Kikuchi has been somewhat of a hidden Japanese institution since 1998. It is situated in Hanway Street, a hidden alleyway behind Tottenham Court Road in close proximity to another culinary institution, Hakkasan. Masayuki Kikuchi the executive chef and owner of this popular restaurant have been training as a sushi chef since 1977.
Recently, they have taken the brave (or dangerous) decision to only serve an omakase (tasting) menu and not to offer a la carte service. They do lose out on walk-in trade, theatre-going trade as witnessed on the night of our visit when guests strolled in and were told they couldn’t be served a full meal within 40 minutes. However, Masayuki wanted to offer a more premium service for his loyal followers with more table space and more time to sample his masterful creations.
The decor is somewhat austere and serious, but it does display the proud history and love for the owner’s craft. His display of sashimi knives must be one of the most impressive you will see in London. Lined up along the walls are various certifications from sake sommeliers institute and other sake organisations showing the preeminent role Masayuki has in the sake industry.
Indeed, despite my aversion for weekday drinking, it was obligatory to sample the fine selection of sake on offer. The best ones I tried were ‘Lady Luck’, which had a clean and well-balanced taste, with just an elegant hint of honey and the extremely drinkable ‘First Run’ filled with vivid fragrant notes.
The omakase menu changes based on the seasonality of the dishes. The most successful items were naturally the raw fish dishes. Wafer thin sashimi of sea bream and razor clams really showed off the excellent sourcing of ingredients but also the owner’s outstanding knife skills.
Of the sushi selections, the more unusual ones stood out the best including the likes of buttery-tasting very fatty tuna and sea urchin which had a creamy texture along with the briny taste.
What worked less well were the hot dishes; the batter from the sweet shrimp tempura wasn’t as crunchy and warm as hoped and a spring roll of edamame beans needed some other sauce and accompaniments rather than literally fresh beans wrapped in a deep-fried pastry.
However, you do come here to experience chef Kikuchi’s exceptional raw fish preparations, which I do regard as one of the best in London. The omakase menu might be pricey, but the expertise shown by Masayuki is well worth the experience.