Sakagura in Mayfair
Authenticity is a tricky beast. Supermarket chicken with “such and such farm” proudly emblazoned on the label, jelly babies packaged under an “old timey” name to give you the impression of an old time sweet shop, dusty shelves stacked high with glass and handwritten labels, the appeal to authenticity is everywhere. In reality, both are probably made on an industrial park on the edge of Hull, and are as authentic as a sushi pizza.
Sakagura’s excellent background, though, as the union of 2-starred Michelin experience and a traditional sake brewery, mean it’s one of those few restaurants that can wear the “authentic” badge without a hint of trickery. You can see it in our incredible sake sommelier, who perfectly matches each course to a selection of sake, and in some great mixology from the bar. The limited edition Burns Night cocktail is the highlight, bathing the table in a light smoke as it is decanted, its combination of Suntory whisky and yuzu bitters ensuring that its taste is every bit as impressive as its theatrics.
That’s a theme that carries on throughout the evening, but in no dish more so than our Tuna Tartare. With its wooden slab, tiny bowls and wooden cutlery, all perched atop what appear to be a small boulder, it looks more like a table centrepiece than a starter. Remarkably, it tastes even better than it looks: a loose slab of beautifully tender tuna, bisected by pearls of black roe, it’s a remarkably fine bit of cooking.
Mackerel Ceviche is the best dish of the evening, despite its simplicity. It’s one of those sushi dishes where the rice seems almost irrelevant, the truly exceptional mackerel upstaging it effortlessly. If you close your eyes and focus purely on the flavour, you can almost hear the gentle lap of the waves, see the surf gently crashing on the shore. Mackerel isn’t exactly known for its delicacy but here a little splash of soy cuts through all that oil and potency and leaves you with something utterly refined and delicious.
After such incredible starters we eagerly await a lobster, dressed simply with lemon juice. It smells brilliant, wafting over the table in bursts of salty sea air that have us chomping at the bit to get stuck in. What a shame that once we did, we found it to be overcooked by a rather considerable degree. It slipped from the shell not in thick, juicy bands as one would hope but rather in strings of fuzzy white meat that were only a few minutes away from mush.
Wagyu beef is considerably better, cut into thin strips and served with light seasoning and a little optional chili powder, as it should be. This elite variety of steak is at its best when it’s allowed to shine on its own, A seared crust, all smoke and fire, gives way to buttery fat and tender beef, that you don’t so much chew as allow to melt away in your mouth.
Matcha Fondant is itself a nice dish, whilst the centre’s still deliciously gooey. It’s the plum wine it’s paired with though, once again a masterful call by our sommelier, that really takes it to another level. Its intense, almost jammy sweetness works perfectly with the slight astringency that the matcha gives, creating a surprisingly light but no less indulgent twist on an old classic. Our Soy Sauce Caramel Ice Cream is much the same, the sauce acting as an interesting alternative to salt that gives it the slightest savoury tang before the caramel kicks in.
True, the lobster disappointed us, but Sakagura is barely three months months old, and some small teething issues are to be expected. With the excellence and care taken in every other aspect of both food and service, we’re sure it’s a problem they won’t struggle to iron out. Once they do, it won’t be much of a stretch to call Sakagura the best restaurant on Heddon Street.
Photos: Daniel Donovan
To book a table at Sakagura, 8 Heddon St Mayfair London W1B 4BU, call 020 3405 7230 or visit here.