What: This Japanese newbie launched last year to much critical acclaim that just keeps coming – and for good reason, too. Sakagura is a joint venture between no less than five powerhouses in their own right, including Japan Centre Group, The Araki Michelin Star restaurant and sake Royal Warrant holders Gekkeikan, and it’s an absolute triumph. Serving washoku cuisine that delicately balances main dishes, rice, miso and pickles alongside freshly made sushi, hand made soba and udon noodles, grilled skewers and Hakata yakitori, it’s a veritable Japanophile’s dream.
Where: Nestled in the heart of Mayfair on foodie hotspot Heddon Street, Sakagura is well situated near Instagram faves Sketch, Bob Bob Ricard and Yauatcha Soho – a pedigree that it more than lives up to. Following The Crown Estate’s £1bn investment to transform the area into a gastronomic haven, this is yet another jewel to its crown that offers authentic Japanese cuisine to the millions of tourists and local businesses that pass through.
First impressions: Set across two floors, Sakagura is all sleek Japanese woods and Shoji screens; an understated chic that blends minimalist designs with western touches. Diners can choose intimate, curtained booths – perfect for enjoying a cosy date – or can sit around a traditional wooden kappo counter to watch the chefs at work in the open-plan kitchen and traditional robata grill. The eatery’s focal point is its glorious sake bar on its first floor, which boasts imposing barrels of sake suspended from the ceiling, similar to those you’d find in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park.
What we ate: Whilst you’re literally spoilt for choice at Sakagura with a variety of menus including a Yakiniku Barbecue menu, a Tasting Menu and a Shoryu Collaboration Menu, we opted for a set menu that allowed us to try a selection of stand-out, affordable dishes that makes this high-quality eatery so accessible.
One of the most visually impressive dishes is the maguro tartare on the appetiser menu, which is as delicious as it is beautiful. Served on a dish of ice in a traditional fisherman’s tray is one of the most delicately minced tuna tartars we’ve ever experienced. Tender, sea-bed fresh and intersected with a glittering trail of black roe, it’s accompanied by a canoe of accompaniments such as wasabi, spring onion, sesame and soy sauce, with a paddle to apply them with. Topped off with delicate pansies and other foliage, this is one seriously photogenic dish that’s every bit as good as it looks. The assorted vegetable tempura was also a fine choice, crisp and deep fried to perfection and served with grated daikon and konubu dashi dip.
The Robatakaki course was another winner; our Scottish salmon fillet glazed with a soy teriyaki glaze managed to avoid being cloying and tasted fresh and light. The Wagyu beef is a prime cut directly from south Japanese island Kyusho, and served thinly sliced, blushing pink and perfectly charred on the outside. Accompanied by sun dried sea salt and fresh wasabi to give it some bite, this is an exemplary dish to showcase the Japanese style steak. z
The Kamameshi course is a traditional Japanese rice dish cooked in an iron pot, where the bottom of the rice is slightly burned to add a smokiness to the flavour. From the various options such as red sea bream and Japanese mushroom, we chose the Goosnargh chicken and gobo, which was hearty and provided just the right amount of carb sustenance after our previous light courses.
Dessert allowed us to tap into one of the trends of the year and try a Raindrop cake, made with clear agar umeshu jelly, and garnished with cherry blossom and gold leaf. Another impossibly beautiful dish, with a clean, light taste that quite literally melts in your mouth. If you’re after something more substantial, go for the matcha fondant gateau which, although a little dry, has a delicate grassy flavour to it and its molten centre was rich enough to moisten the rest of the cake.
What we drank: Alongside the thoughtfully curated cocktail menu is quite the stand-out sake selection, which is served in your choice of beautifully designed, vibrant masu cups. The restaurant boasts impressive sake sommelier Mimi Tokumine, who can recommend the best sakes for your chosen dishes or, if you’re feeling flush, offer a sake pairing with your meal (which we, of course, highly recommend). Before dinner we enjoyed a stunningly presented Okinawan Dragon, combining cor cor red rum, almond syrump, dragonfruit, freshly squeezed lime juice, avua cachaça and gekkeikan namazake and a Kaka Highball, which marries famous Japanese Suntory whisky with fresh yuzu umeshu and soda water.
To accompany our meal, Mini recommended a selection of sparkling, sweet, warm, tart and cloudy sakes that perfectly complemented each dish – ideal if you’re a sake novice.
What we thought: Authentic, understated and expertly prepared, each dish is well thought out, beautifully presented and perfectly matched with silky smooth sake. Service is as impeccable and its intimate booths allow for a rare private dinner, even when surrounded by fellow diners. Easily one of the best new additions on 2016’s restaurant scene and a fair bit cheaper (and better) than Caprice Holdings’ Sexy Fish.