Restaurant review

Review of SW3 Japanese Restaurant, Knightsbridge, London

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What makes a meal memorable? The right combination of food, companionship and environment is certainly important. But there is also this ineffable quality: hospitality.

Many up-and-down restaurants get it wrong, with a facade that’s too distant or too attentive; too obsequious or too cool for school. The best restaurants, on the other hand, welcome you like a friend for tea – which is certainly the case at Dining rooms SW3an unexpected and friendly modernity Japanese restaurant tucked away in a small mews in the bustling town of Knightsbridge.

I say unexpectedly because one would expect a certain height from a restaurant whose postcode SW3, and whatever else it might conjure up, is literally baked into its name – and yet getting here feels like back to basics. It’s partly because of the friendliness of the team, who are always on hand when you need them, but let you enjoy your meal when you don’t, and partly because of the warm quality of the restaurant. himself.

Japanese restraint with a comfortable touch

The garden in particular resembles a quintessential West London inner courtyard, and on glorious summer or mid-season days it’s the perfect spot for a long, languorous lunch. But inside too, the decoration gives the impression of having been chosen for comfort as much as for design; Japanese restraint with a comfortable touch. It hides its elegance behind a veneer of informality – again picked up by the waiters, who are there to advise you on your choices with their sincere thoughts on your question, or to replace fallen cutlery before they even touch the floor, with a reassuring “we’re in this together” smile.

And the food, oh the food. Chef Masaki Sugisaki has an enviable resume, having worked in high-end restaurants in Japan and London, including Nobu Berkeley Street before going freelance.

Masaki was literally born into it. His parents ran a traditional kaiseki restaurant in Japan, and as the eldest son, he was expected to take over the family business. “While my friends were playing after school, I was a kitchen porter or worked in front of the house,” he said. Great British Chefs. “My dad would regularly wake me up at 3 a.m. to go to the fish market, then send me to school, then I continued to work in the restaurant in the evenings.”

Sushi Catering SW3

A fixation with fine fish

This philosophy has been infused into Dinings SW3. Today, Masaki maintains close relationships with Cornish fishermen who operate day boats, ensuring that only the best and freshest seafood reaches his kitchen. That connection was explored this summer, when Masaki took up residence at two of South Cornwall’s most established seaside restaurants; The inactive rocks hotel in St Mawes and restaurant Tavola on Portscatcho Bay.

Back in London, meanwhile, the quality of the fish Masaki has sourced from the South West is immediately apparent from the first dishes that arrive on our table: the unpretentious crispy rice Akami tuna with aioli with spicy sesame is a fondant in your mouth – the pleasure. A wooden spoon is provided for spooning the fish into the accompanying puffs of rice.

This is joined by two fatty toro tuna tar-tar chips – something like mini tacos – with a hint of jalapeño aioli, offering a first indication of the global influences that permeate Masaki’s cooking, and a beef version. Wagyu of the same, with its dash of miso chili, designed, we can only presume, to demonstrate the kitchen’s obsession with sourcing high-quality meat matches its fixation on fine fish.

Next, a carpaccio of seared Cornish sea bass takes us straight to the coast, with its shaved truffle with panache at the table and speckled cubes of amber ponzu jelly. This comes with a pair of mini Wagyu beef buns – think chic Japanese sliders, each emblazoned with the restaurant’s logo.

Follow the sushi – six perfectly formed pieces, featuring bluefin tuna, yellowtail and salmon, each topped with a small, carefully crafted garnish: marinated wasabi leaves on one, onion jam and of soybeans on the other. The rice, on the other hand, is not a singular block frozen underneath, but rather each grain is distinct and separate from one another – pretty to look at, deliciously textured to eat.

The desserts are just as nicely presented. The yuzu cheesecake seems to have been inspired by the French pastry chef Cedric Grolet and its false fruits. On the surface, the cheesecake looks like a lime, but cutting into it reveals a heart of blood orange and ginger.

Food at SW3 restaurants

Crystal clear and incredibly smooth

It’s a menu of countless highlights. Close your eyes and point – you won’t be wrong. Equally strong is the wine and sake list. My lunch companion works his way through the wine list, particularly enjoying the 2019 Geyserville from California’s Ridge Vineyards. I stick with sake – a carafe of Karakuchi, the so-called “dry sake,” which is both crystal clear and incredibly smooth.

A restaurant with such good food could easily survive with less than superlative hospitality. Likewise, someone with such a slick facade could probably hide a few kitchen duds. Dinings SW3 doesn’t compromise on either front – an understated gem set in the heart of the overrated heart of Knightbridge.

Restaurants SW3, Walton House, Lennox Gardens Mews, Walton Street, London SW3 2JH; restaurantssw3.fr

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