of the Maine lobster, especially the claws served with the salad, was superb, it were the mushrooms that were the most intriguing. Japanese and Chinese mushrooms taste so different from their peers in Europe and the Americas and they tend to work better with the Asian cuisine. By contrast, this warm mushroom salad with Asian-style dark sauce, American lobster and asparagus was the proof of a wonderful marriage between the Western and eastern ingredients.

We had many more dishes and I can recommend all of them since there was not a single one that I did not like. I have only highlighted my personal bests at “Matsu”, how the locals tend to call the restaurant, and it is up to you and mainly your taste preferences for which dishes you will go. the staff usually knows what is the most popular or particularly tasty on the day of your visit so let them advise you. Do not forget to mention any allergies you may suffer from since many dishes are quite complex and you can hardly recognize what is inside without being told so. One thing is sure: it is all tasty stuff.

Mochi ice cream

Mochi ice cream

If you are a fan of japanese sweets then try some of the traditional japanese desserts such as the Mochi ice cream. Thess gooey dumpling-like buns filled with frozen creamy ice cream are all home-made. You can select daily from the available flavors. The green tea and vanilla never disappoint, but chocolate or li-chi may seduce some chocoholics as well as exotic flavors-seeking adventurers.

Drinks: The wine list has selections to go well with the style of food offered at Matsuhisa. We usually go for an oaky California Chardonnay. On special days when we want to splurge a bit we get a bottle of Kistler Chardonnay that is creamy, rich, yet balanced with tremendous aftertaste. Beer is a popular choice of many man (I rarely see a woman having beer with japanese food) and there is a very good selection of not only Japanese brews. Not in the mood for alcohol? The Nobu’s own japanese green tea selection, which you can also buy, is really good and its cancer-defeating and youth prolonging antioxidants will leave you refreshed and in a good yet relaxed mood.

Opening Hours: Mon-Sun for dinner from 6:00–10:00 pm.

Address:  303 E Main St, Aspen, CO 81611

Contact: Tel: +1 (970) 544-6628

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Cuisine: Japanese

Visit: December 2012

Price: Very expensive (Top CEOs, fashion models and Tv stars come to dine here in a secure and an almost invisible location).

Asparagus salad

Asparagus salad

Atmosphere: The entrance to the restaurant is very discreet and guarded by security men. One would never think that there is a restaurant behind the simply looking wall along the Rua Lisboa. As the security opens the door and you walk through a tiny garden into the first room, you know that Jun Sakamoto is not just a traditionally simple Japanese restaurant (the interior was designed by the chef after whom the restaurant was named). It is full of classy people some conservatively dressed in ties and business suites others – especially the supermodel looking youthful women – in chic evening mini-dresses or anything that is currently fashionable. If you want even more privacy then dine in the back room. Both rooms together including a sushi bar accommodate not more than 30-40 people, so it is quite small. You still will be seen by the top players on the São Paulo rich and powerful league so better dress up for that as good as you can.

Food: For how much exclusive this restaurant tries to be, the food is not even slightly comparable to any of my favorite japanese places in LA, New York, Seattle or Paris. Rumors circulate in and out of the city that there is not much of excellent japanese food in Brazil yet. I take it as an explanation of my recent disappointment at Jun Sakamoto. For the restaurant being very expensive, I will not give it likely a second chance when there are so many other great restaurants to dine at in São Paulo.

Seared mushrooms

Seared mushrooms

We got a number of starters to share and none of them had particularly impressed our taste buds. The Salmon tartare (Tuna tartare with foie gras is more popular here, but we were in the mood for salmon) was tiny, the fish was good but excellent as you would expect for the price and the sporadic portion of fish eggs on the top of it was not enough to bring more complex flavors to the dish. Continuing with a plate of fatty tuna sashimi, which was contrary to the previous too large portion of just a raw and not very tasty fish we started to worry a bit about the restaurant’s flattering reputation. The savior came in the form of the next order – the Asparagus salad, which was better and perhaps the only plate we quite enjoyed. The vegetables were fresh and crisp and the sauce was tasty.

From the warm dishes the Seared mushrooms lacked everything that was savor-appealing. I dare to claim that they were boring. Right the opposite of the vibrant and sizzling Mushroom Tobanyaki they do at Nobu restaurants elsewhere.

Black cod with miso

Black cod with miso

The staple of many Japanese restaurants globally is the Black cod with miso. After the previous unsuccessful courses we ordered exactly this dish as we thought it might be more reliable. The fish was of a good quality, the sauce though was not intense enough and much more plain than we are used to.

My partner tried the omakase sushi (ingredients selected by the chef who serves you to the point of your fullness, it shows the chef’s skills the best). They do it differently here though. You have to select how many courses you want and that is what you get. Omakase is supposed to display the chef’s innovativeness, creativity and the quality of his ingredients. The sushi we got did not look and taste exceptionally – it was rather normal, but with a high price tag.

Sushi bar

Sushi bar

Drinks: Sake and wine lists are good, although not particularly wide. You can find some less usual treats on the wine list though. We went for the Chilean Amayna Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Seeing a barrel fermented version of Sauvignon Blanc is quite rare. This refreshing grape varietal made famous by the Loire Valley in France as well as New Zealand is often let to express its freshness and zest. It was one of these quirks that one tries just for the sake of its differentiating quality. Wine Spectator gave it 91 points (out of 100) to this Leyda Valley warrior. I would not go as high since the barrel overwhelmed the fruit and its acidity in a greater proportion then it should have. The new oak left some nutty and vanilla aromas in the wine while the fruit turned into something like a fig marmelade than a refreshing white peach or grass that you can typically taste in wines made from this grape varietal. The depth though complement the raw fish quite well. With japanese food I would rather go for an oaky Chardonnay or a Gewurtztraminer from Alsace.

Opening hours: Only for dinner: Mon-Thu: 7pm-12.30am; Fri & Sat: 7pm-1am; Closed on Sunday.

Address: Rua Lisboa 55, Jardim Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil.

Contact: Tel: +(55) 11 3088 6019

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Cuisine: Japanese, chef does omakase sushi tasting.

Visit: September 2012

Price: High (all small dishes cost between $10 and $28, omakase nigiri sushi 8 pieces for $46; 12 pieces comes to $62).

Soto in West Village

New York is always on the move and the same is true about its restaurant scene. Every time I visit this bustling and vibrant city I find a new and at the same time an excellent japanese restaurant. Soto is my latest exploration. With its simple and discreet entrance and interior you are assured that Soto is not one of the flashy japanese chains where the top city players dine over their business ideas, but a down-the-line gastronomic paradise for japanese food lovers.

Soto sushi bar

Atmosphere: A neighbourhood dining spot without fussy decoration. The interior is very simple. There is a long wooden sushi bar, tables along the wall and a more secluded ones at the back of the restaurant. There are no private separate rooms available. People dress casually as well as fashionably, so whether you are in jeans or coming straight from work in a suit you will be fine. The service can be sometimes a bit slow and misunderstand your requests, but you can see that they try very hard to meet their guests’ demands.

Cyu Toro Tar Tare

Food: Creative, delicious and modern. Uni rules the menu here. You will find it in many of the tapas-size creations at Soto. Some diners might complain about the size, but I would guess that they might be Americans since in Europe and Asia these portions would be standard at high-end japanese restaurants.

Fluke Ponzu at Soto is a great starter. The refreshing thinly sliced fluke fish with chive, shiso leaf, ginger shoots, scallion, under minzore ponzu sauce is served in a cocktail glass and styled to perfection. The fish is fresh and all the accompanying ingredients underline its envigorating properties. With a cup of green tea or sake (warm or cold) the Fluke Ponzu will whet your appetite for the rest of the food.

Fluke Ponzu

Another party-like dish served in a Martini glass  is Uni Cocktail-Murasaki/California. Here the chef’s love-affair with uni (sea urchin) shows in a revealing fashion. The sea urchin sashimi with soy reduction and fresh wasabi is intense as uni always is, but the wasabi calms its powerful taste down with its spicy character and the soy sauce reduces its for some people strange mushi nature.

Uni Cocktail-Murasaki/California at Soto

Served on an eye-appealing plate, the  Sea trout carpaccio with black truffle sea salt, chive and caviar, on a side with water cress sprinkled with miso mustard sauce and sesame, this dish was both creative and delicious. The tender sea-trout melted gently on my tongue. Enhanced by the even softer texture of the delicate caviar, the crisp and fresh water cress contrasted the mellow nature of the sea world (the fish and caviar). The chef achieved in this dish a lovely balance.

Sea trout carpaccio

Tar tare tuna roll was the special roll of the day so we had to give it a try. It was unique, complex and tasty. The spicy tuna tar tare in a white kelp wrap with asian pear, cucumber, avocado, sesame, pine nuts and scallion was wholesome and perfectly matched a glass of California slightly oaky Chardonnay.

Tar tare tuna roll

I also had the Soto’s miso soup served with tender piece of lobster and uni. It was very nice and rich, but not too powerful. Not the best miso I have had, but satisfying.

Drinks: Good sake list and basic wine list with reasonably priced bottles as well as wines-by-the-glass. I liked their California Chardonnay by-the-glass as it was floral and fresh and also the crisp and zingy German Riesling went tremendously well with most of the seafood and fatty-fish based dishes such as the tuna or uni. They also had a bottle of Koshu, the pinkish Japanese wine, so if you feel like trying something different and unusual, go for it! The tea selection is basic – Japanese green tea as usually although it is quite a good one.

Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 5:45pm-11:45pm

Address: 357 6th Avenue  New York, NY 10014, USA

Contact: Tel: +1 (212) 414-3088

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Kitchen counter at Sansho

Cuisine: Panasian – from Japanese and Indonesian to American on the desserts menu.

Visit: September 2012

Price: Medium to high (Depending on what you order). A six-course tasting dinner menu 850 CZK per person is quite a bargain as it includes lots of food, moreover filtered water with cucumber and mint is  just 10 CZK a jug.

Chef: Paul Day is not only a chef but also a butcher so you can be assured that you are getting the best meat available on your plate. This Englishman worked everywhere from London’s China town to Nobu at the Metropolitan hotel. This later experience developed his passion for Asian food.

Atmosphere: Rustic, simple wood tables and cool retro design accessories. An open kitchen concept connects the diners with the cooking staff through simmering, bubbling and sizzling sounds setting thus an authentic acoustic to the restaurant. The staff and atmosphere are off-beat and relaxed. Wear jeans and sneakers and you will fit in perfectly.

Salmon new style sashimi

Food: Honest, tasty and creative. There is no menu as the food changes seasonally and daily according to the availability of ingredients and a mood of the chef. Just check the board outside the restaurant for daily specials and decide if it is the right day to go in.

We usually order the tasting menu as it is a great value for money and it shows off the chef’s cooking skills the most. Starting with New Style Salmon Sashimi, which the chef acquired during his work experience at London’s Nobu, always assures me that high quality ingredients are priority at Sansho. The fish is delicate, the savory sauce refreshing and sesame seeds add depth and reduce fishy taste of the salmon. If you do not order the tasting menu I highly recommend starting with this masterly prepared sashimi dish.

Also refreshing, but crunchy is the warm Sansho Fritto Misto of fried breaded sea food on a bed of mixed salad.

Soft shell crab slider

I feel sorry for those allergic to crab meat since the crunchy and juicy Soft Shell Crab Slider tastes heavenly! The fried crab sticking out from a delicate bun is diving into a tasty mayonnaise with crispy veggies and waits for your crisp bite. With a pint of Czech beer or refreshing Sauvignon Blanc this is a couple to be celebrated.

Vegetarians will appreciate the delicious Crisp tofu with okra and fried onions. The tofu is fried to perfection so many of you might not recognize this soybean version of cheese in it. The crunchy okra adds bitter touch, cucumbers with fresh spring onions zest and fried onions yummy depth.

Vegetarian fried tofu

The only dish I found boring this time was Rabbit with Wild Green Jungle Curry. It was very bland for all five of us. The czech version of a rabbit in a creamy sauce is much better.

The fatty meat lovers will love the Pork Belly with Water Melon. It is made with juicy & fatty Czech rare breed Prestik pig. I can imagine the Chinese indulging in this meal since it resembles the popular pork belly dishes I saw in restaurants in China very often. The sweet watermelon is an original and interesting partner to the fatty pork meat.

Pork belly with watermelon

Nevertheless, the Mini Burgers of Beef and Pork were an absolute hit at our table. Sumptuous, juicy and mouth filling. These were one of the best mini burgers I have ever had, perhaps with the only exception of those mind-blowing ‘miniperfections’ made by Joel Robuchon.

Mini burgers

Our traditional favorite at Sansho is the Twelve Hour baked Beef Rendang. This tender cooked beef delicacy is made with Czech dry hanged organic Aberdeen Angus and served either with rice or home-made roti bread. I prefer the pancake-like Indian roti bread with it. To me this is beef at its best. I cannot eat at Sansho and not having it.

Beef randang with roti

If you still have some space left for desserts then you will move across the pond, far away from the shores of Asia. The deserts are inspired by the tasty and rich American sweets.

I liked the most the Sticky Toffee Pudding. It is very rich and intense, but delicious as it is refreshed by melting ice cream. The Cheesecake is nice, but the super sweet caramel sauce on the top was too much for all of us.

Also yummy were the Warm Chocolate Cookies with ice cream. As a sweet burger the cookies held the ice cream between themselves. A cup of tea is a perfect balancing match to all of these three sweets.

Deserts: Chocolate cookies, caramel cheesecake and sticky toffee puding

Drinks: An international wine list is covering Europe, New Zealand and South America very well. The Czech wines selection is also worth exploring. We had an excellent and light Pinot Noir Gala from Morava region. Juicy strawberry and refreshing lightness of this Pinot promise a great bargain when compared to the red Burgundies on the list. The more intense red Italian wines are great with the pork as well as with the powerful deserts.

What I like about Sansho is that they are fair to their customers and do not overprice their water. A jug of water with refreshing cucumber and mint costs on 10 CZK (about US $0.50).

Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday lunch: 11am-3pm; dinner: 6pm-11pm; Saturday only for dinner 6pm-11pm; closed on Monday and Sunday.

Address: Petrská 1170/25,  110 00 Prague 1-Nové Město, Czech Republic

Contact: +420 222 317 425

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Cuisine: Japanese

Visit: July 2012

Price: high (the cost of ingredients is high and the chefs are acclaimed).

The house entrance to the restaurant

Chefs: Masaki Sugisaki, born in Japan and working at London’s Nobu was just a warm up for this talented chef. After he left Nobu he joined the head chef Keiji Fuku, another ex-Nobu, and Tomonari Chiba, the creator of Dinings’ concept. In the heart of the Dinings is Japanese tapas style modern food fused with European influences. This type of food served here is stemming from the traditional Izakaya food.

Food: Unique, surprising, modern and creative. Using the freshest British ingredients to create innovative Japanese dishes was the key to success of Dinings. Winning the no. 1 Japanese restaurant in London award by the acclaimed Zagat restaurant guide in 2010 confirmed the talent and creativity of the chefs.

It is better to order a number of dishes to share since most of them are quite small and it is more fun to try all these different plates full of for many of us yet unseen food. Every day there is a special menu presented on the board leaning at the back of the room. It varies according to the ingredients the chefs were able to get on that morning at London’s markets.

Sashimi specials

Regular features on the specials menu though are the sashimi specials, which we order every time we come here as they are amazing. The chefs combine various fish and seafood with sauces, vegetables, herbs and even caviar on large serving spoons widely used in Asia to eat soup. You just take the spoon, down all its contents into your mouth and just relish the interplay of the dish’s ingredients.

Tartar chips

The Mexican meets Japanese cousine in the Tartar chips. Like mini tortillas filled with raw rather than cooked meat and fish with beans, these are fun tapas to share. They would spark up any house party. The crispy shells are filled with fish, beef, lobster, crab or only with vegetables and sprinkled with some herbs and spices. A great appetizer to start with and excellent with fuller-bodied white wine.

The sushi

The sushis are also a well-matched teams of fish, rice and toppings. The chefs have endless varieties of this for me otherwise quite boring dish. Dinings is one of the few Japanese restaurants where I like sushi even more than the rolls. There are some interesting makis and even reverted makis, but none grabbed the attention of my palate.

New style salmon tataki

With the current popularity of new style sashimi, often fusing different cuisines with Japanese, the New Style salmon tataki with caviar would fit the trend. Yet, it is more than that. The thinly sliced salmon with olive oil, lime and cilantro is the base, yet adding caviar was a a smart upgrade of this widely featured dish. The saltiness and richness of the caviar balanced the freshness and zesty flavor of the fish.

Seared scallops

If you get as far as to the warm dishes, then I would recommend the Seared mushrooms, similar dish to the Mushroom tobbanyaki on the menu of many Japanese restaurants including Nobu. The Seared scallops are delicate, juicy and excellent seafood dish.

Drinks: The wine list and sake selection is sufficient with many Burgundies featuring on the list. We usually order a white Burgundy as it goes well with most of the food. For example a Chablis Premier Cru Les Vallons from Domaine Billaud-Simon, 2008 vintage with its mineral character goes very well with the seafood.

Atmosphere: Discrete, casual and personal. It is all about food, not about a fancy place to dine. You can wear anything except flip-flops and snickers as the restaurant is not strick on its dress code. It is a very small place with an upstairs bar-seating and maximum 10 small tables downstairs so it is better to keep your heated debate on strings as most of the other diners will surely hear it. The service is friendly, but at some point they tend to forget one or two dishes you ordered. It is not a big issue though since the food is so good and people tend to order many dishes at once so in this case it is human to forget something.

Opening hours: Lunch: Mon-Sat 12:00-14:30; Dinner: Mon-Sat 18:00-22:30

Address: 22 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HH

Contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 77230666

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