We never knew a meal could make us feel so calm and relaxed - not until we tried Sake No Hana's new Omakase experience in London's St James area.
A dining experience has never made us feel so calm and relaxed before. It was almost meditative.
We are, of course, talking about Sake No Hana’s Omakase. Translated from Japanese into English, this word means “I’ll leave it up to you”. Diners relinquish all choice and power over what’s to be consumed. The chef makes all decisions for you. Just say thank you and eat.
And, with there being no more than six diners around the Omakase station, it is also an incredibly intimate affair. Perch on your stool, introduce yourselves to your Omakase chef and let them take you on a Japanese food journey.
Watch on as they effortlessly prepare all manners of fresh dishes right at your table – somehow managing to make no mess in the process. It’s like a dance. All you have to do is watch on as you sip on sake.
And it’s easy to obediently go along for the ride because you have no idea what’s coming next. There is no menu. You’re dining blind. A selection of ingredients rotate along the table, coming out of small draws and baskets hidden around the open kitchen.
But, in general, the experience does follow a simple pattern. You will start with two starter-like dishes. For the wintery evening, our chef decided to go for two warming brothy bits.
We kicked off with monkfish tempura covered in a Cornish crab, yuzu and soy sauce broth. The fish (of course) was a stunner but the plentiful amounts of crab mixed within the light soy sauce broth with the fresh yuzu was exactly what we needed to warm up. It did all sorts of good for our bodies.
But the main portion of the Omakase experience comes in the form of fresh nigiri being made in front of you. You get about 10 different variations, each individually crafted, one by one. And these, like everything else, will change daily.
We went through the three different cuts of tuna (the fatty, the not so fatty and the mostly fatless) and also a mixture of all in one. We could have had a bucket load of the fatty tuna nigiri which felt like butter as you bit into them. Balanced with freshly shaved wasabi, little else needed to be done there.
But there were some really different flavours being thrown around too. The cuttlefish with Oscietra caviar was so slimy yet satisfying. The strong seafood flavours were cut well by the saltiness of the caviar.
Another favourite was the fresh Icelandic sea urchin nigiri. The punchy flavour of the sea urchin was paired with some coarse salt and a little bit of wasabi. The strongly flavoured sea urchin was the champion here.
Here, they are celebrating the mostly locally sourced produce. Fresh seafood gets centre stage – it’s not overly fussed over.
And as you are eating so many things so very slowly, once at a time, you get to really appreciate each element in greater detail. It makes it so much more special.
And we decided to go all in by doing their sake pairing too. The sommelier comes over throughout different parts of the Omakase experience and chooses a variety of different sakes (hot and cold) to match the dishes coming out.
And god are they good. Expect smooth and complex flavours paired like wines which simply lift everything your noshing on to another level.
After all the sake and the nigiri onslaught, we then had a strong and hearty bowl of red miso soup before ending it all with a brief tea ceremony and dessert. Again, watching the chef slowly move through this traditional process is very calming. Hypnotic almost.
Even though you are within the main dining room, they manage to subtly steal your focus and bring a little escapism to the whole affair.
Your chef will then get out a small brush and ink to sign their name on a menu. Only then do you see the entire list of what you ate. Only then are you thrust back into the chaos of London – thinking back to that special Omakase bubble of delicious calm.