Sushi in London? Boring. It’s like the same old problem I have when meeting a friend for the first time next to my office. “Starbucks? It’s quick and there’s free Wi-Fi”. But which one? Within a 2 minute walk, there are over four, and two of each are on the same street. Bah! This revolution doesn’t just apply to triple decaf soya lattes.
All over the city, sushi counters/restaurants are popping up. (Even Nobu has two outposts that are within a 5 minute walk from one another). Each of them the same; cold and rubbery California rolls, some saccharine version of black cod and service that aim to get you out as fast as possible. “We will need the table at 11pm sir, you have it for an hour and forty five minutes”. Last Monday, when I had almost given up hope, I visited Dinings with a friend and former colleague.
A pokey entrance on an unassuming residential street in Marylebone revealed a tiny counter with six stools (the main restaurant downstairs offers more familiar western seating but is also relatively small). The menu was chock full of items, to be fair, most of them looked and sounded the same but our host made sure we were explained the full extent of each dish.
The concept was simple: Japanese tapas. OK, so it wasn’t that simple, the menu involved some old familiar dishes (for example, California rolls) but everything was done with a twist. Our California rolls were “open” and grilled with a chili miso paste under a blowtorch. The case for one-upmanship continued. We had tar tar snacks that were very similar to Nobu’s tacos but these were put on a base of U-shapes potato crisps and flavoured with jalapeno mayonnaise and ingredients that were far sexier than tomato salsa. We also had eel nigiri topped with foie gras (the sweetness of the kabayaki sauce was the perfect match for its seared partner) and sea bass sashimi, which arrives soaking in Japanese vinegar and accompanied with ponzu jelly and black truffles. The thought of the latter dish made me somewhat apprehensive but the aroma of the truffles is the first thing that hits you, followed by the sharp hit of the liquid/jelly mixture; a great ouverture to what is often a rubbery and flavourless raw fish.
However, it wasn’t all peaches and cream. We sampled seven dishes in total and four hit the ball out of the park. The others were the sad clichés of must-have sushi menus, deep-fried soft shell crab, something with wagyu beef that was unnecessary and one other I have already forgotten.
Dinings reminds me of NYC, where Sushi chefs are famous and sitting opposite them on the counter is where it’s at (Sushi Yasuda anyone?). If this is where we are headed, viva la revolution!
Dinings (4 out of 5): 22 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HH, +44 (0) 20 7723 0666