Six of the Best New Japanese Restaurants in London
Discover the six best and newest Japanese restaurants in London.
Sachi at Pantechnicon – Best for sushi & sashimi
At its zenith, the preparation of sushi is akin to a ritualised art form: from the long, intricate process of preparing the vinegared rice (which takes many years to perfect and should be a balance of shiny, fluffiness and tenderness with a hint of stickiness) to the precise way the fish is cut. Jackie Yu, head sushi chef at Sachi, produces sublime sushi, probably the best texture and flavour I’ve ever experienced.
Warning: it will leave you gasping almost in When Harry Met Sally style. The lobster, trout roe and scallop nigiri are particular standouts. Note, too, the fresh English-grown wasabi that further enhances the freshness of the experience. The sashimi is equally dazzling. A nod to the impeccable Japanese credentials of head chef Collin Hudston and executive chef Chris Golding which include Dinings, Zuma and Nobu.
Among the hot dishes, wagyu crusted with peppercorn and fleetingly cooked on a robata grill is sensationally tender and caramelised, monkfish karaage with a piquant, yuzu spiked take on tartare sauce and a horenso salad with a mountain of spinach leaves topped with a sesame sauce, stood out.
Do take the excellent advice of sake sommelier, Candy Hung. Gozenshu 9 Rocky Mountain Tusuji Honten, Okayama: rustic, raw and earthy with malt, caramel and cereal on the nose was a revelation.
Service throughout is warm and solicitous, epitomising elegant hospitality. Adding to the pleasure, the Japanese tableware including exquisite ceramics, chopsticks and different covetable receptacles for each sake are abundantly pleasing as is the plant-filled dining room, a study in refined simplicity. For a group of six, the vaulted booths with decorative noren (Japanese curtain) are ideal for a special gathering with a little more privacy.
Surely the coolest address on Westbourne Grove, with several pavement terrace tables too, and stools at a small sushi bar to watch the mesmerising craft of Enzo Kazutoshi, a third generation sushi master and his team making edomae-style sushi, specific to Tokyo. Besides superb nigiri: hotate chopped scallop with hana hojiso flowers is exquisite to look at as well as to savour as is toro-take minced fatty tuna with smoked and fermented mooli radish, chives and soy.
Be sure to order several aburi, nigiri seared with open flame to give a scorched top and ultra-creamy taste to the raw fish. Handrolls are ravishing, presented on special holders like open purses according to a recipe created by Kazutoshi.
Among hot dishes, the daily fish choice, sea bream with seaweed and yuzu sauce, is sensational. There’s mushroom gohan and a delicate sesame seaweed salad for vegans too. The interior is cleverly tiled to look like paper and bamboo, immensely stylish in an understated way.
Yakitori style grilled skewer restaurants are definitely the next Japanese trend. Among several new openings, Humble Kitchen, created by hachimaki-headband-wearing Angela Seto, is one of the most authentic yet adventurous. Japanese-born Seto has worked with Clare Smyth in London and Eleven Madison Park in New York and brings the rigour and intense attention to detail of three-Michelin-star cooking to Japanese grilling over special smouldering binoche coals that add distinctive flavour.
It is not a place for the squeamish as the likes of parson’s nose (the fatty tail end of a chicken), still juicy yet grilled to a fatty crisp, are considered delicacies alongside inner (chicken) thigh glazed in miso sprinkled with sesame seeds. There’s also ethereal tempura and plenty of quality sake by the glass.
The first and only hand roll or temaki bar in the capital opened recently. Chef Shaulan Steenson trained in some of Japan and London’s most illustrious restaurants (Tokyo’s renowned Hakkoku and London’s Michelin-starred Umu) to hone his fish cutting and rice preparation to perfection before deciding to do things rather differently.
His signature temaki: crab with cured egg yolk and white soy is a joyful hymn to freshness, texture and umami. The sweet-sour grilled BBQ kabayaki eel and otoro, fatty tuna with pickled daikon, are equally outstanding. Seating is mostly at the communal counter, allowing customers to marvel at the theatre and intricacy of preparation. The pared back wood and concrete interior has a sophisticated Scandi feel. It all feels relaxed, especially after a superb sakura yuzu Negroni.
As the name suggests, Sushi Revolution (set up by two former managers of the decidedly modernist Sticks ‘n’ Sushi) offers a playful, yet considered remix of traditional Japanese small plates fused with Peruvian and Mediterranean influences besides more conventional (and not especially remarkable) sushi.
The more creative dishes are the ones to plump for: crisp, crunchy kataifi wrapped scallops are succulent, sweet pops of plump flavour with an intriguing, moreish squid ink sauce. Chicken karaage comes with a yuzu kosho and tonkatsu sauce, whilst miso glazed aubergine nigiri make a tasty vegan option.
Savour the sizzle. When the impeccable slice of grade 5 wagyu beef from Kagoshima (with almost indecently marvellous marbling) hits the hot lava stone (heated to 400C), it is brought to the table with considerable swagger. This is no gimmick, called ishiyaki, it’s considered a serious ritual in Japan, and the beef cooked for a mere 30 seconds is phenomenal with the ultra savoury-sweet Maillard reaction caramelisation combined with meltingly tender flesh.
An omakase menu typically starts with a fresh oyster enhanced by its seaweed and tosazu dressing (made with rice vinegar, soy sauce, mirin and bonito dashi stock) accompaniment, and ravishingly fresh scallop sashimi with truffle and ponzu, showy yet very good.
Best among the nigiri are the atari (fatty tuna) and butterfish served with fresh Japanese horseradish. As the flamboyant and commanding Kathmandu-born chef-owner Padam Raj Rai explains, its impact is much more subtle. The interior is modern and comfortable with well-spaced tables and some striking artwork.
The sense of hospitality omotenashi – wholeheartedly looking after the guest – extends to careful advice on what to drink and what feels like genuine interest in the guest’s enjoyment.
With the Tokyo Paralympics starting tomorrow, the spotlight on culinary Japan looks likely to continue well beyond the sporting thrills. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a surge in interest in both buying ingredients for Japanese dishes and dining out. From sushi elevated to an art form and ethereal tempura, yakitori and hot stone seared wagyu beef, here are six of the best new eateries to expand your Japanese palate.
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