While my first experience of sushi at the tender age of 19 wasn’t anything to write home about, ever since my first visit to Nobu I’ve been hooked on high-end Japanese food.
And let’s face it, what’s not to like about fresh, healthy dishes that don’t leave you feeling like you’ve eaten a small child afterwards?
Matsuri St James is an interesting place – in prime Mayfair position, it opened in 1993 and is jointly owned by soy sauce manufacturer Kikkoman and a Japanese high speed rail operating company, which automatically and probably unfairly makes you think it may not be the best restaurant to eat in the Capital.
But actually, it’s pretty damn good. The cavernous, underground dining room with its beech wood interior (think IKEA) could arguably do with a bit of a refurb, but the management run a pretty tight ship and the food and service is of a high standard. There are lots of staff so you’ll never be neglected.
Dining is communal style around one of the several Teppanaki grills, a style of cooking that brings out the food’s natural flavour. Once you’ve had your bib attached – yes, that’s one of your waitresses’ first jobs – you can get down to business.
And if you like to watch your food come alive in front of you, this will be right up your street. It’s like culinary theatre, although at one point I could’ve sworn they were cooking a live lobster; they weren’t, apparently the squealing noise was just the air escaping, according to my dining partner.
My eagerly awaited black cod was delicately flavoured and very good, the tempura wonderful. The Aberdeen Angus beef was succulent and well cooked. Portions were slightly smaller than I had expected. Sadly I didn’t get to try the sushi and sashimi which I was kicking myself about afterwards.
The cocktails were fabulous, and we were also offered a choice of dessert wine to round off our dessert, which was accompanied by a very knowledgable sommelier.
All in all, if you overlook the bill which wasn’t extortionate by Mayfair standards, we had a lovely evening and it’s unsurprising that this restaurant has legions of loyal fans, from office workers to Asian families.
Matsuri St James, 15 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AL. Tel: 020 7839 1101.