SAKI: THE CHRONICLES OF COLD SAKE
As I may have mentioned before. I am developing quite
a taste for Japanese food fuelled in no small part by
the fact that a number of decent to good places have
opened up around me in the civilised area of town.
However, I very rarely get to experience it with
someone who really knows the food and can explain the
menu as well as my chum Akiko. I was delighted when she organised a
supper for eight of us at Saki in Smithfield market
So, although I was very pleased to see all of my seven
chums last night ( Gavin excluded as his growing hair
and fierce expression is making him look more like the
bastard child of Bela Lugosi and Bill Nighey every day
and, quite frankly, he scares me ) I was delighted
that A and her hubby, Chris were amongst them and I
positioned myself directly across from her at the
table. Much to her, er, delight.
I arrived with HP a little after 7pm and we went
through the store area of the restaurant which seemed
pretty well stocked with a wide range of Japanese
groceries and sat ourselves down in the bar and
ordered cocktails while we waited for the others to
For HP some version of a mule which came with
a flaming, rum filled passion fruit shell on top of a
Vodka drink infused with fresh ginger and chilli. I
had a beer to begin but, when the others arrived moved
on to something called A Blue Dragon which was
actually actively vile and tasted like drinking a
bottle of Matey Bath Bubbles.
The barman was intensely serious and, in a way, it reminded me of my
favourite NY bar, Angel Share. The drinks here though were nowhere near as good.
Or, to be fair, the ones I tried weren’t. They may well have been perfectly made, just horrid.
Any road up, by this time most of the gang had arrived
except of course, the pathologically tardy M. Rosen
upon whom we were dependent on the ordering of the
Sake, her having just completed an article of the
Still, Akiko was in full effect and we went to our
table in a private enclave of the rather lovely room
and left the ordering to her which she took as much in
her stride as sitting opposite me.
The menu was predicated on Kobachi ( small plates )
which is, I guess like Tapas and while we waited we (
by we, I mean Akiko ) ordered a number of dishes
AGEDASHI TOFU – fried and served in dashi stock. It
was tofu. Not a lot to like or dislike about it.
BEEF CARPACCIO with fresh pear and sesame flavoured
soy – that’s better, some meat and very good it was
too. Great texture.
CHAWAN MUSHI – Perhaps my favourite dish of the whole
night. Basically, a savoury egg custard stuffed with
king crab. We had four plates of this on the table
and it was all we could do to stop HP licking them
GRILLED AUBERGINE WITH RED MISO - This dish is, I am told, common in Japan.
But I had never seen it until I read the NOBU cookbook.
This was really rather splendid and the skin ( left by some - why?) was the best bit.
Then to the Okazu ( Light main courses ) which again, Akiko ordered lots of and we all shared
SPICY PORK BELLY Hot Pot – I should have loved this.
It has the words Pork Belly in the description. However, I think this was the weakest dish of the night. It was Irish stew to all intents and purposes. It takes a lot for me not to have a private moment when pork is involved and you have to work pretty hard to make it bleh. They did though.
TONKATSU - panko breaded fried pork. It's fried and it's pork. Just leave me to have that private moment I talked about. It was excellent. Very good frying which was a feature of the evening. Greasless and served with two sauces one of which, I am certain was Daddies Brown Sauce.
ASST SEAFOOD & VEGETABLE TEMPURA - beautifully prepared and quickly consumed.
BLACK COD WITH MISO - another NOBU staple. This was not a great example and I found it a bit, well, slimey to be honest. Chris declared it " not as good as Akiko's" which drew an approving glance from his Mrs. Suck ups. Don't you just hate them?
We were not finished yet by any manner of means. We then went head long into asst sushi, both Maki and Nigiri. We had to re order some as we had forgotten that one of our number, Anny, does not eat cucumber. I have mentioned this before as one of the more curious things not to like. Like hating air or something. Cucumber does not actively do anything. It just is. Still each to their own and there was a very definite upside for me and Chris as we, sitting next to her, ate all her bits. Tee and indeed, hee.
The Unagi Nigiri ( fish on top of rice ) was a highlight. Unfortunately, they had no uni ( sea urchin ) The Tobikko ( flying fish roe ) Maki was a new one one me. Like eating savoury space dust as it popped in the mouth. A very salty taste and I am not about to follow that to its logical crude conclusion despite what you may think of me.
Hiramasa ( yellowtail ) and Toro ( fatty tuna ) were also very well prepared
Maggie Rosen and Akiko between them kept us well supplied with Sake all of which were lovely. An Uragasumi Junmai (£37 a bottle ) an Onikoroshi (£36 a bottle ) and another which I don't recall.
By the end, we were all pretty stuffed and did not try any of the puddings and just finished with some green tea.
The bill, including service which was efficient and incredibly friendly from start to finish was a not inconsiderable £65 each. That being said, for food and preparation of this quality, I did not begrudge a single penny. HP did though and, remembering his days in front of the TV at a tender age watching Robert Harbin, he tried to offer up a hastily made flapping bird by way of payment. Let's just say the shrift he received was far from long.
We staggered out fo there some four hours later and I wandered home to open the fridge and find the uneaten remains of my gammon joint staring at me accusingly as if to say " you've been eating fish haven't you? I can smell it all over you" What can I say? With sushi places like Saki opening up all over my neighbourhood, I can see my self being unfaithful to meat a lot more often