Yay Japanese food. As cheeseless cuisines go, Japanese is the tops. There’s a wide variety of choice and it can be healthy or indulgent. The problem is that decent Japanese food is hard to find in the UK and when you do find it, it’s harrowingly expensive.
Gyoza. Gyoza is the real test. If the menu lists chicken or vegetable gyoza then hightail it out of there. It might be quite authentic, but gyoza are made of pig meat and that’s that.
Which is where Sakura restaurant (http://www.sakuramayfair.com/) got it right last night. Me and Lady McMonte ducked in there to avoid the inevitable argument at Pizza Express. Busy, with bona fide Japanese-talking Japanese running the place my hopes were high and rewarded. The gyoza were cooked properly (though we weren’t trusted to mix our own dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and chili oil). The yakisoba was chinese style and the noodles were (purposefully) crunchy – I think I misordered – but it was tasty nonetheless.
With a fanfare of sashimi and edamame, the main event was the tempura. The batter was light and crispy and we were allowed to mix the grated daikon and ginger into the dipping sauce ourselves – another authentic touch. Ginormous prawns, pimen and other vegetables, this is as good as tempura gets in the UK. Washed down with a tall, cool Kirin, I could have been in my local Tsubohachi gearing up for some karaoke.
The restaurant itself is nice enough and clearly a popular destination for Japanese and I’d definitely go back – £50 for two people with booze.
There are a gazillion other Japanese restaurants in London all with their pluses and minuses: Ten Ten Tei (in Soho) and Tokyo Diner (http://www.tokyodiner.com/) are pretty authentic and not too pricey. Taro Restaurant (http://www.tarorestaurants.co.uk/) is cheaper, but I feel like some of the dishes have been modified for a western palette. Dozo (http://www.dozosushi.co.uk/) is great but expensive. I’ve heard good things about Akari (http://www.akarilondon.co.uk/) and Roka (http://www.rokarestaurant.com/) but not visited them yet. Actually, the sushi from Wasabi (http://www.wasabi.uk.com/) is perfectly OK and the onigiri are a welcome treat, the hot dishes not so much.
Now with positive feelings, heart, good time and life!
23 Conduit Street
Tel: 0207 629 2961