There was an unintentionally hilarious article in The Times on the weekend about how various movers and shakers were planning to survive the credit crunch. It offered invaluable advice such as sacrificing your weekly manicure, aromatherapy massage and reflexology. Clearly, the end of the world as we know it. However, there was also talk of foregoing eating out. While I am all for tightening the waist-belt, this is a step too far. The weekly reflexology session may need to get the chop, but there is no need for The Times darlings to abandon London’s restaurants just yet.
For example, for the past two months Top Table has been running an offer where you can dine at Alan Yau’s shrine to Japanese cuisine, Sake no hana, for 50% off. Winner of Best Design at Time Out’s 2008 Eating and Drinking Awards, Sake no hana, is the sort of place where London’s It girls are queuing up to kick off their Jimmy Choos and curl up at the tatami seating. Of course, Joyce, Meredith and our token male Swinno had to join them even if we were doing it on the cheap.
You enter Sake no hana by ascending a glossy black elevator that deposits you in a large room lined with cleverly designed tatami seating which gives you room to stretch out your legs. The place is a cross between some sort of Shinto Shrine and a giant Ikea assembly, the highlight is the roof that is covered in geometric patterns of blond cedar.
Feeling a bit unwell I bypassed the frankly rather intimidating looking sake list and opted for genmaicha tea instead (true credit crunching to save cash on alcohol). We ordered a grand total of 13 dishes to share although people with average sized appetites could probably get away with a lot less. The dishes were generally fairly small in size but exquisitely presented. Tamago tofu topped with snow crab was wonderfully silken. Tiny tempura baby courgettes were deftly prepared. Chopsticks flew as we all tried to devour the glorious grilled marinated sake chicken which was served topped with delicate snowflake like slices of crisp lotus root. The grilled seabass with wild mushroom in wasabi sauce was also popular because of the delicate and incredibly subtle flavours.
I loved the braised black leg chicken with soya bean and yuzu pepper which arrived in a huge cast iron pot and was ladled into individual bowls. The broth was dark and fragrant and filled with chunks of succulent chicken and vegetables. It was comfort food Japanese style. The only misfire was really the warm soft shell crab salad with wasabi sauce. The crab sadly erred more on the charred side than the crispy. We finished (as you should) with sushi rolls of eel, otoro nigri and amazing salmon roe sushi nigri which set off little explosions in your mouth as you bit into the roe.
I don’t think Sake no hana was quite as good as Zuma which I recently visited, however at £25 a head once the 50% off was applied it was a fine dining credit crunch bargain. Do not fear, the world is not finished just yet.