Please note, sushi master Mitsuhiro Araki is no longer at The Araki and this restaurant no longer holds any Michelin stars. Araki has been replaced by former deputy head chef Marty Lau. Time Out Food Editors, October 2019.
What’s the most you’ve ever spent on dinner? A day’s rent? A week’s? How about a month’s? Because that’s what the bill at this sushi joint came to: £800. Which would get an ordinary Londoner a one-bedder in a not-too-rough neighbourhood. That was for two set menus (£300 a head), three glasses of wine (£36 each – the cheapest by-the-glass option) and service at 15 percent.
What could possibly justify these prices? Well, let’s see. It’s in Mayfair. It only has ten seats. Plus three Michelin stars. And, yes, the food is stunning. The sushi rice in the nigiri was sticky, still-warm perfection, the fish of the highest melt-in-the-mouth grade. Ingredients are luxurious (caviar, truffles), rare (not just sturgeon, but albino sturgeon) and sourced from every corner of the globe (Tasmanian abalone, South African squid). Each tiny dish is crafted with surgeon-like precision while you watch. Flavours arrive in layers, like quiet waves, each adding another nuance, another swatch of beauty and complexity: you’ll feel like you’re eating an oil painting.
Then there’s the ceremony: every one of the dozen-odd dishes is ‘announced’. Some are offered like communion wafers, only with stricter instructions (‘Hold out your hand. Now put your thumb and finger against the sushi, flip it over and place it on your tongue.’). There’s a lot of bowing (initially by the team, then, as more wine is consumed, by the diners too).
But then, abruptly, it's all over. There are just two sittings (6pm and 8.30pm) and if you go to the earlier one, you’ll be given your unasked-for bill at precisely 8.10pm. If you’ve got an unfinished drink, you’ll need to abandon it or down it. And don't go expecting buzz. The setting is hushed and minimalist, the lights bright. You are here to worship the food. Though there's not much of it. In fact, the 'courses' are so small (many are just individual nigiri) that – whisper it – there’s a chance you’ll leave a little hungry.
Still, if you’re sushi-mad – or someone else is paying – it's certainly an experience.