Posted on Friday, 6th November 2015
Umu Japanese Restaurant in Mayfair is a favourite of the many who work at the Japanese Consulate, and understandably so. Executive Chef Yoshinori Ishii previously spent nine years at Japan’s three Michelin-starred Kyoto Kitcho and recently won Umu its second Michelin star. Chef Ishii’s haute cuisine approach to Japanese cooking means his food at Umu is graced with a touch that is both elegant and precise.
Every year Umu runs a pop up restaurant at Frieze Masters, the annual 5 day art fair that brings together several thousand years of art from over 130 of the world’s leading galleries. The last day of Frieze Masters was on the 18 October, but I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Umu pop-up restaurant before Frieze Masters finished. The Umu pop-up only offered a limited selection of starters, sushi, sashimi, and mains from the original Umu menu, but it was still a great showcase of the flavours of Umu, drawing on similar dishes and ingredients from the same sources. 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 a tuna tartare salad (£17) was deliciously meaty and sweet from a fabulous shiso dressing. Dressed with micro cress, the tartare was topped with some thin and crunchy lotus root chips that worked a treat with this generously portioned dish. A seafood salad (£17) with prawn, scallop and abalone was also delectable. The seafood was delightfully fresh and sweet and worked well with the lovely lightness and acidity of the accompanying tosazu jelly.
Blue tiger prawn tempura (£22) came with a crispy and tasty batter. The prawns were flavoursome, firm and skillfully seasoned. There were also some perfectly cooked tempura vegetables as well. Umu’s take on ‘fish & chips’ (£22) consisted of fried prawns, sea bass, mackerel and scallops. This was a joy to eat with the beautiful seafood being coated with a crispy batter that sealed in the moisture of the seafood. As accompaniment were some tasty artichoke crisps.
A dish of grilled wagyu beef (£38) on hoba leaf was tasty and tender, and dressed with a splendid red miso that accentuated the lovely flavour of the meat.
We completed our meal with the signature Umu dessert of ‘Charamisu’, a delicious green tea tiramisu (£12) and a chocolate tart (£12). The tiramisu was wonderfully creamy and the flavour of the green tea was well judged. The chocolate was decadent and rich and sat in a glorious chocolate sweet pastry case.
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 five days is no mean feat. The Umu pop-up restaurant will probably be back next year at Freize Masters, but in the meantime, you can try the real deal, Umu in Mayfair.
Food rating: 4/5