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Wednesday 21 November 2018

The Autumn Leaves Menu at Sake no Hana

Name: Sake no Hana

Where: 23 St James, London SW1A 1HA, http://sakenohana.com/

Cost: The Autumn Leaves menu is priced at £40 per person, with the option of a cocktail flight at £23 to share between two.  

About: Sake no Hana is the leading Japanese restaurant of the Hakkasan group which includes the eponymous Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, as well as the fabulous Yauatcha, where you can find some of the best dim sum and patisserie in London, at any of their two branches in Soho and the City.  The London Foodie is a huge fan of the group, and I am always on the lookout for new menus. So I was intrigued to hear Sake no Hana was serving a seasonal menu, namely the Autumn Leaves.

We arrived on a Monday evening at 9pm to find the restaurant packed.  I had a great meal here (The Cherry Blossom Menu) not so long ago, you can read the review here.  The building is Grade II listed, dating back to the 1960s.

The entrance to the restaurant is odd, with a narrow entrance leading to even narrower up and down escalators.  But the restaurant, reached after passing through a sushi counter with a gaggle of chefs, is on the first floor and is spacious, elegant with a zen Japanese decor of cyprus wall and roof panels designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

The Autumn Leaves menu is available until the end of November, when the restaurant is adorned with autumn maple leaves, with a menu from Executive Chef Hideki Hiwatashi and a cocktail flight created in partnership with Belvedere vodka and Ruinart Champagne.

What We Ate: The meal started with an exemplary, heart-warming cup of miso soup.

A mixed platter of four starters followed, with an excellent combination of textures and flavours.  This included Maguro sashimi (tuna sashimi with black pepper ponzu); crispy truffle rice balls (fried truffle rice with seasonal mushrooms); shiitake tofu (shiitake mushrooms filled with homemade tofu and wasabi sauce) and Autumnal crisps (sweet potato and beetroot crisps with soba noodles).

From four main-course options, we chose the salmon and chicken dishes. Salmon kurumi miso yaki – pan-fried Loch Duart salmon with Kyoto Saikyo miso was delicious, with crisp, aromatic skin, and the combination with walnuts was a revelation.

The tori sumiyaki - char-grilled miso chicken with sesame chilli miso and padron pepper - was tender and succulent.

The other two options on the menu, which we did not get to try, were the Kisetsu tempura moriawase (prawn and seasonal vegetable tempura) and the Tofu Shanshu Sukiyaki (three kinds of tofu with seasonal mushrooms and a soy mirin broth)

Best of all, by far though, was the sushi course that followed the main.  The Gunma seared wagyu A5 beef maki, with asparagus, caramelised onion and kizami wasabi, was immensely concentrated, with the kind of complex flavours that I would expect from a slow-cooked oxtail dish.

The spicy chirashi maki was also excellent – this combined tuna and white fish with avocado and cucumber.

I'm a big fan of inari sushi - deep-fried tofu pockets filled with sushi rice. But Sake-no-hana's version, served with pickled mooli, shiso and kanpyo (dried gourd), and a  home-made soy sauce, was nothing short of superb.

For dessert, we had the Autumn leaf - hazelnut feuilletine, hazelnut chocolate parfait with chocolate and maple syrup soup, mascarpone mousse and fresh yuzu. This showed off the skill of the pastry chef, and was both rich and light, a difficult combination to bring off.

What We Drank: We shared a bottle of Albarino Marinero, Terras Gauda, Rias Baixas, Spain 2017 (£45). This was a crisp and well-made wine, with fresh citrus acidity and greengage fruit on the finish.  

Likes: The sushi and the dessert were the excellent. 

Dislikes: I could have done with some rice, vegetables or some other starch or carbs to be served with the mains, I was still a tad hungry after eating this meal.

Verdict: For good quality Japanese cooking, fantastic sushi and French-Japanese patisserie desserts, the £40 for the Autumnal Leaves menu at Sake-no-Hana represents great value for money and quality.

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