Sake no Hana, St James’s Street – the dress code was smart casual and no sports attire indoors. Ok. But no hats are allowed to be worn indoors? I know it is polite to remove one’s hat indoors but to be told in that manner, my rebellious nature kicks in, already coming up with something devilish. Well, it was just a thought. I am too cowardly to be outspoken and carry out my thoughts.
We were here once about four years ago, seated at the bar on ground level. Although the seats were uncomfortable, the meal was excellent and the dining experience left a delightful memory. That is the reason why we leaped at the opportunity to dine in Sake no Hana. Prices here are not cheap (for me anyway).
The restaurant’s decoration is a mixture of sort-of modern and oriental style put together. The modernized part starts with the mode of transportation to the dining area with the escalator, landing ourselves on the first floor in an immaculate place, leather covered sofas and being introduced to toilets that are only approachable via a double sided-lifts (as far as for the customer is concerned). The Oriental side is the chequered arrangement of bamboo canes and Sake no Hana’s sushi chefs greeting away in Japanese as they saw us.
Our meal at Sake no Hana this time, was different. We were futuristically escalated to the first floor. And from that moment on, it was intense. For us. Sake no Hana was already busy at 7pm. The atmosphere feels chaotic. “May I take your coat madam?”, “let me grab your chair for you”, “is this your first time here?”, “clean yourselves with our warm wet towels”, “this is our menu”, “I am your wine waiter for the evening, would you like a drink?” – wow, hang on in there, please, I wanted to scream. Those friendly, sociable conversations just strung along by Sake no Hana’s hundred and one different designated employees. I barely had the chance to answer the first question let alone know what else was being said to me after that! I was eased into their motion. They knew what they were doing, I don’t. The chaos was created by themselves. An organised chaos that left no room to pause and feel the ambience in Sake no Hana.
It was all too much. The music was lousy, loud and very upbeat, and only made one feel nervous and want to leave. But here is our meal.
Set 4 course menu for GBP 29.00 – (1) soup, (2) a choice of one out of four main courses (3) vegetarian/fish sushi, sashimi and nigiri (4) dessert.
yam croquette with miso soup – good soup temperature although I would prefer mine slightly warmer. The bowl is quite deceptive; it made the soup looked more generous. The yam croquette was a very clever idea – dipped in the soup means crispy batter does not matter because by the time it was served, it was already soggy.
chilean seabass hobayaki (supplement of GBP 5.00) – the seabass was perfect – flaky and smooth, I wished I cooked like this Not impressed with the salty concentrated miso paste and the hobayaki leaf? Was it supposed to add aroma to the fish? Well, it did neither contributed to the taste nor the wow factor, in fact it just looked like a windblown leaf.
mix tempura with wasabi mayonnaise – the wasabi mayonnaise was nice with the slight hint of tangyness. The tempura was very well done – crispy, light batter, succulent prawns, mushrooms, lotus root and courgette, the only odd addition was a slice of onion.
salmon nigiri, seabass nigiri, spicy salmon roll – everything on this plate was good. Nicely presented, beautiful sliced pieces of fish, thickness of the rice on the spicy salmon roll was perfect with one bite into the mouth. I wish there was more!
raspberry delice – I think they just lost the plot with this. With a base so hard it sent a piece flying across the table whilst I tried to cut with their expensive cutlery, only to find that it tasted like kit kat, faux chocolate moussey centre (blurgh!) encassed in a clumsy reddish coat (tasted of nothing and also falling to pieces) that made the pathetic slice of gold look like an imperfection. The best thing on the plate is a tiny half of a fresh raspberry. Why? Why? Why? After that sashimi platter do they think of serving this?
Service, was only ever unrecognised when you are eating. The waiter is different from the person taking the order to the person serving and the person bringing the dishes. The person bringing out the dishes was, I noticed, not supposed to serve the dishes. That would be yet another person. Once upon a time, they were all just waiters. At Sake no Hana the job description appears to be very specific.
Sake no Hana is one restaurant that is busier than Piccadilly Circus. All that zen zen calmness in a Japanese restaurant or cuisine does not make itself present here. We survived and unanimously agreed that going back the second time was not a good idea at all.
It should be suitable for a romantic dinner, lavish evening out and a good meal. Regrettably, it is not.
Sake no Hana
23 St James’s Street
+44 (0)20 7925 8988