It’s been a couple of months since we last went to Sakana-tei so tonight we headed there for an early dinner. I had called earlier to reserve a table but as usual there was some kind of mix-up and they didn’t have our booking down. Luckily the owner’s wife spotted us and managed to seat us, but not before turning away another couple with no reservations – it pays to know the staff in this place.
The owner, Fumio-san was not around so one of the waitresses more fluent in English went through the specials board with us and we made a selection that included some of our favourites, as well as a couple of items we had not tried before.
After taking our order, she returned with our drinks and the complimentary starter for the evening – a Vermicelli Noodle Salad tossed with sliced fishcake, carrots and mayonnaise. It was very tasty and we both polished it off immediately.
This was followed quickly by Onsen Tamago or “hot spring eggs” – slow-cooked eggs swimming in a cold dashi, soy and mirin sauce. I adore eggs and this is one of my favourite ways to eat them, the soft yolks and silky whites pair so well with the faintly sweet sauce. It’s a pity I don’t get to eat them more often here as Fumio-san never lets me order it, he tells me it’s so easy I should just make it at home. So in a way it was a blessing he wasn’t around to take our order!
Our choice for sashimi today was Chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) and Hamachi (yellowtail). Both were exceedingly fresh, the chunky slices of chu-toro were particularly good and simply melted in the mouth. B devoured the fresh wasabi (in the small blue vessel), it’s powerful stuff but i think he likes the pain (the singaporean expression “shiok” comes to mind).
Arriving together with the sashimi was the Grilled Ox Tongue which we have had on several occasions and loved. Ox tongue has a high fat content so is perfect grilled, bringing out all the flavour and giving the meat a satisfyingly soft but springy texture. All it needed was a squirt of lemon juice to mellow out the saltiness…delicious!
Next to arrive in tandem were the simmered Daikon with Grilled Tofu and deep-fried Octopus. The simmered daikon (giant radish) is always on the menu but paired with different items (we have had it with both fish and pork) depending on the day. The simmering liquid was a little salty but the mild tofu balanced it out and the daikon was all the more flavourful because of it.
The octopus dish was one we had not tried before – it had been marinated in sake, then lightly floured and deep-fried. It was very tender, intensely flavoured, light and not at all greasy. We will definitely be ordering it again (with a Kirin).
We are always happy when uni (sea urchin) is available, as it was today. We had it as gunkan-maki (warship roll) instead of sashimi as we find it almost too rich and creamy on its own. The uni was sensational – sweet and luscious, with a clean taste of the sea.
Next up was the black miso cod which we had never eaten at Sakana-tei. I imagine Fumio-san thinks it to be too much of a western dish so never suggests it. The waitress highly recommended it (apparently it’s her favourite) so we went with it and although it was perfectly fine, it doesn’t quite stand up to the famed one at Nobu.
As always we had over-ordered, hence failed to fully enjoy the house-made soba with wild japanese vegetables that came last. It was very good though, but then the noodles here always are.
We were done with dinner in an hour which at Sakana-tei is quite a feat, dinners here usually last two to three hours as Fumio-san likes to give his guests ample time to chat, drink and slowly savour the food. Usually he will serve us a few dishes, check in with us to see how we are feeling, then order us a second round.
Fumio-san arrived just as we were leaving – he had had a rather late service the night before and a long lunch service so had returned home to rest for a couple of hours. After a brief catch-up and a big bear hug, he thanked us for coming and walked us out with a command to return soon.
11 Maddox Street
London, W1S 2QF
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