Posted on Saturday, 2nd November 2013
Umu Japanese Restaurant is a one Michelin starred venue located in the heart of Mayfair. It’s a favourite of those who work at the Japanese Consulate, and understandably so as the food is divine. Chef Yoshinori Ishii previously spent nine years at Japan’s three Michelin-starred Kyoto Kitcho, and his haute cuisine approach to Japanese cooking means his food at Umu is graced with a touch that is both elegant and precise.
I dined at Umu last year (for more on that meal click here), but I also had the opportunity to try Umu’s four-day pop-up restaurant at Frieze Masters recently, a fine-arts exhibition in Regents Park. The pop-up restaurant only offered a limited selection of starters, sushi, sashimi, and mains from the original Umu menu, but it was still a great showcase of what the standard Umu menu had to offer. Umu Head Chef Yoshinori Ishii remained in charge of the pop-up and worked the sushi bar as we ate. Also in attendance was a legion of full time staff from Umu in Mayfair.
From the starters, and a tuna tartare salad (£15) was deliciously meaty and sweet from a fabulous shiso dressing. Dressed with micro cress, the tartare was topped with some wonderfully thin, crunchy lotus root chips that worked a treat with this generously portioned dish.
Blue tiger prawn tempura (£18) came with a wonderfully crispy and airy batter that had all the trademarks of true authenticity. The prawns were flavoursome, firm and skillfully seasoned. There were also some perfectly cooked tempura vegetables as well. A dish of grilled wagyu beef on hoba leaf (£32) was tasty and tender, and dressed with a splendid red miso, walnut and sesame sauce that accentuated the lovely flavour of the meat.
The Umu sushi omakase set (£32) included a deliciously fresh selection of yellowtail, sea bream, brown mullet and crab, etc, served as three classic and three ‘Umu’ original nigiri pieces. The best of the lot was the sweet shrimp, an Umu original topped with a tosazu mayonnaise. The combination of the lovely shrimp with the eclectic flavours of the mayo was magical, especially as there was a touch of truffle in it that gave the sushi that special something. The Umu sashimi omakase (£32) included mackerel, yellowtail, tuna, sea bream, salmon, and brill, and was again incredibly fresh and beautifully presented.
To desserts, and a ‘BBC’ black beer chocolate (£12) combined ‘black beer chocolate’, a black beer cream, ‘scrambled chocolate’ that resembled chocolate crumbs, and a black beer pouring cream. The flavours were well balanced and the textures went together hand in hand. It tasted chocolate-y and was not overpowered by the use of beer.
But my particular favourite was the spectacular ‘hojicha’ brown tea ice cream (£5) for it was smooth and creamy. The nuttiness of the tea flavour permeating the ice cream also made for something scrumptious and rewarding on the palate. Also refreshing was the umeboshi pickled plum sorbet (£5) which would appeal to those who like pickled plums.
Frieze Masters has been and gone, so the Umu pop-up restaurant is no more. But it was a job well done for running a pop-up restaurant for four days is no mean feat. The Umu pop-up restaurant may be back next year at Freize Masters, but in the meantime, you can try the real deal, Umu in Mayfair. Not to be missed is the tuna tartare, the sweet shrimp Umu original nigiri and the hojicha ice cream.
Food rating: 4/5