Masaki Sugisaki was born in Japan and working at London’s Nobu was just a Western warm up for this talented chef. After he left the fancy kitchen of Nobu he joined Keiji Fuku, another ex-Nobu chef, and Tomonari Chiba, the creator of their new restaurant’s Japanese tapas concept. In the culinary technique’s heart of Dinings is Japanese tapas style, in its country known traditionally as izakaya. In London the chefs accommodate contemporary Western influences, so any cuisine and ingredients from mexican, through peruvian to french could penetrate into the Japanese core plates served here.
The food is unique, surprising, modern and creative. Using the best local as well as imported ingredients to create innovative Japanese dishes was key to the success of Dinings that continues today. Scoring the no. 1 position for Japanese restaurants in London, by the acclaimed diners’ votes for the Zagat restaurant guide in 2010 confirmed the culinary prowess of the chefs as well as their ability to create tasty plates.
It is better to order a couple of dishes to share at once since most of them are quite small and it is more fun to try different raw as well as cooked fish, seafood, vegetable creations as well as some of their meat plates. A special daily menu is presented on the board behind the sushi bar or downstairs leaning at the back of the dark room. It varies according to the ingredients the chefs were able to buy on that specific morning at London’s markets and reminds me of the board displayed at Nobu Matsuhisa‘s original restaurants.
Regular features on the specials chalk board are the sashimi specials, which we order on every occasion. They are usually amazing, fresh, creative and interesting. The chefs combine various types of fish and seafood with sauces, vegetables, herbs and even caviar on large serving spoons widely used in Asia to eat soup. You just take the spoon, down all its contents into your mouth at once and mindfully relish the interplay of the superb ingredients.
Mexican meets Japanese cuisine in the Tartar chips. Like mini tacos filled with ground raw rather than cooked meat and fish with beans, these are fun tapas to share. They would spark up any house party as they look great. The crispy shells are filled with fish, beef, lobster, crab or vegetables, all sprinkled with fresh herbs and spices. A fuller-bodied white wine, such as Burgundian Chardonnay or an intense, petroleum-nose gushing Riesling from Alsace work match the boldness of these snacks.
The sushis are genially rehearsed plays featuring fish, rice and wild toppings. The chefs pour out endless varieties of these nigiris, which for me if not eaten at best sushi bars in Tokyo is quite boring bun of sticky rice and a slice of raw fish or seafood. Dinings is one of the few Japanese restaurants in Europe, where I like nigiri sushi at least as much as the rolls. The makis and the reverted (open) rolls are really good here so ordering one to share is a must. The crispy crab is superb, but the daily specials board will surely capture your palate as well.
New style sashimi, often fusing different cuisines such as Peruvian with Japanese, features as the New Style Salmon Tataki with caviar. The thinly sliced salmon is simply poured over with olive oil, lime and cilantro, but adding caviar was a a smart upgrade of thanks to Nobu widely featured dish. The saltiness and richness of the caviar balanced the freshness and zesty flavor of the citrus and green herbs.
If you get as far as to the warm dishes, then I would recommend the vegetarian Seared mushrooms. It is similar to the Mushroom Tobbanyaki of Nobu. For a great seafood plate, the Seared scallops are delicate and still juicy.
Drinks: The wine list and sake selection is sufficient, although not wide for London. French Burgundies dominate the list, and since we usually order a white Burgundy for it goes well with most Japanese sushi style food, we were sattisfied. For example a Chablis Premier Cru Les Vallons from Domaine Billaud-Simon, 2008 vintage with its mineral character was perfect with the seafood. You can also go for an oaky style of Burgundy.
Atmosphere: Discrete, casual and personal. It is all about food, not about a fancy place to dine. You can wear anything except flip-flops and snickers as the restaurant is not strict at all in terms of its dress code. It is a very small place with a tiny upstairs bar-seating and a couple of tables downstairs so it is better to keep any heated discussion on tight strings since most of the other diners will surely hear it. I prefer sitting at the sushi counter upstairs. The service is friendly, but at some point they can forget one or two dishes you ordered as it happened to us.
Price: High (the high cost of ingredients and the chefs are acclaimed).
Opening hours: Lunch: Mon-Sat 12:00-14:30; Dinner: Mon-Sat 18:00-22:30
Address: 22 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HH
Contact: +44 (0)20 77230666