8 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4BU
Reviewed by Michael M Sandwick
The Tokumines have done it again. CEO Tak, is the force behind Japan Centre and Shoryu. Manager Mimi, is London’s best sake sommelier and a master at omotenashi, the art of Japanese hospitality. In partnership with sake giant Gekkeikan and a 2 Michelin starred restaurant they bring fine detail to the best of Japanese cuisine and service.
Chefs Kanji Furukawa and Jin Yackshin have created a menu based on Washoku. This traditional food of Japan is listed with UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage, ensuring its longevity. The menu features a wide range of dishes with prices from affordable to extravagant. As well, Sakagura’s sake cellar has perhaps, the best selection of sake in London.
The room is beautifully designed. Dividers between the tables provide both intimacy and the ability to see and be seen. Downstairs, seating is at the robata grill where chefs entertain with their culinary prowess.
Service is exceptional. Mimi has infused the staff with her gracious sense of hospitality and you will be made to feel like an honored member of the family.
We began in uncharted territory, with a glass of Tenzan sparkling sake (£9.40). Unfiltered and slightly effervescent, it had delightful hints of liquorice and a nod to Champagne at the finish.
The sashimi, served on silver filigree on a bed of ice and decorated with flowers, was a work of art. The top quality fish was served with genuine wasabi. Most wasabi is horseradish in disguise. Small wonder. A finger of the real stuff costs £25! The difference in taste is night and day.
Maguro tartare (£19), more eye candy, was equally good. Finely minced tuna, 2 kinds of caviar, sesame, wasabi and dashi brought elegance to the taste of the sea. A carafe of hot Gekkeikan "denshou" daiginjo (£37) was a beautiful pairing. Dry with hints of fennel and grass. Each guest is invited to choose a sake cup from a beautiful assortment. Inevitably, I chose the one my guest wanted!
A light, crisp, vegetable tempura (£16) came with the most delicate courgette flower. Lobster (£32) blackened with moshio brown salt and lime was picture perfect, but lost its succulence with overcooking. Kyushu Island prime Wagyu beef (£35), sun dried salt and fresh wasabi was a wonder. Every bit as good as Kobe with a very high fat content and flavour from heaven. Barely seared, it dissolved in my mouth without chewing.
Kamameshi "kettle of rice" is filling and affordable. Sea bream and salmon roe (£15) and Japanese mushrooms (£13) were both tasty if not extravagant.
With the mains a carafe of a limited edition Gekkeikan "kyosansui" junmai (£21.20) brought me to a state of total harmony!
For dessert, a matcha fondant didn’t have the required ooze of its chocolate predecessor. It was however, a delicate green tea sponge. A matcha tiramisu was a masterful green tea take on the Italian classic, infused with yet more sake.
I hope sake is included on UNESCO’s list!