It’s time for tea with a menu that matches remarkable teas with delicious dishes of elegance made from healthy, happy, ingredients
‘Is that the coriander leaf, or is that?’ One of the stand out things about a Japanese menu is that nothing stands out, in fact much of it is miniaturised. The menu may say that the dish contains coriander, but you can find yourself convinced it’s not there because it’s so tiny to be all but invisible.
I really like that though. One of the joys of high-end Japanese cuisine is that it is so delicate, so nuanced and so subtle. The antithesis of, say, American food which is anything but. Mind you, neither are most Americans, especially the man aiming to run again for President. I can’t see him hunting around in his food for the elusive leaf.
We’re in TOKii restaurant in the Prince Akatoki hotel, itself a place of great subtlety and elegance but slightly off the beaten track. A hotel for connoisseurs.
The restaurant is downstairs, all moody lighting with dark woods and black furniture. It serves various kinds of Japanese style food, and is surprisingly well priced, but we have come for the MIDORI YUTAKA Wellness & Tea pairing menu, it being January and we’re still feeling a bit guilty about our Xmas excesses.
I love the idea of a meal paired with Lalani & Co’s teas, but am unsure what to expect. I don’t expect a glass of what looks like champagne to kick off with. It is in fact chilled Salcho Hojicha Sparkling Tea and it’s wonderful.
The well clued up waitress tells us it first appeared in Kyoto in the 1920s and that on a waste not, want not basis it was made with roasted tea leaves, stems, stalks and even twigs. There’s a pleasant umami to it, along with some smooth nuttiness. It’s very refreshing.
It’s paired with two dishes, one of salt baked heritage beets with a miso dressing, beetroot crisps and some roasted walnuts, and another of a miso glazed salmon salad with mixed leaves, cherry toms, cucumber (allegedly) and dressed with a yuzu vinaigrette.
I say allegedly because we never found the cucumber, but it may have been there. The earthy beets were perfect with the tea, a real good marriage and the buttery salmon went down well too, the sharp vinaigrette tempered by the tea.
Onto the next course, and a Vegetable & Tofu Poke Bowl. Lots going on here, including perfectly cooked quinoa, the white ‘tail’ showing but the grain still firm, some very fine silken tofu kissed by ponzu, shredded carrot, jewel green fresh edamame beans and little discs of sliced radish for subtle crunch.
With it comes robata grilled aubergine, looking uncooked and yet is actually very well cooked due to the miracle of the robata grill. The aubergine has a pleasant chewy texture and its flavour is released by the grill and enhanced with some chilli, some ginger miso and a sprinkle of spring onions. We drink Kyoto Oolong Tea, apricot coloured and also with a slight apricot flavour, and offering up some digestive biscuit notes|
We end in a riot of colour courtesy of an ‘Exotic Fruit’ salad with a passion fruit and banana sorbet. All the greatest hits of exotic fruits are here, including the one that looks like gaming dice, my favourite fruit.
It’s beautiful ice cream and the Saicho Jasmine Sparkling Tea with its notes of, unsurprisingly, jasmine, plus apple, lychee and vanilla, is the perfect dessert pairing and is so much more refreshing than a dessert wine.
We leave with a spring in our step. This is a lunch to usher in a new you and will leave that you with a sense of renewed purpose, as well as a question mark over what happened to your bean sprouts.
50 Great Cumberland Pl, Marble Arch, London W1H 7FD