In a winter when the world was supposed to keel over and die, the closest civilisation actually came to collapse was when Kevin Bacon declared himself “centre of the universe” as the face of 4G internet in the UK. The Earth still rotates, Playstations continue to fly off shelves in their thousands, Apps are still downloaded and porn continues to stream. Yes, things are exactly as they were. The only difference was the splendid Sushi of Shiori mysteriously vanishing from Drummond St. only to rematerialize weeks later in Bayswater under the new name of The Shiori. Along with the name, the focus shifted: What began as a sushi bar is now a kaiseki restaurant – ‘kaiseki’ being the Japanese approximation of a Western tasting menu.
Marinated salmon with fermented rice
Behind the venture are Chef Takashi Takagi (formerly of Umu) and his wife Hitomi. Not really one for conversation, Takagi lets his wife do all the talking whilst he remains behind his counter ensuring every dish that crosses it is prepared and presented with laser-beam precision. Now, earlier in the year Sushi Tetsu came along and stole Shiori’s thunder as the best sushi bar in town, but Takagi has always been a kaiseki specialist at his core, and so the new setup is better suited to his cooking with a more sophisticated setting in contrast to the Spartan interior of the previous outpost. Darkened wood infiltrates every nook and cranny. Sliding rice-paper screens subdue the incoming daylight. It’s a little slice of Japan, which after a year spent importing fragments of America – in the form of burgers, hotdogs and lobster rolls – is a welcome break.
I’m here for lunch when the choice is limited to three menus ranging from the 4 course Salmon Tsukushi at £28.50 to the 7 course Mini-Kaiseki at £50. In the evening the menus open up like a vintage wine in a decanter: Two different kaiseki menus available for £65 and £105 allow the chef to unleash the full fury of his arsenal, including the really good stuff – such as lobster, O-toro and Wagyu – missing from the lunchtime offerings.
Oyster with yuzu-miso sauce
The Mini-Kaiseki opens with a bronze goblet of cool marinated salmon mixed with a glorious fermented rice which registers like the rendered fat of a heavily marbled steak. Delicate yet explosive pearls of salmon roe are carefully stacked on top, and then finished with an ultra-fine garnish – a statement dish.
A tastefully arranged sashimi platter has a selection of delicious sea bream and crescents of razor clams, but neatly cut cuboids of red tuna are a little polite on flavour. On a stone slate comes an oyster blanketed in a tangy yuzu-miso sauce that tastes almost like chocolate.
Nigiri platter 1
Rather elaborately there comes a metal hotpot suspended over a flame that sustains the temperature of a steaming broth infused with leeks, mushrooms, glass noodles and sympathetically cooked monkfish slices. A side dish of ponzu sauce is provided to give the fish that extra ‘zip’.
Nigiri platter 2
Next is the first of two nigiri selections. Presented on a slender turquoise dish are yellowtail, sea bass, salmon and especially good Chu-toro (medium-fatty tuna). The second assortment includes squid which is a little on the tough side, but the scallop, sweet shrimp and snow crab are fine representatives of their species. Each nigiri is topped with a pimple of fish-specific garnish which reveals to the naked eye the level of detail Chef Takagi operates with. What’s more, the rice has the right degree of warmth and hold. This is very good sushi.
Chestnut ice cream
I finish with an enjoyable chestnut ice cream in an attractive cut-glass that lasts only seconds. The thought that enters my head is one of returning at the earliest opportunity to try the more serious menus reserved for the evenings, which going by my lunch should end up being money well spent. The Shiori is a place for people in the know. For those that wish to be teleported to Kyoto, if only for the time it takes to eat a meal. There is currently no finer example of kaiseki in the capital, or probably the country.
food : 8/10
service : 8/10
ambience : 7/10
value : 7.5/10
45 Moscow Road, London W2 4AH
020 7221 9790