Sake no Hana is a weird name. Japanese people would instant doubt its authentic roots since sake’s flower makes no sense. They couldn’t be more accurate. The modern Japanese restaurant owned by Alan Yau (owner of Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Wagamama) promotes waitresses in short pink dresses, who usually glides through each table with catwalk precision but minimal attention to diners. Managers are far more attentive, ‘is everything ok?’ was asked 2 times during a 90min meal. Something people in this country dreamed the NHS would ask more often!
The appeal relies on the modern menu and distinctive deco. A dark and narrow escalator takes you to the restaurant, like the horror alleys of London Dungeon with a stylish revamp. The main restaurant does deserve an award, bamboo pillars mark the high ceiling walls to create a futuristic forest scene. A few years back, the restaurant received mixed reviews and many called the style and food mediocre. But now, it’s fully booked most nights with strong backings from the Mayfair business crew. The heavily criticised escalators seem less important and some even praise the weirdness. But all these improvements started from the fine tuned menu, which differs dramatically from the original opening.
Menus are divided into sections, appetizers, grills, toban, fried, rice & vegetables and desserts. Like all Japanese restaurants, dishes should be ordered to share. For 4 of us, the following dishes were ordered:
Beef tataki with sesame dressing
Tender texture matched with a great sauce.
Tuna tartar with wasabi yam and dashi sauce
Lightly seasoned to keep the refreshing flavour, a solid starter.
Tori toban yaki - chicken with ginger garlic sauce
Still sizzling when it arrived and the chicken was well cooked, tender and flavoursome.
Grilled black cod
A disappointing black cod, not in anyway comparable to Nobu. It lacked that strong alcoholic flavour. Instead, only a mildly sweet and salty flavour remained to delight.
Quail with shichimi pepper
Quail rarely goes on a Japanese restaurant’s menu. Although it was nicely cooked, the seasoning was so strong that it could’ve been the same sizzling beef at Chinese restaurants.
Soft shell crab salad
Kaiso salad - 4 kinds of seaweed with yuzu dressing
Don’t order this if you dislike strong seaweed flavours, my friend said it tasted like fresh seaweed out of the sea, which I loved.
Crunchy california maki and waygu tartar maki
The crunchy california maki was a nice surprise with crispy rice all the way around, better in texture and flavour than the wagyu tartar maki.
Each layer was placed in the pot and cooked at the table, including a plate of thinly sliced beef. The lid shuts for another few minutes before the meat turns to a half cooked grey colour. A very good dish by any standard, good sauce base, good quality beef and delicious tofu.
Raspberry delice with lychee ice cream
Ice cream selection
The desserts were the same to Yauatcha (perhaps done by the same crew), modern French rather than oriental. Nothing particularly special but the black sesame ice cream was quite good.
Verdict - 3/5
Food (decent) - not enough to catch up with Zuma or Nobu but the menu was well balanced and most dishes were good enough for London. Memorable dishes were the crunchy California maki, sukiyaki and beef tartar.
Service (trendy) - one of the most trendy Japanese restaurants in town. Good service most of the time unless you come across another pink dressed waitress who loves catwalk more than customers. Managers are quick and attentive who swooped in fast to recover the missed service. Booking is required, especially for weekends but early dinners should be ok for walk ins.
Cost (£62pp) - with all the dishes above, plus some beers and sake we billed about £250.
23 St James’s Street, London
020 7925 8988