I’m not quite sure what sparked my obsession with sushi and Japanese culture but my love of sushi has been getting stronger and stronger for the last ten years. In fact, as I press publish on this post, I have now experienced authentic sushi and Japanese lifestyle myself, first hand.
You can probably imagine my excitement at planning this trip and booking all the restaurants I’d always wanted to visit in the Land of the Rising Sun…one of which was Kikunoi, Chef Yoshihiro Murata’s three Michelin-star restaurant in Kyoto. It was the restaurant that I was most looking forward to with eager anticipation, so you can only imagine my joy when I was invited to Tokimeite. Tokimeite is Murata’s London restaurant and I would be experiencing an exclusive Omakase dinner and meeting the chef himself, just days before leaving for my big trip. And rather fittingly the name of the restaurant means ‘a sense of anticipation’ or butterflies.
The interior of Tokimeite has been created by acclaimed designer, Yasumichi, and the restaurant spans three levels each of which is inspired by Japanese crafts and festivals. We would be dining right at the counter with a view of the Japanese master chefs at work.
Joining me was my friend Suze who writes the blog, the Luxury Columnist, and we began our evening by holding our hands our to receive some cherry blossom infused sake. Looking through the menu, we saw there would a lots of food to try for our Omakase dinner, a word meaning ‘I’ll leave it up to you’ or the chef’s selection menu.
We started with a selection of appetisers, including the most delicious fatty tuna in mustard sauce…
Beautifully prepared sea bream sashimi, a Wagyu tartare infused with the heady flavour of truffle and some utterly delicious lotus roots.
Next was a warm comforting broth with sea bass and delicious green tea noodles, I’m usually not so keen on fish in broth as it can be overcooked but there was a beautiful balance in flavours with the slight saltiness of the soup and though the fish didn’t easily flake apart, I still very much enjoyed this dish.
No prizes for guessing that this was my favourite dish of the night, such perfectly cooked salmon and so delicately flavoured served with al denté asparagus, delicious root vegetables and sweet potato crisps.
And then we got to meet the man himself! Yoshihiro Murata is actually the third generation in his family to cook at Kikunoi Honten in Kyoto taking a modern approach to his predecessors cooking. His other restaurant in Kyoto and his place in Tokyo, Kikunoi Roan and Kikunoi Akasaka also have two Michelin stars each. In opening Tokimeite in Mayfair, Murata aimed to create the first truly authentic Japanese restaurant in the capital serving wa-shoku cuisine and using the finest produce.
A light palate cleanser of squid and crab in tofu dressing led into our next fish course.
Flamed chargrilled king crab legs came next and had a delicate topping of Japanese flavours. The flesh of the shell-fish was cooked just perfectly and the flavours were beautifully subtle, a touch of soy sauce was all that was needed as an enhancement.
Next the signature dish, which Murata prepared for us at the counter, cracking open a shell of salt…
To reveal the most beautifully cooked Wagyu beef sourced from Japan.
Though you could taste the perfect quality of the beef, unfortunately Suze and I found it a little too salty but it terms of texture and the level of cooking it was just right.
Next was a palate cleanser of strawberry and wasabi sorbet. Suze wasn’t convinced by the combination but I loved the heat of the wasabi that came through in the dish.
And finally my favourite bit; the sushi itself including delicious wagyu and mackerel nigiri and tuna maki. I also loved the fact that we were given a little brush to apply the soy sauce, ensuring we didn’t drown the delicate flavours in the salty condiment.
Desserts were a delicate apple tatin and caramel ice cream, a work of art on a plate!
And an absolutely stunning, light yuzu cheese cake on Japanese wafers with a green tea ice cream.
Of course, we couldn’t leave with a photo opportunity with the man himself. I told him I’d be visiting his restaurant in the next couple of days and he said he would be there to say hello! And here we are meeting Chef Murata half way round the world in Kyoto! A blog post on my experience in Kikunoi is coming soon!
23 Conduit Street
020 3826 4411
Suze and I were guests of Tokimeite