Whether it’s a steaming bowls of ramen noodles, super-fresh sushi or an up-market kaiseki meal you’re after, you’ll find them on our list. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
Venue says: Valentine's at Mommi. Bespoke brunch with bottomless rosé bubbles and curated five-course dining over the Valentine's weekend. From £27.50pp
Clapham High Street’s a great place to meet up for a drink, with a couple of dozen bars and pubs vying for your attention like plaintive puppies in a dog’s home. But what many of them lack is ambition in the kitchen. They often start out well, but within months they become weekend drinking holes, with the food as mere ballast. Mommi is different. Although its large corner site superficially seems like a dozen others in the street – outdoor tables, sturdy-looking doorman, prominent bar counter – the grill and ‘raw bar’ have been set up to attract all-week custom, drinkers or not. Most passers-by will, like us, be drawn in by curiosity, and a drinks list that offers something a little different. There’s a Japanese-style (but Belgian-brewed) white ale called Kagua, with a distinctive citrus aroma; wines by the glass that are all South American, including a tannat from Uruguay; and pretty cocktails, all helpfully pegged at £8.50. Then you notice the open kitchen, with its dozen or so international staff wearing Japanese-style chef headbands. There’s a charcoal grill and sushi counter, preparing Japanese-Peruvian dishes (not an improbable fusion, as many of Peru’s best restaurants reflect the strong Japanese influence there). The small plates are beautiful to behold, Japanese tableware with artistic ingredient assembly. Raw tuna is seared (tataki), leaving the inside ruby-red, and featured the non-Japanese truffle oil along with toppings of perfectly crisp fried garlic sliverRead more
Once one of Marylebone’s best-kept secrets, Dinings now has a reputation larger than its compact, converted-townhouse setting. Getting a table in the basement is unlikely without a booking, but if you’re lucky there may be a spare stool at the street-level sushi counter. If you’re not keen on small spaces, then you may just like the ground floor better – it’s brighter with more windows. Whatever your thoughts on the venue itself, the food is indisputably excellent (make sure you’re packing plastic, as costs do mount up). Conceived by Nobu alumni Masaki Sugisaki and Keiji Fuku, it displays plenty of Latin flair along with other innovative flourishes. Nobu-esque curved potato ‘tar-tar’ chips filled with minced fatty tuna, avocado and wasabi/jalapeño sauce offered an inviting taster of the style. The much-celebrated seared wagyu beef nigiri garnished with cubes of ponzu jelly and minced truffle was also a triumph. Presented on a long platter, a lunchtime sushi selection (good value at £23) tasted every bit as good as it looked. Another lunch dish of pork ‘shabu shabu’ saw ready-cooked slices of tender pork balanced atop a heap of sticky rice and dressed with spicy fermented Korean sauce gochujang – despite the pungent mix, it wasn’t overpowering. With polite, efficient chefs and waiters too, Dinings is a top performer.Read more
How did food get quite so rock ’n’ roll? This summer London’s teeming with ‘gourmet’ fast food joints, rooftop pop-up bars, night food markets and street food vendors. This new wave of edgier eateries are changing the game for restaurateurs too – crisp tablecloths and prim service are out, industrial-chic décors and young, liberally pierced and tattooed staff are in. One chef who’s at the fore of the latest trends is Ross Shonhan. His first solo venture, Bone Daddies, is a self-styled ‘rock and roll’ ramen joint that opened just last year. It’s still making a big noise, literally, with New York-style Japanese noodle dishes and the sound system cranked up loud enough to make conversation a challenge. Hidden in a capacious Covent Garden basement, Shonhan’s second venture is no less modish. Once again he’s taken influence from the Big Apple for his East Asian eats, with a side order of loud rock music. As for the décor and staff: see above. This time the focus of the menu is hirata buns. A US interpretation of a Taiwanese street food, the sweet and fluffy dough is folded then steamed before being brought to the table. Diners then stuff these pockets with their choice of ‘flesh’. These are the signature dish, and a must-try. Mustard miso and a few slices of subtly pickled apple were a perfect foil for tender pulled pork. Crisp-skinned grilled sea bass was also skilfully cooked and served with a fresh tomato salsa. Small plates include sushi rolls, contemporary sashimi and temRead more
Out of simplicity can come excellence, and the food at Zuma is a case in point. The venue may be swish (with well-to-do patrons propping up the amply stocked cedar bar), the fixtures and fittings expensive, but when it comes to the food, much of the wow factor is down to high-class ingredients that haven’t been messed around with too much. Own-made silken tofu, presented in a cedar saké cup, was rich, creamy and light. The barley miso, freshly grated wasabi and other accompaniments allowed the tofu to shine. A more indulgent dish of spicy miso with lobster also had a clarity of flavour, with the sweet shellfish the star. An ample house special of deep-fried lemon sole was served with a fresh, tangy ponzu sauce and cleverly presented in a bowl made of the curved and deep-fried skeleton of the fish. Our waiting staff couldn’t have been nicer, and even the chefs behind the imposing robata grill seemed to be having a good time. This is one contemporary Japanese restaurant that we’re happy to come back to time and again. Be sure to give the saké list a proper look too: there are more than 40 to choose from.Read more
Venue says: Now online booking is available! Get 10% voucher from our website (downloadable from Ealing Common branch page).
Just a few paces from Ealing Common station, this unassuming restaurant has a strong reputation for high-quality old-school sushi. The functional room is simply furnished with white-tiled floor, small wooden tables and a standard-issue sushi counter along one wall. It’s not much to look at, but it serves the purpose for a decent lunch or dinner. Sourcing the highest quality of fish is not a problem for Atariya as the company is also a fishmonger. This also enables it to offer a wider range than most, with more than 20 nigiri toppings to choose from – including lesser spotted varieties such as turbot fin, razor clam and botan prawn – all of which are handled well. Prices have gone up a little recently, eliciting a few grumbles from regulars, but sashimi and nigiri sets still represent reasonable value at £15-£23. The ‘superior’ selection featured 14 well-shaped nigiri pieces, though the fish slicing was a little uneven. Highlights included fatty tuna as soft as silk, and turbot with just the right level of resistance as you bit into it. Less pleasing was the overpowering ume paste in a plum and shiso maki roll.Read more
When it comes to Japanese culture, some things get lost in translation. Appreciating the art and grace of outsized men wrestling near-naked is one such mystery, and plastic models of food is another. Cascades of noodles falling from floating forks, dusty bowls of ramen and platters of intricately crafted sushi are intended to lure diners into Japan’s restaurants. These plastic replicas of their dishes are unlikely to get you salivating, but there’s no denying the fun. This Japanese spot in Marylebone is decidedly old-school in its looks - slatted wooden façade, monochrome interior and plenty of plastic food, both in the window display and on show inside. The extensive menu has a range of Japanese classics: sushi, tempura and deep-fried breaded pork (tonkatsu), plus ramen and other noodle dishes. All of which are undoubtedly done well - our sushi selection contained faultlessly fresh fish, while a selection of grilled skewers were pleasantly smoky. But there are also a few less common options, which definitely shouldn’t be ignored. A rich and meaty miso stew came packed with pieces of tender braised tripe and tofu. And a Japanese pub classic of rice in a green tea broth with salt-pickled plum (ochazuke) made the perfect conclusion to our meal. Though it was way too chilly on the table by the door (make sure you sit further in), the lesser seen dishes warmed our cockles.Read more
Just around the corner from Brewer Street’s stretch of cheap and cheerful Japanese restaurants, So aims for something a little more upmarket. The brightly lit dining room has a polished, contemporary feel, attracting a more mature clientele. The menu features luxe ingredients too – such as foie gras and wagyu beef. But it’s not all decadence here; there are also plenty of standard options like chicken yakitori, crisp veg or fish tempura and salmon teriyaki. From the long, curved sushi counter at the front of the restaurant come well-prepared nigiri, maki temaki, chirashi or sashimi – all made with high-quality fish. Check the specials board for less common options. Meat dishes are also worth trying. A generous portion of ibérico pork was charred at the edges and imbued with the sweet, salty savouriness of the miso marinade; it had all the melt-in-the-mouth tenderness that the menu promised. Wagyu beef sashimi, served with pungent raw garlic and soy sauce, was another enjoyable dish. The drinks list includes Asian-inspired cocktails as well as saké, shochu and an ample choice of wine.Read more
A fine dining Japanese restaurant in Belgravia, Kouzu's kitchen is headed up by ex-Zuma head chef, Kyoichi Kai. It's set in a mid-19th century, Grade II listed building with a mezzanine level upstairs and an omakase sushi bar downstairs. There's a cocktail bar, too. Sashimi, nigiri and maki play prominent parts on a menu not afraid to add a contemporary twist or two - the 'new stream sushi' section features pan-fried foie-gras with spinach, fruit coulis, wasabi and teriyaki sauce, for example. More traditional dishes include salmon namba yaki from the charcoal grill, a range of tempuras, and miso-marinated black cod with a fennel and celery salad. A wide selection of whiskies features ten from Japan, complementing a drinks list boasting signature cocktails, Japanese beers by the bottle (Asahi, Kirin Ichbanshibori, Sapporo) and a varied selection of sake.Read more
Founded in Japan in 2009, this award-winning tonkotsu specialist arrived in London in September 2014. Small, brightly lit and minimal, it is not the place for a leisurely meal. And it has a serious downside: lengthy mealtime queues outside its doors. We queued outside for a chilly 45 minutes for a (shared) table. Once inside, it felt like being in a goldfish bowl, as hungry and hopeful diners watched us through the windows slurping our noodles. But there’s a reason for Kanada-Ya’s already-large fan base, which includes plenty of Japanese and Chinese customers: this is exceptional ramen. Pork bones are simmered for 18 hours to create the smooth, rich, seriously savoury tonkotsu broth – one of the best we’ve tried in London. Bowls of this are then filled with thin wheat noodles made on-site thanks to a noodle gizmo imported from Japan. They’re cooked to your specification, from super-firm to super-soft. Toppings range from pork belly slices to pork belly and blanched beansprouts or pork collar. (That’s right: if you don’t eat pork, forget it.) You can add extra bits and pieces such as soft-boiled marinated eggs (a must) or pickled mustard greens, although these were on the table anyway when we visited. To go with your ramen you can splash out on onigiri (rice triangles) stuffed with pickled plums or salted salmon – but you won’t need them. Drinks are strictly soft. If you want to try a classic Japanese fizzy drink, go for the Ramune. But be warned: it tastes seriously synthetRead more
Getting a table at this Clerkenwell sushi-ya has been a challenge ever since it opened in summer 2012. Understandably so, as there are only about half a dozen seats and they’re some of the hottest in London right now. In aesthetics and quality, Sushi Tetsu wouldn’t be out of place in a smart Tokyo suburb. Chef Toru Takahashi (ex-Nobu) is centre-stage behind the imposing pale wood counter, where he carefully compacts glistening grains of rice into plump pellets before topping them with shimmering slivers of fish. Each nigiri is inspected with a contemplative look and finished with a dab of soy, sprinkling of sea salt or lick of flame from a blowtorch before being placed on a glossy bamboo leaf in front of the diner. Each piece arrives individually to be eaten by hand. For the full experience, go for the omakase menu, and let the chef choose what’s freshest that day. Just say when you’ve had enough – be warned though, the bill can add up. Highlights of a recent visit included the best boiled prawn nigiri we’ve encountered; blanched on the outside, then split down the middle and blowtorched, it was sweet, smoky and barely cooked through. You need to book well in advance – the website explains the rather complicated procedure – but it’s a treat worth waiting for.Read more
A fine dining Japanese restaurant in Belgravia, Kouzu's kitchen is headed up by ex-Zuma head chef, Kyoichi Kai. It's set in a mid-19th century, Grade II listed building with a mezzanine level upstairs and an omakase sushi bar downstairs. There's a cocktail bar, too. Sashimi, nigiri and maki play prominent parts on a menu not afraid to add a contemporary twist or two - the 'new stream sushi' section features pan-fried foie-gras with spinach, fruit coulis, wasabi and teriyaki sauce, for example. More traditional dishes include salmon namba yaki from the charcoal grill, a range of tempuras, and miso-marinated black cod with a fennel and celery salad. A wide selection of whiskies features ten from Japan, complementing a drinks list boasting signature cocktails, Japanese beers by the bottle (Asahi, Kirin Ichbanshibori, Sapporo) and a varied selection of sake.