Walking along Harcourt Street in Marylebone, you could easily miss Dinings. It’s located in a little converted townhouse / cottage thingey, and it really could be anything from the outside.
Walk inside and there’s a cramped upstairs sushi bar with beautifully fresh pieces of fish in the counter and three sushi chef fashioning elegant pieces of sushi with their hands.
Five people sit at the counter watching the talented chef’s speedily prepare each dish.
I’m led downstairs to a tiny basement dining room that only seats around twenty-five people.
Though I don’t believe fine dining will ever die, it’s certainly on the decline. White table clothes are on the out and more minimalistic dining rooms and a strong emphasis on excellent cooking is on the up. Something I saw this year at Clove Club
, who’s stark dining room belie the culinary excellence of the experience. Chefs such as Marcus Wareing are rebranding and revamping their restaurant style focussing on ‘relaxed formality’ rather than the slight solemnity of formal dining.
But it seems the Japanese were way ahead of us Londoners.
My dining companion, Brett, who spent his honeymoon in Japan, told me that most of the restaurants there are like this. Apologies if this isn’t the case, I’ve never been there myself and I struggled to find any images in my google research.
I ordered a sparkling wine and yuzu cocktail, and meal kicked off on a high.
The edamame beans that we snacked on were unlike any I’d tried before. Served with a spicy dip and salt, the process was to dunk the bean in the dip and then cover it in salt and eat in the usual way. The flavour combination really was sensational.
Perusing the menu we started to order a host of Japanese delights….As Brett is Jewish and Kosher he cannot eat pork or shellfish so we chose only fish, beef and vegetarian dishes. Though as I am also Jewish but not Kosher, we threw in the odd lobster roll for me!
Are first dish was a selection of the tartar chips. The salmon chips had a gorgeous kick of chilli miso while the tuna was served with wasabi jalapeno sauce. Good job I like things spicy!
Next up was a beautifully finely cut seabass carpaccio with fresh truffle and ponzu jelly. The fish was totally melt in the mouth and I’m really getting the hang of this truffle lark!
The food at Dinings was originally based on a traditional Japanese Izakaya style of cuisine but the chefs here have evolved this concept to present a menu of Japanese tapas which fuses traditional Japanese with modern European cuisine.
From the cold seafood tapas menu we tried some appetizers four ways.
From right to left:
The Scottish Lobster tempura with sweet chilli soy and spicy sesame sauce was obviously mine as Brett avoids shellfish… a pretty good thing for me as this was the best one of the spoons.
Tuna tar-tar with autumn truffle soy; you can see from the ruby redness of the tuna just how beautifully fresh it was.
Scottish scallop with yuzu ceviche and British caviar was also mine!
Seabass with sakura salt and spicy citrus vinaigrette. For me it was the perfect tasting selection with some of my favourite ingredients all with that perfect fifth taste of ‘umami’ that characterises Japanese cuisine.
As a cold meat tapas selection we chose Welsh wagyu beef tataki with porcini ponzu. I often mention on my blog that I’m not a big meat eater, by no means am I vegetarian nor do I avoid red meat entirely I just prefer lighter food and fish dishes. The above dish really is an exception to this; the beef dish resembles a carpaccio and the meat is feather light, seared very slightly and packed with flavour that is enhanced by the dressing.
Steamed vegetable buns were light and fluffy.
One of my favourite dishes in Japanese cookery is grilled aubergine with miso. I’ve been to a few restaurants where their version of this dish is a little sickly sweet. I think it’s actually quite difficult to strike a perfect balance with it, but Dinings did the job perfectly. I adored this dish.
You just see the gorgeous quality of the meat and fish in this platter of mixed sushi.
And some sushi rolls:
I chose Scottish native lobster tempura with tempura flakes and creamy jalapeno, it was totally delicious though with so much rice it was a little dense. We also shared spicy tuna open rolls with spicy sesame sauce and shichimi pepper. These were much lighter and easier to eat.
We were both pretty full, which Brett thought was a bit of a shame as the truffle ice cream was fantastic.
Overhearing us, the generous manager gave us a scoop to try. I have to say though I am getting used to truffle, this was a step too far and the truffle flavour was very powerful. Brett adored the flavour and happily finished off the scoop.
I loved the food at Dinings and given it’s location and subtle facade it used to be a well-kept secret. Now it’s more well-known and with such an intimate dining area I urge you to book well advance. It’s a restaurant that sushi affectionados should not miss!
22 Harcourt Street
020 723 0666