Last week I celebrated my birthday with the hubbie at the Japan Centre Group’s new Mayfair restaurant, Sakagura. They specialise in Japanese washoku which is a traditional way of serving food in Japan with a number of small plates accompanied with rice and miso soup. I’ve had my eye on their tasting menu since they opened at the end of last year, so my birthday felt like the perfect excuse to push the boat out.
We booked our table and preordered the tasting menu in advance as the kitchen needs 24 hours notice to prepare everything. When we arrived we were seated straight away despite being a little early.
Our first dish was a selection of tsukemono or Japanese pickles to start us off. They were served in a cute little partitioned dish to keep the flavours separate. I loved the cucumber and enjoyed the carrot and daikon, but I have to admit I wasn’t so keen on the umeboshi. It has a very sharp flavour that I much prefer to eat with rice to balance it.
Then we had a bit of a wait for the chef’s selection of sashimi but when it arrived the presentation was pretty impressive. It was served – as it often is – on a bed of ice but with a selection of other props to create quite the grand display for five pieces of sashimi. The fish itself was absolutely beautiful and we had yellow tail as well as tuna and salmon. The waiter did bring us some small side bowls that seemed to be for soy sauce, but no soy sauce appeared. We didn’t mind though because the sashimi didn’t need it.
Our next course was a shrimp dumpling served in a broth with shiso, a Japanese herb with nettle-shaped leaves. I’m personally not hugely keen on shiso as it has quite a strong and somewhat medicinal flavour, but it went really well with the salty, umami broth.
The broth was followed with a trio of beautiful black cod with miso, teriyaki salmon, and a chicken teba gyoza which was a chicken wing stuffed with a gyoza-like filling. The cod was gorgeous and probably one of the highlights of the meal with just enough miso to flavour, but not overpower the cod itself – and the texture was heavenly! The salmon was beautifully cooked too with an intense teriyaki sauce, so I was glad not to have too much as there wasn’t rice to even things out. I have to say I struggled a bit with the chicken as the glaze and the filling were both incredibly rich and a little cloying for me. Again, a little rice may have helped…
The absolute hands-down winner for me out of everything we tried was the wagyu carpaccio. I don’t think I’ve tasted something so complex and delicious that has blown my mind this much in a long time. The beef had been ever so slightly seared to give a hint of a grilled flavour but with the softest texture in the centre. Each piece was wrapped around some delicate vegetables and drizzled with a truffle and yuzu dressing. I had been a little concerned by the presence of truffle as it is such a powerful force of flavour that can overwhelm dishes, but it was balanced to perfection by the yuzu.
Unfortunately, (ah it is with immense frustration that I follow a paragraph about one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted with an “unfortunately”!) the final savoury course didn’t deliver on our expectations. Does this not sound absolutely comforting and delicious to you? “ise ebi lobster and burdock kamameshi pot” which is essentially spiny lobster and seasoned rice in a hot pot? The pot arrived topped with a piece of the lobster shell probably so we could see that the lobster was indeed spiny. There were a few pieces of lobster, but the dish was mainly burdock and rice and with a tonne of shiso which just threw the whole thing off for me. I have to say it was disappointing and not such a grand finale.
We finished with our sweet course which was the teeniest matcha cheesecake with a chocolate truffle. It was tasty, but we did have a bit of a giggle at how small it was!
By the end I wasn’t stuffed and I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad because you don’t want to fill up too early on and not enjoy the rest of the courses. To be fair though I didn’t quite eat all of my chicken nor did I eat much of the lobster rice.
Overall the service was a little clumsy, but I think it was our particular waiter, and the ambience was good but the music was ever so slightly too loud that it was beginning to intrude.
My conclusion of the tasting menu – hit and miss and hitting both extremes so overall I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not cheap at £80 per person so you’re paying their Mayfair rent without it translating into solid dishes across the board. I felt that some of the courses were missing a bit of rice and the trigger-happy use of shiso didn’t do it for me. I still had a great birthday meal because I love trying new things and I’ve been wanting to visit for ages. I may still go back and try the a la carte menu or one of their collaborations with Shoryu ramen.