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
Rainer Becker and Arjun Waney - the guys behind this impressive Aldwych restaurant and bar - clearly know a thing or two about high-end modern-Japanese dining. This branch is one of four Rokas now in London, and then there's the excellent Zuma, too - the group's flagship restaurant now daddy to a host of similarly swanky outposts all over the globe. This branch continues the Roka focus on contemporary Japanese cooking, with the authentic robata grill once again playing a central role. Signature dishes here include pure Japanese wagyu beef tartare with smoked soya sauce, wasabi and nori crackers, and skewers of langoustine and cod cheek with shiso and ume boshi. Sushi and sashimi proves popular, too. The drinks list majors on wines from the old world and new, as well as a pretty serious sake selection - there are ten available by the glass or carafe, as well as a fair few rare finds by the bottle. Signature cocktails (think the Roka negroni, made with rose petal gin, Aperol, plum sake and peach bitters) do brisk business, alongside an extensive list of shochu - all housed in custom-made display walls. Very pretty.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
You know how Kris Jenner names daughters? As in, Kourtney, Khloe, Kim, Kylie and Kendall (where have you been, living under a rock?). Well, that’s how acclaimed chef Jason Atherton names his restaurants. He likes to keep things ‘Social’, from Pollen Street Social to Social Wine and Tapas, or my personal favourite, Social Eating House. Luckily for Atherton, that’s where the comparison with the Kardashians ends, because unlike the internet-breaking attentionistas, the Social family are restrained and intelligent, and this latest baby is no different. What is different is the cuisine: Sosharu serves modern Japanese. But then, you’d already guessed that. They’ve done the smart thing and carved up the room’s industrial proportions using suspended wooden beams (kind of like eating in a giant four-poster bed) and Oriental lattice screens for intimacy. Do check out the counter bar (outstay your allotted two hours and you’ll be moved here anyway), so you can watch metal-chopstick-wielding chefs arrange the fiddliest of ingredients with astonishingly steady hands. It’ll make you want to jump up and challenge them to a game of Operation (don’t: you’ll only lose). Every plate is a thing of beauty, its flavours as intriguing. Take the must-order ‘open’ tuna temaki, (pictured above): a twist on a traditional handroll, the seaweed wrapper comes tempura-battered (it really works) and set into a ‘U’ shape, much like a hard taco. It’s then filled with perfect sushi rice, raw tuna, shredded sRead more
If there was a restaurant version of ‘The Apprentice’, an episode might go like this. A sweaty-browed candidate would be standing in front of Suralan, pitching his idea: ‘We’ll call it a pop-up, so people get all excited about it, and if it’s a big hit, then we’ll just make it permanent.’ ‘So it’s not really a pop-up at all?’ ‘No, Suralan. If people don’t like it, we can simply shut up shop and no one will be any the wiser.’ ‘Brilliant, I love it… You’re hired.’ Shakfuyu, from the team behind rock ’n’ roll ramen bar Bone Daddies, is just that kind of genius plan. Billed originally as a ‘long-term pop-up’ (a phrase to raise a cynical eyebrow if ever there was one), it turned into a runaway success. So they’ve done the decent thing and made a long-term commitment to 14a Old Compton Street. Because, cynicism aside, it’s great. Not perfect, but still everything a hip Londoner would look for in a meal: a sexy setting (shiny tiles, bare bricks and the trademark grungy soundtrack – on our visit, they were playing Pearl Jam); young, cheery staff with obligatory arm-and-everywhere-else tats; and ‘with-a-twist’ dishes. In this case, Japanese. There are large plates too, but everyone comes for the small ones, in particular the soft prawn toast/okonomiyaki (omelette) mash-up, with its sweet, smoky sauce and the sweet-and-sticky battered-then-slathered Korean-style chicken wings. The hard shell taku tacos (which on our visit came filled with tender marinated octopus and creamy avocado,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: Our pre-theatre dinner is becoming super popular. Why not try it at £25pp for two courses with a drink or three courses at £30pp?
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
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
Dumplings are usually a sideshow at most Japanese eateries. But over at Gyoza Bar, these doughy half-moons have been turned into the main event. The ebi gyoza, in particular, were excellent – the shrimp nicely flavoured, its case perfectly cooked and the lemongrass-and-ginger dipping sauce doing a stand-up job of cutting through the oil. The salmon gyoza, with its good hunk of fish, would have been great if it weren’t for the coconut sauce smothering the flavours; gilding the lily is a cardinal sin in Japanese cooking, of course. It’s not just gyoza on the menu though: we also had a dirty-in-a-good-way samosa that would make brilliant tipsy food. And the omakase was a rainbow of veg that, in lieu of a beer, worked well to temper the grease. For dessert, there was ice cream that wasn’t much more exciting than bog-standard, straight-from-the-tub-vanilla. The space itself may not be huge, but it’s well thought-out: the orange industrial girders are reminiscent of a torii gate, and the simple wooden tables nod to a Japanese aesthetic without descending into ‘themed’ territory. All in all, it’s a nice place in need of a few tweaks, but still good for an after-work bite and a beer.Read more