Itaku in Fitzrovia: “Where Italian and Japanese cuisines meet”
After so many moons of being unable to journey, we’re now experiencing a travel frenzy, with people booking short trips, long tours and faraway holidays. Being in two places simultaneously, thus, would be a wonderful solution indeed. While we await bilocation to be possible, there are ways to immerse yourself in two cultures at the same time. And Fitzrovia has recently welcomed one of the latest foodie ventures that allows exactly that. Celebrity restaurateur Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini and chef Ivan Simeoli are the duo behind Itaku, where Italian and Japanese cuisines meet.
The undiscussed protagonists of the menu are fish and pasta, with a small window for the robata grill. There is not one style predominant over the other, rather an encounter of the strong points from the two participants, in some cases the main stage is left to the most classic nipponic dishes, in others, the Mediterranean fashions lead the way.
For entrées, it is suggested to share some of the options from the raw bar. Oysters, carpaccio, burrata: this section of the menu is a parade of good produce. Like the elegant and minimalist interior decor, the presentation is extremely curated here. And the Wild Seabass Sashimi doesn’t disappoint: pink slices symmetrically crossing the plate lie on a pond of parsley oil and ‘nduja sauces. The visual contrast doesn’t exactly mirror a contrast of flavours, but every bite reveals the superb quality of each ingredient. World-renowned Mazara del Vallo red prawns also well satisfy the palate. The combination with the Perigord truffle, however, doesn’t necessarily elevate the dish, as the two elements have very distinctive flavour profiles that simply juxtaposed do not blend so much.
For pasta devotees, some of the names from the dedicated category on the menu may sound quite daring. We go for the Cappelletti in Dashi, and it’s a wonderfully gratifying choice. Each “little hat” swimming in a miso broth with an umami aftertaste, has a mellow filling of wakamame and Japanese mushrooms. The most enjoyable pick though is the monkfish: the tender meaty lump – whose quality we already tested with the starters – is lightly complemented by the barba di frate (opposite-leaved saltwort) and miso, and well enriched by the creamy pumpkin sauce.
The wine list barely fills two small pages, with a select range of wines by the glass. But, in a way, it is counterbalanced by the liquors and cocktails list. Nicholas Medicamento, who boasts experience from around the world – including The Savoy’s American Bar – is in charge and skilfully blends Italian and Japanese elixirs. Madame Butterfly pays tribute to its namesake’s opera with refreshing sipping, featuring a fair bubbling from the Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Rose. On the citrusy spectrum, the Kombu Daquiri offers an interesting mix of Eminente Claro rum and Honjozo Genshu sake kombu, finished with vegan foam topped with kombu.
The desserts are plated as deconstructed, with the different elements spread over a white clean dish. Milk & Honey is the perfect end-note for those fond of caramel and syrupy tendencies. Yoghurt mousse and Fiordilatte gelato are crowned with a crunchy meringue slab, sided by a dash of lavender honey and sprinkled with caramel crumble. For the Itaku Tiramisu, we are presented with a creamy roll with a spongy core, made of velvety coffee semifreddo, and flanked by an indulgent chocolate crunch.
The poised atmosphere of the main dining room quite radically changes when paying a visit to the toilets, located at the lower level. As we go downstairs, an explosion of colours hits us with the funky decoration provided by Evan Barlow murals.
Excellent products naturally come with a certain price tag, and considering the area, the overall cost does not exceed too much our expectations. Some combinations could have been played with in a more original way, but there are other dishes, like the cappelletti and the monkfish, where there is a pleasant balance of flavours and texture. And the cocktails are a match not to be missed.
Photos: Virginie Viche
To book a table at Itaku, 110 Great Portland Street London W1W 6PQ, call 020 7323 1885 or visit their website here.