Michael & I were long overdue a dinner with our favourites, Josie & Rory (who we toured Sicily with), and, since they’re as big a fans of Asia as we are, when I spotted the more than reasonable sounding Bookatable star deal for 5 courses and half a bottle of wine for £35pp at Sake No Hana, deciding where to go for our group date didn’t take all that much time.
It’s not often that such a highly esteemed restaurant offers such a good value menu, incorporating decent dishes in good quantities, so it’s fair to say that we were all looking forward to a delicious meal at a great price.
Sake No Hana is the brainchild of Alan Yau, the man behind Hakkasan and Wagamama. Like Hakkasan, much care & thought has gone into the décor. Upon arrival, you enter a shiny all-black reception room before ascending the narrow escalator up to a welcoming & stunning space. The high ceilings are filled with a latticework of wooden beams and huge bamboo shoots line the walls. The lighting is well thought-through with good lounge music playing, the overall outcome being a very warm and happy room. The atmosphere is spot on.
The menu offers authentic modern Japanese dishes, and is very similar to that of Roka and Zuma, with the main aesthetic difference being that instead of the robata grill being front stage and centre, a sushi & sashimi bar provides all the action.
Finishing off the dregs of our drinks from the bar downstairs, we moved on to our choice of one red and one white bottle of house wine included in the star deal.
The first course was white miso soup. The dashi broth had a delicious umami flavour and a slight sweetness from the white miso. It was very good, though if I’m being super picky I would have liked more tofu and wakame. I’m a chunky soup kinda gal.
Our pre-drinks got the better of us throughout our meal and we ended up ordering a few additional dishes that tickled our fancy off the a la carte menu, starting with salted edamame (£4.50).
The second course was a choice of salmon or avocado tartare (v) with miso and tobiko, crispy truffle rice. A group of eager carnivores, I’m afraid we all opted for the meatier options every time.
Considering the dish is named ‘tartare’, the presentation (and portion) focus on the deep-fried crispy truffle rice balls instead of the raw fish was slightly bewildering.
Nevertheless, the salmon was smooth textured and flavoursome, though I think it would have benefited from the removal of the roe which overpowered the fish’s natural delicate flavour. As for the rice truffle balls, they were a total flop; utterly tasteless & dry.
We then enjoyed a number of dishes from the a la carte menu; seared rib eye beef with sesame dressing (£15.50), deep-fried squid with kuro shichimi (£9.00), and thinly sliced sea bass sashimi with chilli ponzu dressing (£12.00).
The seared beef was nice but non-descript, particularly for the price, and compared to similar priced beef dishes from its competitors.
The deep-fried squid was not at all as we expected, as I’m sure you can tell from the picture. We’d all envisaged your usual crispy fried squid but, despite this, I quite enjoyed it, with the thick pieces of squid still surprisingly tender, although the batter was on the greasier side of life.
The sea bass sashimi with chilli ponzu dressing was probably our favourite of the three, with the sea bass soft as butter and the combination of slight spice and citrus really complementing the fish and overall providing a light & refreshing mouthful.
Back to our third course, it was time for the sushi round. You can choose all-fish or all-veggie options, with the carnivore menu including salmon & avocado maki; spicy salmon, white fish & cucumber maki; and pepper tempura & shiitake maki or, for all the veggies out there, mango, avocado & cucumber maki; spicy vegetable maki; and the same pepper tempura & shiitake maki.
The maki were all very, very good. And the wasabi of premium nose-fire quality. Four very happy bunnies.
For our fourth course we split down the middle on chargrilled salmon on hoba leaf with red miso teriyaki and the chargrilled organic chicken with pickled courgette, ignoring the prawn & vegetable tempura (because you only get 1 prawn) and the tofu & aubergine in dashi broth (v).
The salmon was good and of a decent size, if not a little overcooked. For me, the sticky teriyaki, tender chicken thighs were far superior. The pickled courgette was also a nice and unique tasty addition.
An extra order of slow-cooked miso pork belly with roasted onions (£17.00) was rather lean, incredibly meaty and very rich from the saturated miso marinade. The star alongside the sushi rolls for me.
We finished with the signature dessert of the day, a Japanese take on an apple tarte tatin, with a base of stacked, paper-thin, crisp layers of filo pastry topped with the thinnest julienned slices of apple compacted together and caramelised, which was seriously divine, especially when combined with the strong vanilla bean ice-cream.
Not quite of City Social’s incredible standard, but up there. A very strong finish.
Having helped ourselves to an additional bottle of wine, one small plate and four large plates, the bill ended up being double the intended £35pp, which was a little annoying since none of our extra orders, bar the pork belly, added anything special in terms of food.
The set menu is good value for money considering the usual pricing of the restaurant and that wine is included, the ambience, and for the fact that the sushi and dessert are truly scrumptious. So if you want the experience of dining at Sake No Hana and sampling some of their wares without the hefty price tag, then I think the set menu is a good way to go, even more so if you go for lunch or are generally a light eater, otherwise, you can always do what we did (but perhaps not to the same extent and avoid the dishes that didn’t wow us) and order a couple of extras.
We had a great evening and some good food in a very pretty restaurant, but I don’t think I’ll be returning anytime soon considering how many excellent Asian restaurants there are to choose from in London.
Having had a disappointing meal at Hakkasan as well, so far, Alan Yau’s greatest feat in my eyes is most definitely Wagamama. Give me that chicken katsu curry any day.