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|Address:||22 Harcourt Street, London W1H 4HH|
|Tel:||020 7723 0666|
|Price: £60.00||Wine: £35.00||Champagne: £110.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-2.30pm Mon-Sat 6-10.30pm|
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Whilst Mayfair may have two Nobu's, Marylebone has some of the best sushi counters in London, with both Dinings and Defune being amongst the Capital's best places to watch the artistry of the Itamae.
Dinings, which bills itself as Japanese tapas, shares a fair amount with Nobu in the style of food, with more inventive use of sashimi than just a few lumps of perfectly fresh fish and some daikon and wasabi. Sauces are light and each perfectly suited to the type of fish being used. Rolls are inventive, although call me old-fashioned, but I'm not sure that foie gras ever deserves to be wrapped in rice, no matter how amazingly cooked it is.
We started this time with tar-tar chips: basically, these are crisps with a small dollop of fish or meat filling. A bit like tiny tacos. The special was a wagu beef one. A single delicous bite of beef and wasabi; crisp on the outside, melting on the in. Like so many things, one is never enough, so a beautiful toro with jalapeno followed. Another sensational mouthful.
Sashimi came in the form of yellow tail with a yuzu garlic sauce and a toro with yuzu ponzu. No I don't have a clue what a yuzu is (let alone a ponzu), but I'd guess it was a citrus, so making the dishes a bit like ceviche, with the acid of the fruit “cooking” the fish ever so slightly. The effect is a sharp sauce that adds bite to the perfect raw fish in a more subtle way than the wasabi and soy sauce staple. I do love this about Japanese food: finding something that you don't know what it is, but finding it is amazing.
A spider roll was excellent. I once managed to convince a dining companion that this was actually a spider: this is clearly made easier when the legs are sticking out the top of the roll, very much like a tarantula might. I am sure that, could they get hold of a reliable supply, Dinings might actually try this. Eel sushi and a California roll were both lovely too. I don't usually go for the California roll, but this was like no California roll I have ever seen before, being almost a deconstruced version of the US “classic”, using mango (I'd guess) and fresh crab.
Everything is beautifully presented, with garnishes that look as though they are merely there for show, but actually each subtly add to the flavour or texture or overal mouth feel in some way, which is so much more than can be said for most western garnishes.
The drinks list is short and has the usual beers, plum wines etc, but also a well thought out list of wines that go with the sushi: I know matching wines with sushi isn't really the done thing, but so what? Sure stick to beer, but when the restaurant itself is branching out in non-Japanese ways (that foie gras again, or truffles, or cavier; they are all here), why not try something new too.
If I were to make a criticism, it would be the service. It isn't that it isn't friendly; it is. It is welcoming in that rutualistic way of Japanese, with a universally shouted “Irasshaimase”. It is just, well; relaxed. Actually, shambolic would be a better way of describing it. Dishes get forgotten, there are vast gaps between dishes arriving, followed by a rush of dishes together; after about an hour, and only a handful of our many ordered dishes having arrived and been consumed, our waitress politely asked if there was anything else that we wanted. Well the rest of our order would be nice!
I've never been downstairs, as I have always enjoyed sitting at the counter. It is here that you see the subtle interplay between the Itamae: the teachings, the tellings off, the respect from the younger to the master. But never hissy fits. Never scaulding with knives or cutting clothes. Just calm, professional and cool. And slow. Not only do I fear that you would lose this element of the experience were you to descend into the bowles of Dinings, but I fear you may lose a few more dishes along the way too.
Don't let the service put you off, and do try the foie gras rolls or the cavier or truffle laced dishes; this is surely one of London's very best Japanese restaurants.