Tag Archives: Japanese

Hakuba

111a Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3NQ
0 20 7300 3250
http://www.hakuba.co.uk/

We went to Hakuba after my choir concert. It was about 9pm and we were starving. As a result we ordered a mountain of food.

Hakuba is another of those modern Japanese restaurants, much like Nobu and Roka, and is situated in a very unimposing neighbourhood, a few steps away from Tottenham Court Road Tube Station. They have a bar, which caters for the theatre going crowd that this restaurant obviously tries to attract. The décor is rather dark, and the emphasis seems to be on the bar than the restaurant.

As mentioned, we ordered a ton of food. Oddly, our maki rolls all came individually, instead of as a huge platter as would other similar restaurants. Hence, our table quickly filled up with plates of food, attracting a lot of attention from the table next to ours.

Our Scallop Summit, which was oven-baked scallops layered on our south beach maki with a smelt roe sprinkle, looked absolutely shocking. There was nothing delicate about the presentation, as the words ‘layered’ and ‘sprinkle’ would suggest. It was as if a baby regurgitated his dinner over our sushi rolls. Thankfully it tasted far better than it looked.

My general impression of the maki rolls was that they were all competent. Nothing wowed me, and nothing showed that the restaurant took a lot of pride in their food. The Kanzashi, which was a sashimi selection wrapped in a cucumber like a maki roll was drenched in a sauce that didn’t need to be there, and the cucumber was sliced too thickly.

We also ordered calamari age, which was basically deep fried calamari. This was a huge serving of calamari, and if it had tasted good we wouldn’t grumble about the size – but it didn’t. It was rubbery and slightly too cold. The greatest travesty of the night was the Kani No Su. The dish was just soft shelled crab piled on top of some noodles that used to be crispy. There was a dreadful sauce poured over the crab, which gave it a weird tangy taste. Definitely the worst soft shelled crab we have ever had.

If that wasn’t bad enough, our Ikura sushi (salmon roe) was absolutely foul. It was so bad that A had to spit it out.

Perhaps the highlight of the meal was the grilled black cod. This was quite nice and far cheaper than what the likes of Nobu and Roka charge for theirs.

Overall, nothing was particularly spectacular about the food at Hakuba. In fact, some of the dishes we had were quite appalling. We’ve had much better food at Nobu and Roka, but having said that, those places are much more expensive than Hakuba is. The food there is definitely meant to be shared, which probably makes it an ideal choice for a not too expensive dinner with a group of friends. Just don’t order the appalling ones which we had.

Service: 7/10
Food: 6.5/10

Nobu

19 Old Park Lane
London W1K 1LB
0207 447 4747
http://www.noburestaurants.com/london/index.html

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Monday to Friday 12-2.15pm
Saturday to Sunday12.30-2.30pm
Dinner:
Monday to Friday 6-10.15pm
Saturday 6-11pm
Sunday 6-9.30pm

We’ve heard so much about Nobu, and the conflicting reviews definitely confused us. According to one online review, “It’s one of those places everyone has heard of, everyone wants to go to and most are busy looking to see who else is there.” (Note: that reviewer gave an overall 5/10 for his experience); according to another, “In a word, fabulous”.

We decided to check it out for ourselves. This was definitely quite the occasion for us, and we were excited, but apprehensive. The problem with going to such well known and celebrity-sighted places is that we tend to feel like we don’t belong there. We were curious as to how the service would be, and having read the dreadful comments about the service, we were all prepared for the worst.

Boy, were we surprised. Our experience in Nobu was outstanding. Perhaps it was because we were so prepared to be treated like crap that when we actually received very attentive service from our Korean waitress, we were so impressed. Our waitress was very professional in recommending some of the more interesting dishes in their menu, which bore hardly any description of the dishes. (How am I supposed to know what Tiradito is?)

One has to appreciate the inspiration behind Nobu when one goes there. If you go expecting to have a good Japanese meal, you are going to leave disappointed. Nobu does not serve traditional Japanese food. The food at Nobu is a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, and ingredients like Jalapeno peppers feature strongly in many dishes, which many an online review have taken offense to. We have travelled to Peru, and we can appreciate the fusion of those 2 cuisines. In fact, the Ceviche we had was absolutely delicious and it brought me instantly back to this particular restaurant in Peru where I had my first ever Ceviche (and cuy, but that’s another story for another time).

We had Sashimi Tacos, a strange choice I know, but it was very, very good.

The Tiradito (which was a carpaccio of fish was just average unfortunately, as was the Soft Shelled Crab spring roll.

We ordered too the Black Cod, and this was the first time we’ve ever had Black Cod with miso. It totally blew us away. Nothing could have prepared us for the slippery texture of the fish, and the wonderfully flavorful sauce it was cooked in. We’ve heard so much about the black cod from online reviews, and this surpassed all expectations. 

The pork belly we had was also outstanding. It just melted in our mouths, and we were very sorry when it was finished.

We also went for a sushi selection, which was good, but not spectacular. By this time we were absolutely stuffed, so our opinion of this might have been clouded by our very full bellies. We went ahead and ordered everything we wanted very liberally, because we knew that it would probably have been our one and only time dining in Nobu.

Finally, on our very full stomach, we ordered dessert – a Warm Valrhona chocolate souffle cake, shiso syrup, white chocolate sauce and green tea ice cream, all served in a bento box. This was very nice – A always likes green tea ice cream, and I like chocolate anyway. Something would have had to have gone extremely wrong for us not to like this dessert.

Overall, we were very pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed ourselves in Nobu. We left very satisfied. On our way back we were discussing why Nobu has received so much flak by reviewers. We guessed it was because most people couldn’t appreciate the Peruvian influence in the food. Japanese food is very commonly eaten, while Peruvian food is harder to come by. Perhaps if one goes to Nobu with an open mind, (or like us, expecting very little), one might walk out with not only a happier experience, but an increased awareness of foods around the world and how they can be paired with one another. (Also, I think we lucked out with a very good waitress.)

Service: 9/10
Food: 8.5/10

Sake no hana

23 St James’s Street
London SW1A 1LP
020 7925 8988
http://www.sakenohana.com/

It’s been quite a long time since we went to Sake no Hana (almost 10 months now), so considering that it’s relatively new and still making changes to improve, things might be very different now. However, this was our experience when we were there.

 

The entrance wasn’t obvious – with just a tiny white line with the name of the restaurant against a huge black door. It would definitely have been easy to miss. Once we entered, we were faced with a huge black room, and greeted by a receptionist who told us to head upstairs. The escalator was out of order that day, so we had to climb up to the first floor (it’s not easy climbing up an escalator at all). Overall, it was not a brilliant first impression at all.

Once we were in, we were struck by the classy interior, and by how empty it was. We reserved our seats via toptable.com, and received a 50% discount on our food. With this promotion you would expect quite a crowd, but it was virtually empty and very quiet when we were there. The dining room was, just like the entrance and the long walk up, unsurprisingly dark. The overuse of black in the design was quite annoying and pretentious we felt, and the whole place could seriously use with much more light to make it more inviting and less depressing.

 

The food wasn’t bad at all. We ordered a couple of dishes to share, heeding worldfoodieguide’s recommendation in her review of this restaurant. The sashimi was very fresh and the ikura sushi was delicious. We were also very impressed by the finely chopped seaweed on our agedashi tofu, and the tofu itself was also very good.

Our mains were the breaded pork chops with mushrooms and the Chilean sea bass cooked in miso. The pork chops were good, but not outstanding. It’s quite hard to create a mind-blowing fried dish we feel, since fried food tends to satisfy, but not wow.

Our Chilean sea bass however, was mind-blowing. It melted in your mouth and the skin had a very nice and smoky charred flavour. If there was one dish we would have again at Sake no Hana, it would be this dish. Since then we’ve had countless black cods with miso. This Chilean sea bass definitely ranks high among the best of the black cods we’ve had.

Overall, this meal wasn’t cheap, even with the 50% discount. We left not feeling very full, despite paying close to 70pounds after the discount. The food wasn’t spectacular, with the exception of the sea bass of course, so we concluded then that we would definitely not go back to Sake no Hana. However, since then it’s had a lot of time to improve, so we might actually go back if we’ve read sufficient positive reviews to try it out again!

Additional note:  50% off when we booked through top table

Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10