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The Umi

Restaurants, Japanese Balham
3 out of 5 stars
The Umi

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A modern Japanese restaurant on Bedford Hill.

Number four Bedford Hill has gone up in the world. This little spot was for many years home to The Paddyfield, a humble Vietnamese/Thai café where the menus came laminated. Now the small dining room has been transformed into a swish Japanese restaurant, complete with glossy woods, stone walls and designer light fittings.

The food leans towards Izakaya style. That is, the sort of small plates Japan’s office workers, the so-called ‘salarymen’ (and women), like to eat when they’re having a few beers. The smoked lamb chops, with their fiery Korean spicing and succulent middles, were terrific. It’s just a shame about the cost: £15 for two small chops is pretty steep. Thankfully the breaded and deep-fried black pepper squid had just as much flavour and a more palatable price (£6). If you’re happy to splurge, order the sashimi. The plain, unadorned style was top quality – from curls of glistening sea bass to delicate halves of scallop, so fresh they tasted almost sweet. There was a contemporary gem too: a plate of yellowtail sashimi layered with tiny slivers of jalapeño, a micro salsa of fresh wasabi and a light sauce of yuzu-laced soy. A riff on a Nobu classic and every bit as good.

Other dishes – over-oniony beef tataki, softshell crab maki with too-soft sushi rice, flabby black cod – were more pedestrian. But service was friendly and obliging and there’s a good selection of sake. The Umi may not have what it takes to be a destination diner, but as a smart neighbourhood spot serving decent modern Japanese, it’ll do nicely.


Address: 4 Bedford Hill
SW12 9RG
Transport: Tube: Balham
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £95.
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