If I ever had to pick a favourite cuisine, I really couldn’t choose just one – but Japanese food would be very high at the top of my list. The range of flavours, the quality of ingredients used, the freshness of seafood and meats with so much marbling they’re often beyond recognition. Japanese food feels like a luxury and to some extent it is. We were dining one Monday at London’s newest Japanese restaurant Ginza Onodera which replaces Matsuri in St James’s and it’s rather fabulous.
Step through the main doors of this shiny new establishment and a rather glamorous restaurant & bar awaits. If I’m honest, the bar area feels like a last-minute addition as it’s slightly out-of-place upstairs – but what comes out of it is marvellous. One of the cocktails I really fell in love with was the Ginza Old Fashioned. A mixture of Toki whisky, black sugar and a topping of bitters. It may sound simple but the quality of the whiskey and perfect preparation from the mixologist meant for a silky smooth delight. The Ginza Manhattan was also rather punchy and again an utter delight to sip on.
Head downstairs to the restaurant and it’s looking absolutely stunning. I can still recall what it looked like before and they’ve certainly not spared any expense updating it. It feels very high-end, but still retains a relaxed feeling and the decor and furnishings are all very sumptuous – with an injection of glitz and glamour to transport you to a refined experience of Japan.
Of course no good Japanese meal should be started without Sake and so we indulged with a couple of glasses with our first dish. Black Kanpachi carpaccio was slices of Cobia fish with a truffle and citrus sauce, pomegranate, sliced truffles and a herb garnish. Fresh, zesty and vibrant – this was one of those dishes you took one bite of and realise everything else to come next was about to get exciting.
Another star dish was the spicy tuna tartare. The fresh tuna was delivered to the restaurant that very morning and caught the day before, then marinated in a spicy miso sauce with roasted pine nuts. I really fell in love with this dish, but the pine nuts probably weren’t in fact needed as the fresh fish and rich sauce did all of the talking.
If there was ever a dish which I religiously order in any Japanese restaurant, it’s a sashimi platter. If not only for a good few Instagram photos at least. Here it offered all of the colour and vibrancy you’d hope for, as well as freshness and superior quality. Presentation was beautiful too and all sashimi here is served with fresh wasabi and Japanese herbs on the side. Rather good value I thought at £25 for 10 large pieces of quality fish. The slices of plump tuna and salmon were particularly memorable.
Everything so far during our meal excellent, but if the restaurant ever needed a single signature dish then it would have to be this nasu dengaku. Huge chunks of slowly grilled Japanese aubergine which was smothered in a rich and sweet miso sauce. It quite literally left our mouth-watering and the aubergine meat melted in the mouth, with the thick skin adding a little texture. A gorgeous dish which I’ll be forever craving.
Of course we had to sample the classic tempura prawn. Crunchy, golden, large and the prawn meat still moist and not an ounce overcooked. My single Scottish scallop cooked in the shell on the robata grill was another dish singing in flavour, but the scallop a little overcooked for my liking. If they could serve it a more translucent in the middle I’d have been even happier.
Canadian black cod saikyo-yaki was one of the finest versions of black cod I’ve sampled in a good while, flaking away on the plate and it felt as if it was melting in the mouth. A lovely sweet glaze and hits of citrus around the plate made for a very enjoyable dish. A little pricey perhaps, but the portion size was generous and again the quality really shines though.
The same could be said for the black Angus beef sirloin. Prices were again on the higher end of the spectrum, but when it tastes as good as this did and cooked with such precision – you really don’t mind paying that little bit extra.
Saying we was full by this point was probably an understatement and so with barely any room left we ordered a couple of flavours of mochi ice cream – for research purposes of course. Pineapple flavour dusted with coconut flakes and strawberry. Both very good and very chewy – just the way I like them.
I really enjoyed my meal at Ginza Onodera London and in my opinion it’s a fantastic replacement for Matsuri. Previously this site was dated in both decor and cooking, focusing far too much on teppanyaki tables. But now Ginza Onodera has turned this address into a modern destination restaurant with exciting dishes and a refined dining space. If you’re looking for a special occasion meal or Friday night treat then I highly recommend you try this new Japanese restaurant. You won’t be disappointed.