There is another side to the London dining scene that may appeal more to some than others; for example some may favour formal silver service, intricate petit fours, an elaborate 12 course tasting menu – generally giving austerity a two finger salute. Or perhaps something a bit more low-brow with the on trend of a no white table cloth setting, serving a 3/4 course menu that will cost you merely a round of drinks. Others may prefer something even gentler on the wallet opting for cheap but gourmet street food inspired fare and so on. Sake No Hana which opened in 2007 and set up by Alan Yau which was part owned by restauranteur Jamie Barber and Evening Standard chairman Evgeny Lebedev who sold their shares to the Hakkasan Group in 2011 creates a different category. A category which I’m sure will attract business men cutting deals, the wealthy from overseas, or those who want to be seen in the scene, chasing the glitz and the glamour. Their opening all those years back attracted an A list studded event after all – you get the picture. Or if you have a curious itch like me to see what the fuss is about! It’s contemporary, immaculate, seats 120 covers and offers sake master classes, whisky & chocolate tasting flights and of course modern Japanese fare.
Turning up sans booking means having a pre-dinner cocktail whilst our table is set. My mezcal negroni (£17) was smoky, bitter and sweet. It didn’t disappoint and thoroughly enjoyed it in their dare I say it opulent bar full of staple and rare whiskies as well as sakes.
A fellow diner and I were led upstairs to be seated but with vacant areas around the sushi bar, it was an obvious choice to boycott our table to sit around the action.
First up we have unagi nigiri (£9 for 2 pieces) and toro nigiri (£16 for 2 pieces). Perfectly edible and melt in your mouth but both lacked the depth of flavour – at this hard price point you’d expect more. Washed down with Pinot Blanc, Cave De Turckheim (£29) – a lovely wine made from the white grape variety of Pinot Noir. It reminded me of chardonnay which isn’t a bad thing.
Soft shell crab tempura (£13.50). An undeniably excellent crunchy exterior and and soft shell crab is one of my favourite ingredients of all time, somehow though the crab was lost in all of that lukewarm batter.
Kaiso salad (£11). 4 kinds of fresh seaweed and courgette with yuzu dressing. Crunchy, refreshing and strangely moreish.
Spicy Tarabagani Hobayaki (£35) – spicy chargrilled Alaskan Crab. They did well not to over-power the sweetness of the crab with the spice but it was on the dry side though which was a shame. It came on a dried hoba leaf and little grill making for a nice visual impact. The plump little grilled shishito peppers were a god-send.
Miso Kakuni (£16.50). Slow cooked miso pork belly with roasted onions. Fork tender as you’d expect, I’ve eaten a lot of pork belly in my mis-spent youth but this one wasn’t that stand-out due to the lack of flavour.
Sirloin sukiyaki (£37). Chargrilled with mooli ponzu and mushroom sauté. A nice smoky piece of beef accompanied with the peppers and mushrooms from the grill too. Not a bad bit of meat which tasted better dipped into soy and wasabi. If the beef was that good it does not require any condiment, at £37 too it shouldn’t have anyone wanting for more.
The damage: Expect to pay £80-£100 per head with drinks/cocktails
The good: The service and bartender were on point hitting the spot, showcasing their knowledge and mixology prowess. If you want sample some rare whiskies/sakes then look no further. Come with deep pockets though.
The bad: The dining experience wasn’t memorable at this price point and left me wanting for more, even if the dishes made a visual impact. It’s a case of all go with little to show from my experience; perhaps I missed something but at this hard price point but I’m dining elsewhere.