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Aug 21, 2007 01:43 PM

Saki - A must for London sushi + sake lovers

Bit depressed to be back in London after spending the summer in Bangkok and Tokyo not least at the knowledge that Bangkok is another city that outshines London where sushi and other Japanese food options are concerned.

However, in London, Saki is one beacon of hope along with Edokko, Sakana-tei and Soho Japan, places which I have already praised on this board. I was there twice before when it made a favourable impression on me and went back on Monday night when it impressed me still further. Good sushi plate (£20 for 7 pieces nigiri plus tuna roll) with fish, rice, shoyu all to a high standard. They have very good uni (from Santa Barbara) which is hard to find in London.

Good and extensive (by London standards) sake list as well and we ordered the Shirataki Ginjo from Niigata (a renowned prefecture for sake production) @ £30 per bottle. They actually delivered us by mistake the Shirataki Daiginjo (premium) which costs £80 per bottle and we drunk it without quite realising. However when we pointed out the error, they very graciously agreed to charge us only £30 and in the process I got chatting to one of the Japanese co-owners and was able to glean from her more information about the place and their take on the London sushi + sake scene. Turns out that the head sushi chef at Saki sources his fish from both Tsukiji and locally and is very closely involved in the selection process. Unfortunately he's leaving soon to go work in Beijing so I hope that the standard doesn't go down once he's gone. She also told me that Edokko and Sakana-tei have owner chefs which helps to explain why their quality is so high.

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  1. Went to Saki this evening following your recommendation; for some reason I'd thought the previous head chef would still be there until the end of this month, but I think we got the new guy instead. Still, he was friendly and chatty, and the food was good.

    We got the kaiseki menu with matched wines and sakes. I didn't feel the drinks were particularly well matched with the food; when I've had matched drinks at other places, I've generally felt "yes, I can understand why they picked this", but here it just felt random. I also thought it was a shame that we only got two sakes, with the other four courses having wine.

    I felt that the meal was not paced very well; we sat down just before 8pm and finished up our sixth course around 9:15pm (compare this with Bacchus, where a six-course meal lasted nearly three hours a few months ago) plus there was too much alcohol in the earlier parts of the meal and not enough towards the end. The service occasionally felt awkward.

    I hope these are just teething troubles related to the new chef settling in, and I will certainly go back some time, because despite the above niggles I did enjoy myself.

    Saki Bar & Food Emporium
    W Smithfield, City of London, Greater London EC1A 9, GB

    4 Replies
    1. re: Kake

      Thanks for the follow up and glad that you enjoyed the food. Yes it´s probably fair to say that they have overall service issues and the time spacing of dishes sounds rushed although that´s not necessarily uncommon in Japanese restaurants wherever you are.

      As for wine/sake + food pairings, personally I feel that this is an overrated concept and something of a moneyspinner for restaurants. I never take this option in restaurants these days.

      1. re: oonth

        Oh, I really like getting to try lots of different wines. I don't think I'll take this option at Saki again though. I forgot to mention, the pre-dinner cocktails we had were really good. Lots of interesting and unusual cocktails on the menu. I might pop in just for a cocktail some time.

        Now, where's next on my "oonth said go there" list... :)

        1. re: Kake

          Fair enough. I love multiple flavours too but think that my fragile palate can no longer handle the overload of the average degustation menu with or without wine pairings. So I just DIY and make up my own menus, pairings, etc something that I have easily and affordably been able to do these last few weeks spent in Barcelona/Spain. Tapas and tapas hopping is such a great way to go.

          Anyway surely it should be you giving me tips since I haven´t lived in London properly since May 2005 :-)

      2. re: Kake

        "I think we got the new guy instead"

        Actually, looking at this PDF: that gentleman does look awfully familiar. Though I really suck at recognising and remembering faces (I recently had a three-hour conversation with someone and totally failed to recognise him when he sat next to me in a pub a few days later), so I could be mistaken.

        Edited to add: sorry, I keep following myself up. Looks like the photo on that PDF was misleading; I found another photo - - which confirms that our chef was definitely not Naoki Hoshino. I wonder if my initial recognition was correct and the "new guy" is in fact an internal promotion?