After an extended delay, Mitsuhiro Araki has finally opened his long awaited sushi-ya in London, ‘The Araki’. Araki previously held three Michelin stars at his sushi-ya in Tokyo but decided to close the restaurant and open in London as a challenge and to be closer to his daughter who is studying in England.
Earlier this year, Nishi-san of Kyo Aji mentioned that Araki-san had told him of his intention to serve items such as foie gras nigiri (and other similarly expensive items) as he was not satisfied with the quality of fish he was able to source. Fortunately Araki-san said that while that was his initial plan, he has subsequently been able to source fish of high enough quality and only wanted to incorporate some of these ingredients into what he serves.
From the otsumami, the tai (from France) rolled with beluga caviar was excellent, the saltiness of the caviar pairing well with the clean taste of the fish. This, in my mind, was the only successful fusion pairing of traditional edomae with luxury ingredients. Steamed abalone (from France) was served with its liver and despite being considerably smaller than its Japanese counterpart was delicate both in texture and taste.
A tuna tartare prepared with freshly made mayonnaise and shaved Alba truffle (and finished with even more truffle) was less successful, with the truffle completely overpowering the taste of the tuna. Whilst white truffle is now in season, this ‘fusion’ dish of expensive ingredients did not seem necessary.
The quality of the neta was, with a few exceptions, excellent. Tuna from Spain was very good, particularly the akami, which had a rich mineral flavour. Fattier cuts of o-toro and kama-toro (two pieces of each were served, like in Ginza) were also melt-in-the-mouth satisfying.
Lightly seared aji (from France) was outstanding and the highlight of the meal, and quickly boiled and seared squid had excellent taste and texture. Surf clam was juicy and full of flavour.
Slightly disappointing was a jumbo prawn, the closest equivalent Araki-san was able to source to kuruma ebi, which was very much over seasoned and the tennen (wild) eel from the UK was terrible and contained a lot of bones – no shio or tare was applied either.
The shari, whilst well seasoned and providing good balance to the neta was a little mushy in texture. This was both disappointing and a little odd as this was not the case when he was in Ginza – and it is the same rice (sourced from near his wife’s home in Japan). Perhaps this will improve in time.
Finally, a tamago was prepared with another generous helping of white truffle – again, I am not convinced that truffle added anything to this traditional finale to a sushi meal. The tamago itself was not particularly sweet but I nevertheless enjoyed it as it was freshly cooked, resulting in a very fluffy and delicate texture.
To finish, Araki served his traditional ‘mountain’ hand roll, which was stuffed with akami and o-toro. This, needless to say, was delicious, although the nori was not as crunchy as it could have been.
I knew what the price would be beforehand, but even then, the bill came as a shock. At £330 a head (£250 + 20% tax + 15% service), The Araki cannot be said to represent value for money – and I am not convinced these prices can be sustained in London. While I fully appreciate the costs involved in sourcing high quality fish in London, as well as the rent to be located in prime Mayfair, the price simply cannot be justified. The equivalent yen price (at today’s exchange rate) of the meal of Y58,000 is essentially double – if not more – than any of the high end places in Tokyo. I hope Araki-san realises that losing caviar and truffle would be no great loss. And if this were to result in a drop in price of say, £100, this would make the restaurant a considerably more attractive proposition. Indeed, whether or not it is possible to sustain a price of £330 per head in London is somewhat questionable.
At times, it was difficult to difficult to believe I was in London, given the quality of the sushi; on the night I visited, the three other patrons were Japanese and so not a word of English was spoken. There is little doubt The Araki serves the best sushi in London at the moment although objectively, it is not yet as good as any ‘high-end’ sushi-ya in Tokyo. It is perhaps an unfair comparison to Sushi Tetsu, given that a meal there is less than a third of the price.
Nevertheless, it is impressive to see Araki-san maximise the ingredients he has available to him locally (or at least within Europe), although somewhat amusingly, he insists on only using Japanese cling film… If I win the lottery, I would certainly be intrigued to return to see how the The Araki develops.
0207 287 2481
Quality: 3.5/5; CP: 1/5, Ease of booking: 4/5