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.
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
Venue says: Bottomless Champagne brunch. Add a bit of sparkle to your weekend brunch with a bottomless glass of Champagne – £15 per person.
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
Venue says: Now open until 10.30pm on weekdays, 11pm on Saturdays and noon-8.30pm on Sundays.
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
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
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
Venue says: Free appetiser dish when ordering between 6pm-7pm (dine in only). Quote 'izakaya' to the server. Limited time only!
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
There’s no sign above the door, no flashy exterior. Just an A-board advertising ‘Japanese Tapas and Ramen’. Kirazu may be paces away from Spuntino – one of Soho’s trendiest ‘hidden’ diners – but it’s easy to walk past Kirazu without a second glance. Don’t. You won’t find anything else in London quite like it. Despite the understated exterior, Kirazu’s ad-hoc interior wouldn’t be out of place in a hip Hackney eatery. Bare light bulbs dangle from the ceiling; crates are used as shelves for bottles on the white walls and fresh-faced after-work customers sit at communal tables on knocked-together wooden benches. The room buzzes with excited chatter. Chef Yuya Kikuchi smiles as he turns out skilful yet pared-down small plates from behind his chunky wooden counter stacked with crockery, squeezy bottles of sauces, a blowtorch, and the other accoutrements of his craft. Much of Kikuchi’s menu is themed around obanzai – a traditional home-cooking style from Japan – and he believes his restaurant is the only one to serve it in Europe. As cuisines go, obanzai is humble; no fancy garnishes, no expensive ingredients. But the Kansai region it originates from is renowned for the quality of its produce, especially vegetables, and obanzai is built around letting the ingredients sing. Conger eel, a classic summer food that the Japanese say can cool you down on a hot day, was served grilled in a sweet soy-based sauce with a few slices of cucumber. Salmon sashimi was burnished with a blowtorcRead more
Cock scratchings are not the first thing you expect to see on a ramen bar’s menu. But Bone Daddies is not your average noodle joint. Instead, it’s a New York-inspired, butched-up ramen-ya with gutsy noodle soup dishes that don’t skimp on flavour. As you open the door you’re met with a barrage of belting rock guitar, walls covered in images of quiffed and tattooed Japanese rockabillies, and a room full of diners seated on high stools soaking it all up. So, perhaps not somewhere to bring your mum, or a date for that matter – unless you don’t mind shouting at each other. The cock scratchings turned out to be crunchy crumbled chicken skin, mixed with a little shichimi seasoning and sprinkled on to a chicken bone and soy-based ramen dish (T22) for added crunch. Other choices include one of the richest bowls of tonkotsu ramen you’ll find in London: the broth made from 20-hour simmered pork bones; sweet miso and butter ramen; and sesame sauce and peanut-laced tantanmen noodles slicked with chilli oil. There are no low-fat options here. A long list of Japanese drinks provides the accompaniment, including saké, shochu and whiskey. Service is swift and appropriately informal.Read more
Zuma’s younger sibling gets top marks for glitz and glamour. Much of the action takes place on full show at the central robata grill, where a repertoire (similar to Zuma’s) of contemporary izakaya-inspired food is created. The knotted wooden counter, framed by glass cases displaying the day’s produce, is filled with expectant punters enjoying the show. The tasting menu is popular with first-time diners, taking them on a spin of the best that Roka has to offer. Ours started with a spicy spiral of own-made kimchi. Next came a sashimi platter elegantly presented over crushed ice, and including flavoursome minced tuna with spring onions to be scooped on to crisp, black bread. Sticky skewers of tebasaki (chicken wings) were succulent, while charred salmon served with pickled onion and a tare sauce was crisp-skinned and soft-centred. Another highlight was a showy trio of desserts, which featured Pocky-style chocolate and sesame biscuit sticks. The tasting menu isn’t cheap, but each dish was impeccable. At such prices, though, service has to be spot on, and ours faltered towards the end. It took an age to get the bill, and we were made to wait further by the chilly door as attempts to retrieve our coats and bags were ignored.Read more