“We’re getting to the real fancy pants fish soon,’ says our sushi chef at Tokii, making us all laugh. Her English is very good, but some of it is dry and funny too.
We’re halfway through dinner at the six seat Sushi bar at Tokii restaurant, watching her create course after course of the restaurant’s new Omakase experience, exclusively available on Tuesdays- Thursdays from 5-6pm.
Omakase is a Japanese phrase, used when ordering food, that means ‘I’ll leave it up to you’. You being the chef.
In Japan the Omakase experience is something special, almost religious and can be intimidating even to Japanese diners. Woe betide you if you don’t appreciate the chef’s choice properly.
Here at Tokii it’s very different. Our chef is cheerful and happy to explain what she is doing, as well as why, to us all. Not that it affects her skill, her razor sharp knives flash in the light as she expertly slices the finest raw fish for the sushi dishes. Pure food theatre.
You will probably start, as we all did, with a hot hand towel to clean your hands, followed by a light savoury dashi (fish stock) soup with a couple of plump mussels lurking under the surface like prowling U-Boats. It clears the palate and triggers the appetite.
A single oyster with, I think, yuzu dressing and topped with red ‘caviar’ is a one bite taste carnival. I try to hold it in my mouth to fully appreciate the fireworks longer, but soon succumb to the desire to bite the oyster and release the salinity. It’s so sensual I almost feel I need a cigarette after, but instead eat the crisp fresh salad alongside.
Various delightful sushi appear one after the other; salmon, tuna and seabass. All are the finest quality, the seabass in particular, stands out with a little slice of pickled ginger adding a bit extra.
Each time the rice is faultless, the grains hugging each other closely, but never stickily. At one point our sushi parade is punctuated by another delicious bowl of light soup, this time miso with spectral enoki mushrooms, slippery wakami, crisp spring onions and fresh tofu.
This preps us for Negitoro (tuna tartare) with pickled cucumber, miso, avocado and lotus root ‘chips’. The cucumber cleans up the superb tuna’s mild fattiness and the chips are a perfect texture contrast. Meat then arrives in the luxurious shape of a wagyu sushi, the meat very, very rare, the experience a rare treat.
Some more of the superb salmon, this time it’s the sought-after belly, kissed briefly by a blowtorch. It’s still basically rare, but the fast micro cooking adds an extra taste dimension.
After comes the heralded ‘fancy pants’ fish, top belly tuna as a maki roll, but shaped as a cornet and not the usual tube. It’s easy to appreciate why belly tuna is regarded so highly. It is meltingly soft with a unique flavour.
To end, the very best Wagyu beef. Slightly charred, it’s served under a glass dome so that, after appreciating the meat’s elegant simplicity, we can remove the dome and release the savoury steam.
This is meat heaven, the charred exterior, the rare centre. It’s buttery and packed with flavour. Cut small, it’s easy to eat and it’s just the right amount. Personally, I try to eat less red meat these days. I still love it but I see no need to eat giant steaks, the very best quality in small portions seems ideal to me.
And so to dessert, a yuzu and raspberry brulee which has me scraping the dish out. One of my favourite desserts, when done right with a proper hard glaze. The yuzu perfectly balances the rich cream.
The menu will be of course different every time, so what we are having today may not be what you will have, but you can be confident of a fun time that’s ideal to the start of a night out and would be absolutely perfect for a first date.
The Omakase experience at The Prince Akatoki is £100 per person. (excl. service charge). Available Tuesdays to Thursdays, 5pm to 6pm. The experience consists of 11 dishes including dessert and a complimentary arrival drink.
50 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London, W1H 7FD