Japanese has got to be one of my favourite cuisines ever. My husband’s good friend Joe, a really cool Italian American, has a Japanese partner and naturally, Suzy knows all the authentic Japanese restaurants to visit in London. The first time she took us to one in Green Park and Baker Street, I fell in love with the food and I’ve wanted to cook the Japanese way ever since. The Unagi (eel) is one of my all time favourite dishes of any cuisine, end off. I’m salivating and almost emotional thinking of it because I just want to eat some NOW!!. Japanese is super healthy and the different combinations where raw (sashimi) meets cooked is fireworks on the palate. It doesn’t have to be mega expensive, in fact most of the authentic Japanese restaurants aren’t that expensive. They may not be fancy to look at like Nobu or Zuma but then, you don’t go for the décor, you go for the food. Every time I see fancy Japanese restaurants, I just think pretentious over priced food, this isn’t “real” Japanese so when I decided to visit Sake no Hana, I was a bit nervous I have to admit but I didn’t want to judge before I sat down to eat – I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I took my daughter because she adores Sushi and so we headed down to Sake no Hana one lunch time last week, she was beyond excited at the prospect of eating as much Sushi as she could, such is her love of this Japanese staple, she’s only ever had Sushi from Marks and Spencer’s and Itsu which she adores but I kept reminding her we wouldn’t just be eating platefuls of Sushi!! Sake no Hana is part of the Hakkasan group with restaurants world wide including Hakkasan in Mayfair. Sake no Hana is based in St James just around the corner from Green Park where the Ritz Hotel and famous epicurean food store, Fortnum and Mason’s is situated. First impressions, I was definitely impressed, clean cut and contemporary in style, the walls and ceiling are decked out in wooden slates with bamboo blinds shading the windows from the glaring sun. I can imagine Geisha girls being very much at home here and serving us platefuls of delectable Japanese, I think it’s because I have Geisha’s on my mind since I recently read the breathtaking book Memoirs of a Geisha. In the centre of the restaurant, a Sushi bar where Japanese chef’s are hard at work preparing their delicate works of art because that’s what they are, it takes years to train as a Sushi chef, anything from 5 and 10 years to hone their craft and now I know why.
The Sushi Bar where Japanese chefs are hard at work creating their works of art
The yummy cocktails my daughter chose, Cherry Iced Tea and Hihon Blue
The restaurant ceiling.
Once we’re seated, the waitress brings the menu and offers us water, we are eating from the lunchtime set menu, I hate when I have to decide and choose from a menu this vast so it’s easier when a menu is already devised. You also get a good combination of food that is expertly matched with one another. Since my daughter can’t have the half bottle of wine which comes with the set menu, she is offered two mocktails and she’s already made up her mind that this is her favourite restaurant overtaking her much loved Wagamama, I love my child and her culinary innocence. The mocktail that she chose was Cherry Iced Tea, a creative mix of maraschino cherries, jasmine tea and lime while I had a much needed glass of chilled white wine. Not long after drinks arrived, we had a our first course which was a white miso soup with some Japanese sea vegetables and mushrooms called Misoshiru. Our waitress told us that we could consume our soup as if drinking a hot beverage and even though we both started out using our spoons, we were both slurping it shortly after and though we were a little bit embarrassed, we didn’t care less, it was so delicious, salty but in a nice way, I could eat this all day long, it’s something I wish I could recreate at home to have on a cold winters day for lunch.
Our second course was prawn tempura and white noodles, Ebi Tempura To Ume Somen, this was by far my favourite dish. It was generous in size, prawn tempura with the crispiest tempura batter, so light and not at all greasy with three large succulent prawns complemented with the noodles which we both dunked in puddles of Japanese soy sauce, my daughter was in culinary heaven, I know she is beginning to feel the same way as me about Japanese food.
I love how the courses were spaced out so we could savour the flavour everlasting on our palate and to enjoy our drinks too, I know that my daughter was eagerly anticipating her favourite, the Sushi course and when it came, her eyes were like saucers!! She honestly couldn’t wait to get stuck in, just one little problem, chop sticks! She had never used them before and me giving her an amateur 5 minute lesson would not suffice so she reluctantly asked for kid’s chop sticks which was fine. The Sushi was absolutely incredible! My daughter had never ever tasted Sushi like it, she could have quite happily eaten my portion too!!
Sushi consisted of two pieces each of Spicy Maguro Maki which is spicy tuna, tobiko and cucumber, Chirashi Maki, salmon, white fish and cucumber and Crunchy Yasai Maki (pepper tempura and avocado). My daughter has an allergy to salmon so she had 3 pieces of the tuna maki and three pieces of the Crunchy Yasai Maki (pepper tempura and avocado) which was by far our favourite and it’s easy to see why. The shushi rice is rolled in crunchy tempura batter I am informed and it just elevated the sushi to another level, we both could have had another 3 pieces each, no problem at all. I haven’t ever tasted Sushi quite as delicious and well, I don’t need to tell you what my daughter thought, this is now her go to Japanese and where she wants to come for lunch whenever we’re in London, safe to say, and no disrespect to them, you can forget Wagamama!!
Our fourth course was either Salmon Hobayaki, a chargrilled salmon on hoba leaf with red miso teriyaki, Tori Sumiyaki which is chargrilled miso chicken with sesame chilli miso or for vegetarians Agedashi Tofu Toban, tofu and aubergine in dashi broth. Since I had a lot of fish already, I decided to go for the chargrilled chicken as did my daughter and we ordered a portion of sticky rice to go with it. The chicken was really tender and juicy which is something you only get with boneless chicken thighs as in this dish and just enough chilli miso to give a pleasant warmth that just kisses the back of the throat. The sticky rice is customary and very welcome to add starch to our five course menu, you can say we had enough starch in our Sushi but who doesn’t love sticky Japanese rice, if it wasn’t for the carb content, I would eat it all the time just on it’s own with lashings of soy, ahh bliss!
In between our courses, my daughter had another cocktail and this time, she chose Hihon Blue, a mix of blueberries, elderflower, rose and lemon, out of the two I tasted, this was by far my favourite although Zoe preferred the Cherry Iced Tea. Fifth course is of course dessert course, it’s what we all wait for right? Well we are both sweet rather than savoury people and this, we couldn’t wait to have. On the menu, dessert is described as dessert of the day so we had no idea what we were going to have, it was in fact a mini Rum Baba saturated in glorious light sweet rum syrup, I wasn’t concerned about the alcohol content for my daughter, it was barely there but added another dimension to the cake. This was served with fresh peach slices and peach sorbet. It was a splendid ending to a very satisfying lunch.
We were pleasantly full and very happy indeed, fine dining Japanese? Well, Sakenohana surpassed my expectations, I can certainly get used to it, as for my daughter, like I said, she was already demanding to come here October half term and every school holiday, let’s see about that, I’m pretty convinced she’ll get her own way!
Sake no Hana
23 St James’s Street
020 7925 8988
All photos and opinions are my own.