It’s not glitzy and it’s not glamorous, but this Japanese restaurant certainly delivers on flavour, as Carole Hamilton discovers
Kikuchi, an unassuming Japanese restaurant on Hanway Street in Fitzrovia, came highly recommended by a friend who had spent time in Tokyo, so I knew we were in for a treat. The restaurant has recently launched a new omakase-style of dining. Literally meaning ‘to entrust’, in this instance the phrase means that you’re putting your dining experience in the hands of the chef. There are no set menus, since no omakase menu is the same; instead, the dishes reflect the skill and artistic craft of the chef and what’s on offer at the market that day. On the Friday evening we visited, every other table was occupied by Japanese diners which has to be a good sign.
Hanway Street is more of an alleyway, and the no-frills appearance of Kikuchi’s entrance belies the quality of the restaurant’s food. The dining room comprises just 16 covers and is dimly-lit. The premium spot is at the counter, so you can watch Masayuki Kikuchi at work with his unfeasibly fast hands. Behind his tiny work station are some alarming-looking knives which, I’m assured, are for decorative purposes only.
The food and drink
Putting my culinary journey into the hands of the chef and removing the element of choice appeals to me. Eliminating the predictable works because, much as I would like to think I’m adventurous, I usually order pretty much the same things when eating Japanese food.
Prepare to be dazzled by a flow of elegant, premium dishes of sushi, sashimi, hot items (think grilled fish, tempura or meat-focussed plates) and soup. Food is served as soon as it’s ready, so you often have several plates on the go simultaneously, but eat slowly and savour every last mouthful. Highlights of our meal include a wonderfully sweet scallop with silky strips of delicious tuna belly, thinly-sliced turbot with ponzu, a mouthwatering Japanese soup with a jumbo prawn, and sea urchin tempura.
Kikuchi’s attentive team is happy to recommend wine pairings but, for me, Japanese food has to be accompanied by sake. Happily, Mr. Kikuchi is the chairman of the Sake Service Institute UK, the oldest sake educational course in Japan, meaning the selection is great – and he’s personally paired the best examples to his dishes. The three that we sample are perfect. Omakase Premium £100 per person
As a lover of Japanese food, being able to watch a true master at work preparing these dishes is a real treat.
14 Hanway Street, London, W1T 1UD, 020 7637 7720, kikuchisushi.com