Monday, 29 July 2013

Dinings

I remember a time when sushi wasn't popular (in Europe and USA obviously, it's always been popular in Hong Kong), when people would wrinkle their noses when they heard "raw fish" and gag when they smelt it. Then Nobu came along and everything changed. Nobu can probably take the credit for making sushi sexy; Raw fish became haute cuisine and the regular A-lists clients made sushi glamourous. Back in the day, everyone went to Nobu. Whether you were a sushi fan or someone keen to impress a date or celebrating a birthday, Nobu would probably be on your list. Sadly, after enjoying years of success, Nobu lost its way and is no longer a go-to sushi restaurant for true sushi lovers. What was once cutting edge (sushi with South American twists) was being imitated, and done better elsewhere. Now the restaurant offers more of a scene than good food, a destiny a lot of hyped up restaurants sadly face. Perhaps its the recognition that restaurants should be about food that prompted the founder of Dinings to leave Nobu. Whatever the reason, it would proof a fruitful decision as after 6 years in business, Dinings is still as busy as ever. 

I remember when I first visited Dinings, in the first months they opened, it was for a birthday dinner. We sat cramped in the tiny enclave downstairs, all wondering how this threadbare sushi restaurant will fare in its food. After tasting my first wagyu truffle sushi, I was hooked. The memory of the wave of "OoooohhhhMyyyyGOD"s that followed after we tasted the sushi still brings a smile to my face. We were wowed so completely that we ordered several of the sushi multiple times after, as if we would never eat such wonderful food ever again. I've since visited many times, but a little less in the past 2 years. So when I went back recently and found the sushi still amazing, I just had to write a review. 

What I love about Dinings, like Sushi Tetsu, is the fact that this is a sushi restaurant that focuses on sushi, NOT selling cocktails to bankers and brokers (Ahem Nobu Berkeley). It's a tiny restaurant, with a sushi bar upstairs and a handful of tables downstairs. It's modest interior evokes the zen of a temple. The food on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Creative and unique creations grace the pages of the menu of Dinings, you won't find a salmon avocado roll here. I also appreciate how their sushi menu is presented: the fish as a heading with the various different sushi styles listed below them. So if you're feeling like having Toro (fatty tuna), you look for the heading "Tuna" and you'll see a list of 6 sushi styles, of which 5 contain the word "toro". If you like Toro like I do, restrain yourself and don't be tempted to order all of it. There's so much to choose from in terms of fish and style, be daring and try something different. Look out for the specials menu as well, as they usually have amazing stuff on there that are in season and worth ordering. 

To start, we recommend the Tar Tar Chip. It's like a mini Taco, a homemade chip (that looks like a pringle) with a mound of seafood or meat nestled in them. 

Scottish native lobster with miso Americaine sauce
Sushi in Dinings are made of super fresh fish and we love the combos the chefs think up. One of best sushis I've ever had is their Wagyu Beef and Foie Gras sushi, Wagyu Beef and Truffle sushi. It may seem odd (to some, like my boyfriend), to have Foie Gras served in sushi, but it's very popular in Japan, besides, who says sushi has to be made with raw fish only?

Scallop Sushi
From left to right: o-toro (fattiest), chu-toro (medium fatty), Akami, "zuke" style sushi "tabekurabe"
Special of the day: Turbot sushi
One of my favourites: Wagyu beef with Foie Gras. The first time I had one of these, I ordered another one straight away. The beef is lightly seared; it's succulent, juicy and tender and the whole thing just melts in your mouth. 
I love soft shelled crab so I always order Spider Roll everywhere I go if it's on the menu. But only in Dinings does it come out looking like this-- fresh leaves and herbs stacked in abundance. 
Another special of the day: Ikura (salmon roe) with onsen tamago (poached egg japanese style)-- Love the bite to the ikura contrasted with the silky egg
Fresh water eel and pan-fried foie-gras roll with sweet soy sauce

Special open sushi roll "Capricciosa"-- A vegetable futomaki roll topped with over 6 different types of fish specially chosen by the chef
Char grilled creel-caught Scottish langoustine with yuzu-kosho and garlic. 
Black sesame pudding with sesame ice cream
Truffle Ice cream-- I was a bit skeptical before trying it, I thought it wouldn't taste like truffle or that the truffle flavour would be really underwhelming. Luckily, I was wrong! Being used to having truffle in savoury dishes, I was surprised how well it worked here. 
While there are many sushi restaurants in London, there aren't that many in the league of Dinings and Tetsu. Most of these restaurants are about the "scene", so they're overpriced and serve less than fresh fish. I was recently in Roka and while the grilled food was done well, the sushi was less than stellar (Zuma is better). The thing with sushi is, if the fish isn't fresh, it tastes off. While some may not care and just dunk the sushi in a pool of soya sauce, I think to pay the (hefty) price tag of sushi means you should get the freshest fish that's available. In my opinion, the sweetness of fresh fish is one of the greatest things to taste and if you don't know what that's like, seek it out and you'll never want to eat substandard sushi ever again. Dinings on Urbanspoon

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