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For me, St James’s Street has always been noted for its gentlemen’s clubs which include some of the most exclusive in the world. Prime Ministers and all the gentry did, and still do, frequent such luminaries as Brooks and the Carlton Club, but for those who aren’t that well connected to be admitted into such hallowed halls there is, for my money, a better alternative, Sake no Hana. Literally meaning ‘Sake flower’, Sake no Hana, from the same stable as Hakkasan, is a delight, and has thankfully steered away from the recent trend of Japanese fusion food and stuck to the core principles that not only makes good Japanese food, but also a good restaurant.
A night out at a restaurant should not only tantalise your taste buds, it should stimulate all of your senses and be an experience, and Sake no Hana ticks all those boxes. From the moment you leave the street you know this is a little different, as how many restaurants take their diners to the seating area by an escalator? On taking the escalator to the first floor you are then struck by the beauty and serenity of the dining room. As you walk past the open kitchen prep area that enables diners to witness the chefs skills, you enter the main dining room, designed by the esteemed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The walls and ceiling are awash with bamboo, and screens cover the windows blocking out St James’ Street, giving the feeling of a futuristic forest, although I personally thought I had just been transferred into a world of Jenga blocks! Either way, the feeling of peace and serenity was palpable and was a perfect foil to the food we were about to eat.
The menu is extensive and could be a little intimidating as there is just so much choice, but if you feel unsure just ask your waitress as they know the menu well and ours certainly gave us some very good options. Sake no Hana sticks to the principles of Japanese cuisine basing its dishes on the seasonality and quality of the ingredients, and uses only a modest number of herbs and spices focusing on the 5 tastes of sweet, sour, salt, bitterness and Umami.
The menu is split into 9 different sections (I said it was extensive), along with a number of signature menus, and we chose from as many as we could! To start we chose two from the Small Eat Section - the Hamachi Usuzukuri with Truffle Ponzu Sauce (£16.50) and the Maguro Caviar Tartare (£16.50). The Hamachi, or Japanese Amberjack, and the Maguro were delightfully meaty and fresh with the sauce and Caviar complementing each fish perfectly. Other small eats range from £4 to £28 and include some tempting vegetarian options.
For our second course we went from the Fried Section. We chose the Kaisen Tempura Platter (£21) which had a selection of scallops, vegetables and crab, encased in a light and crispy batter. These were accompanied by a paprika and a tempura sauce along with a spicy wasabi mayonnaise.
After a little rest to allow our first two courses to go down, we turned our attention to the main course, and for that we went for the Gindara Mirin with Kanzuri Miso (£29.50). The cod was light and flaky with wonderful flavours and went perfectly with our choice of the Tarabagani Zuwai Ikura Kamameshi (£19.50) which was a king crab and snow crabikura pot rice. This is served in the pot it has been cooked in (please note you do need to wait a while for this) and do scoop it all out as for me the best bit was the sticky bottom of the pot.
As a finale´ we decided to try some Sushi and chose the Mango and Softshell Crab Maki (£11.50) with 8 pieces and the Unagi Maki (fresh water eel) at £7.50 for 6 pieces. Good sushi requires careful preparation and the right combination of vinegar and temperature to create the perfect texture for the rice, and to do justice to the freshness of the other ingredients, and this balance is masterfully achieved. The mango freshness marries well with the texture of the crab and the eel has a slightly shellfishy sweetness.
Japanese whisky has become increasingly popular over the last few years and is now competing with Scotland for the top accolades, and Sake no Hana has an extensive selection of these award winning whiskys. In addition to individual drams, Sake no Hana has created an exclusive Whisky and Chocolate Flight, featuring three hand selected whiskies paired with chocolates created by the restaurant’s pastry team specifically to accompany and complement the complex flavours of each dram. I am not really a whisky devotee, but I am a chocolate devotee, so I just had to try this unique offering, and you should too, as the taste combinations will surprise you as it did me, and I may be starting a greater affinity with the strong stuff!
As part of the Hakkasan group, Sake no Hana maintains that meticulous quality and attention to detail that they are reknown for, whilst staying true to the roots of Japanese food, and I will be returning very soon.
23 St. James’s Street, London, SW1A 1HA
Telephone: 0207 925 8988