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12 New Burlington Street
The Araki in numbers reads like this: three Michelin stars, nine seats, £300 set menu, zero ability to accommodate dietary requirements. But the proportions work nicely both for sushi master Mitsuhiro Araki and his customers – he couldn’t cater for more diners, and they wouldn’t want him to try. Exclusivity is a necessary part of the omakase experience, played out along a cypress wood counter with Araki-san moving swiftly and elegantly on the other side. Each day’s menu is built around Edo-style sushi, starting with a deeply flavoured but delicate clear soup, ravishing sashimi and a little cooked seafood – perhaps saké-steamed abalone with scallop ‘strings’ or grilled salmon with yuzu. Araki’s ability to bring out the flavours of tuna is much-admired and demonstrated beautifully in a trio of sushi using progressively fattier cuts. As you’d hope, every immaculate detail – including the gorgeous bespoke tableware and covetable saké glasses – is given proper attention. Talking numbers again, The Araki is simply a one-off.
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SquareMeal 3 Stars
12 New Burlington Street
020 7287 2481
Oxford Circus Tube Station 407m
Piccadilly Circus Tube Station 477m
Savile Row 47m
Regent Street 60m
Tues-Sat 6.30pm and 8.30pm sittings only
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 5
If there is one thing that the Japanese like to do, it is to over-engineer things. The epitome of this has to be the Japanese loo: The Araki has one of the finest examples I have come across outside of Japan. Not only does it warm your cheeks, but it squirts little cleaning jets, both front and back. Why? Who knows. It is fun, and I would have stayed for hours, playing with the vast array of buttons, but for the fact that we were at the first sitting and they wanted us out.
The reason for mentioning this, other than that I find the whole Japanese obsession with loos quite fun, is that the restaurant and food served are the exact opposite. The room, a long, pale wooden counter that serves as place mat and plate in front of a long, pale wooden work-surface, interrupted only by a stainless steel sink at either end, is effortlessly simple. The fridges are out of sight, the beautiful serving bowls hide behind pale wooden doors; no door handles, a simple push to open.
The food too is simple: a clear fish broth with a few strands of yuzu; simply grilled abalone with an egg wash; tuna tartare; and sushi. Lots of sushi: four types of tuna, from the darkest maguro to the softest, most melting oo-toro; marinated salmon; turbot. Each one atop the most perfect of sushi rice. OK, so maybe "simple" is an understatement: any dish that, between the eight of us sat at the counter, uses a white truffle the size of my fist, is hardly "simple", but each dish is but a few, utterly fresh, utterly perfect ingredients working in total harmony.
There is no choice (although, should you not like an ingredient, you will instantly be offered an alternative), but then everything is being cut, cooked and assembled in front of you by the master himself, with the aid of but a single acolyte.
Much has been made of the price, but with only two sittings per evening of a maximum of nine covers (of which only eight were taken when we were there), mountains of white truffle, caviar, oo-toro and one member of staff per person, it is going to be expensive. Which begs the question: is it worth it?
Well it is certainly cheaper than flying to Japan, which is the nearest that you will get to anything of this quality. And that is the point; there are many "Japanese" restaurants in London. Some are good, some are bad, some are modern, some traditional. This is like no other restaurant in London: it isn't so much a Japanese restaurant, but Japan transported to London, with one of the greatest living proponents of the sushi master's art donning the apron.
If you can spare the £300 a head (without drinks or a 15% service charge), I would advise grabbing a seat now whilst it is (almost) possible to get one. Come September when the Michelin stars come out, Araki will get at least a couple of the three he had in Tokyo (if not all three), and the star chasers will arrive, chasing away the Japanese who we were lucky enough to share the counter with.
Let's get the money point out of the way upfront - this is the most expensive dinner you'll find in town with a jaw-dropping no-choice menu price which is around 50-100% above the current top 3/2 star restaurants in town. But to be fair, they state clearly what you can expect (and have to shoulder financially) so you know what you get yourself in
So leaving the big elephant in the room aside (ie the shockingly expensive price tag that will bring your credit card close to its spending limit), is the food and atmosphere living up to the sky-high expectations ? In short, yes
Let's go through it, there are only 9 seats at the sushi counter and you'll be served by the master himself, he prepares all the food in front of your eyes (only with the help of one assistant plus some waiters for the drinks). Each and every course (there are around 12 or so) was delicious and astonishing. Whether it is to try and justify the price tag, some dishes are accompanied by caviar as well as some (almost obscene amounts) white truffles. All the fish is sourced from Europe with only the rice and some other ingredients (eg the wasabi etc) coming from Japan. Very attentative service and Mr. Araki himself is an absolutely charming host and chef. The wine list is extremely short but sufficient (and actually better value for money than the price for the menu ...)
So if you can remortgage your home and/or seeing this as a unique one-off treat, it was one of the most memorable and exciting dinners I had in a long time with not a single course to be faulted (or indeed being able to say which one was the best). But the one thing it isn't, is value for money
Really awesome sushi and feels like it is in Tokyo with it's impeccable service and every dish was a real treat. You can't choose your menu but you won't be disappointed. For someone that usually doesn't like eel it was really surprising that I enjoyed the eel dish ! The tuna dish with Truffle was probably my favorite but it's hard to tell as they were all awesome. The only reason I give it a 4 stars to the 'value for money' is because it is a lot of money, but once in a while, I guess it's worth it.
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