Hamaguri Clams and Hotategai Scallops (photo by MTF) @alphaluxe.comKaiseki (懐石) is a multi-course fine-dining meal in Japan. The term also refers to the compendium of techniques and skillsets that allow the cook to prepare such meals and analogous to the Western term: haute cuisine. By tradition, kaiseki was associated with the royal court in Kyoto before the switch of capital to Tokyo. Even today, the best kaiseki is thought to be from Kyoto. Having tried both when living in Japan, I confess to a preference for the old school Kansai-style.
Tokimeitē is a Japanese restaurant specialising in high grade Japanese wagyu, prepared using a diverse range of traditional techniques, which is served alongside sushi, sashimi, tempura and dishes that offer an innovative, highly seasonal approach to authentic Japanese dining.
Located in the heart of Mayfair, London, the restaurant is focused around an open counter kitchen, from which Executive Chef Daisuke Hayashi and his team create their menu.
Chef Hayashi trained under Michelin-starred (3-Michelin stars for Kikunoi Honten and 2-Michelin stars each for Kikunoi Akasaka and Kikunoi Roan) Chef Yoshihiro Murata for 20 years and is renowned for his respect for traditional Japanese skills and techniques. He is also a BEDD (Bed-Dining-Delicious-Dream) Chef consultant to Japan Air Lines for their premium-class customers.
Chef Hayashi’s work station was the sushi counter where the most skill is needed leaving the grill and stove stations to his caucasian sous chefs. Certainly, his Dance of the Sushi was a masterful class in precise and fluid movement.
Tokimeitē is owned by Zen-Noh, Japan’s agricultural cooperative, which supplies the country’s most highly-prized produce and rare seasonal delicacies to Tokimeitē and other leading restaurants in London.
Address: 23 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XS, UK
Although it was a weekday lunchtime, I did not select from the Set Lunch Menu, which was relatively reasonably priced. If you’re going to try A5-grade wagyu beef, you may as well go the whole hog…er…the whole cow!
Set Lunch Menu
KYOTO BENTO (£25)
A selection of traditional sushi, tempura, assorted starters and mushroom miso soup, followed by a choice from four main courses:
WAGYU YAMATONI HAMBURGER
SALMON TERIYAKI GRILL
WAGYU SUMIYAKI charcoal grill BBQ 50g (+ £20 supplement)
NIGIRI JYUKKAN (£30)
10 pieces of chef selection nigiri. Served with side salad and mushroom miso soup.
NIHON-SHU (SAKE) TASTING NOTES
I always choose ‘junmai’ that means ‘pure rice’ sake made from water, koji mould, yeast and rice without added distilled alcohol. That is akin to single malt whisky in that the alcohol is solely derived from its raw ingredients.
Tsukasabotan Senchu Hassaku Tokebetsu Junmai from Kochi, Shikoku
Rice: Yamada Nishiki
Round, Dry, Smooth and Creamy
A dry wine without the typical sharp profile of a dry sake. Clean tasting with rounded and shimmering character. The nose is creamy marshmallow, plum and apple. The appearance of cherry and caramel hints denote the end of a short finish.
“Senchu Hassaku” translates as “Eight Principles written onboard a ship.” A historical reference to an important document signed on a ship, off the coast of Shikoku, drafted by Sakamoto Ryoma, a samurai revolutionary from Kochi, that contributed to the overthrow of the Shogunate and the restoration of Emperor Meiji.
Ninki Ichi Gold Junmai Daiginjo from Fukushima
Rice: Gohyakumangoku and Chiyonishiki
Very pale straw colour. Aromas and flavors of coconut cream, dessicated pineapple and honeyed nuts with a silky, dry-yet-fruity, medium-to-full body and a long citrus and vanilla finish. Its acidity made for good pairing with raw fish and fatty meat. Historically, 2014 BTI World Wine Championships Gold Medal 91pt (Exceptional)
Throwing all fiscal caution to the winds, I chose a wagyu appetiser and followed with a wagyu main course.
WAGYU TARTARE (£22)
Wagyu Beef tartare with quail egg, in ponzu and aubergine sauce. This was a first for me and it was counter-intuitive because usually the flavour of high-fat meat is released from rendered and melted fat during grilling. Thus, cold, chopped, wagyu beef should not impart any flavour.
But I was wrong. Obviously, the finely marbled fat was broken down by the chopping process and acidic ponzu dressing. The finely chopped chives and aubergine rounded off the meaty umami-ness with a hint of soya-sauce and unctuous quail egg yolk. This was perfectly accompanied by the Tsukasabotan Senchu Hassaku Tokebetsu Junmai sake because of its clean taste and short finish.
A5 HIDA GYU RIB-EYE 100g (£120)
Char-grilled Hida rib-eye steak in a Josper Grill. The Josper Grill is an amazing bit of kit burning charcoal in a grilling oven that can reach 500°C although my meat was done at 350°C with all it’s flavours intact.
The classification of wagyu beef was previously reported HERE and I recommend that you, dear reader, familiarise yourself with it. Hida is one of the rarest of the wagyu breeds and A5 is the highest fat grade on the Japanese scale.
Indubitably, this was one of the best grilled beef that I’ve tasted especially with various combinations of sesame seeds, sansho Japanese pepper, wasabi and Szechuan pepper. It was plated with an eye for artistic presentation befitting kaiseki-style with a mustard leaf and pickled wasabi stems.
Chef’s master stroke was the cube of soya sauce mousse as an essential condiment. Each morsel of meat was perfectly tender with the fat sufficiently rendered to release a sublime umami mouth feel.
To put things in perspective, the same amount of meat (100g) from A4 Hida wagyu is only £49 at this restaurant. I should have done a direct taste-test between the A4 and A5 to make any sense of the price-to-ecstasy ratio….
NIGIRI SUSHI (£35.60)
Unsurprisingly, I was still starving so I decided to order sushi ala carte as a second main course. I had to order the house special aburi wagyu (seared wagyu), otoro (fatty tuna) and hamachi (yellowtail) sushi. I left it to the chef for the other three flavours. He chose hotategai (scallop), ebi (prawn) and suzuki (sea bass) to round off my six-piece selection. They charged between £4.80 – £7.00 per piece.
Bottom Row (Right to Left)
From the kai (shellfish) family, scallops can be tasty in the summer time or winter depending on the type and origin. Often farmed but wild hotate is far superior in texture and flavour. The version here was dived-caught and sweet. The traditional Tokyo ‘Edo-mae’ style of hotategai preparation was to simmer the shellfish in sake or soy sauce but nowadays it is served raw. In any case, Chef Hayashi is from Kyoto, so it was served raw.
The marbled fat content gives it a varied flavour profile and it is my favourite fish for sushi. I’m going to perpetuate the foodie myth that one of the Japanese shoguns died from overeating hamachi as reported HERE.
It is still my favourite ubiquitous fish for sushi. Chef Hayashi ran his knife lightly across the flesh to break down the fine membrances and allowing the fatty tissue to bloom.
Sea bass is a summertime shiromi (white) fish. Its name and taste changes as it matures. First called ‘koppa’ when young, then ‘seigo’ as a yearling, ‘fukko’ after another year at 1.5kg, and finally ‘suzuki’ at full maturity weighing 3kg and about 50cm in length. The tastiest fish are said to come from Fukushima prefecture, hence the sakē recommended by the waiter to accompany my sushi course – Ninki Ichi Gold Junmai Daiginjo from Fukushima (£19 for 125mL)
Suzuki flesh varies in texture, either firm or soft, depending on the cut. The belly cut is fatty with soft mouthfeel. Other cuts are firmer and even chewy but a good chef can mitigate that with assiduous cross-hatching slits.
Top Row (Right to Left)
I’m not a marine biologist but I suspect this was kuruma ebi (Japanese Tiger Prawn) that can be served raw (odori) but more commonly boiled quickly on a skewer in water that contains salt and vinegar. Just as the ebi starts turning red, it is removed from the water and chilled quickly to stop the process to maintain a tender texture. It certainly wasn’t shiro-ebi (white) also found in Summer. It was the wrong season for shima-ebi (grey), ama-ebi and botan-ebi. Unfortunately, I couldn’t taste any of the shrimp liver (ebi miso) that is usually placed between the kuruma-ebi and rice for creamy umami taste.
The ōtoro fatty tuna has acquired mythical fame on sushi blogs as being the ultimate taste experience. That may be somewhat overrated as the fullest fat meat may be less tasty and there is a blurred line between where the fatty ‘O-toro’ becomes medium fatty ‘chu-toro’. To be fair, Tokimeitē lists the sushi as “Rich Marble Tuna Nigiri” on my bill.
This is the signature sushi at Tokimeitē and surprisingly it is not even a fish. The cross-hatched wagyu beef is seared with a blowtorch and brushed with a light sauce for a most umami-exploding experience counterpointed by the sour rice and accompanying sakē.
CHOCOLATE FONDANT (£15)
Chocolate fondant with green tea ganache served with green tea ice cream
I don’t usually order dessert but “In for a penny; In for three hundred pounds,” so I ordered a technical dish.
The piece released a warm chocolate and green tea ganache to pass the test that defines a fondant albeit perhaps a tad at the dry end of the spectrum.
SAUSKA TOKAJI ASZU 6 PUTTONYOS (£25)
Tokaji is the most famous and popular Hungarian dessert wine made from Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Muscat Blanc grape varieties for that distinctive rich, nectar-like sweet flavour. The grapes are infected with Botrytis fungus as a controlled Noble Rot that dehydrates and concentrates the sugars and flavours. Tokaji wiines that have undergone this process are labelled as Aszú and graded by their residual sugar levels, indicated by the designation “puttonyos.” Aszú wines range from 3 puttonyos (25g sugar/L) to 6 puttonyos (150g/L).
Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003 is made from 100% Furmint grapes to give 222g of sugar per L but only 10% alcohol in a rich mahogany nectar.
It starts with a nose of dates and marmalade with intense dried apricot and orange on the palate. The mouth feel is rich and creamy with a slight acidity and long floral finish that compliments chocolate well.
AlphaLuxe Three-Tongues Award
Based on the technical skills and ambience, it is easy to present Tokimeitē with the AlphaLuxe Three-Tongues Award. We don’t give out Three-and-a-half Tongues but that would be the score as it doesn’t quite reach Four-Tongues because of the manager/waitress service that was competent but not stellar.
After a so-called “discretionary” service charge of 14.5% and 21% government tax on top, my bill came to £318 for lunch albeit with an extra sushi plate. That is one of the priciest lunches that I’ve had and I’m not sure it was value-for-money but it certainly gave me insight into how the “other half” lives in Mayfair!
Other AlphaLuxe Japanese Grazing Reviews
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web magazine. He was former CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).