A new 16-seater omakase counter restaurant from sushi master chef Takuya Watanabe opened on Albermarle Street in Mayfair this week and is aiming to compete at the same rarefied level of some of London’s most prestigious and expensive Japanese venues, like Endo at Rotunda and the Araki.
Takuya, or Taku, as he is known, previously cooked at Jin restaurant in Paris, the first omakase spot in that city to be acclaimed by Michelin, when receiving a star in 2014, just a year after it opened. The chef said that bringing an omakase restaurant to London “has been a dream” and that this city’s comparatively recent foregrounding and use of very high quality fish made the project viable. “Britain’s access to the high quality local fish and crustaceans available on U.K. shores,” he said was “an integral element for sushi making.”
Taku will prepare dishes in the “edomae style,” a method which involves curing the fish which he considers the most traditional form of sushi making, While historically it was used as a means of preservation, now it is designed “to gently bring out the umami flavours hidden if you simply cut and serve the fish.” Only three menus are offered, with a 17-course lunch priced at £180, the 20-course so-called “signature” at £280, or the “prestige” at £380 — which will add extra courses as well integrate caviar and truffle cos it’s Mayfair and they’re charging an extra ton.
The drinks programme will be overseen by sommelier, Bowie Tsang, offering “fine and rare wines and champagnes and specialty sakes.”
London restaurateurs the Leong family, brothers Geoff and Lucas, of Leong’s Legend and other decades-old Chinatown institutions are behind the project. It was Lucas who met Taku less than 12 months ago at Jin in Paris. He visited having “heard many great things” but says his meal surpassed all expectations. “In my perspective any good sushi chef can make good sushi, but what separates the good from the best are the refined details in each piece,” Leong said. “Taku’s rice is unique to him, as it consists of his own vinegar and salt composition. Each piece of sushi is crafted with the perfect rice, vinegar to salt ratio and chef Taku’s own blend of soy-sauce, making [this sushi] distinctive and memorable.”
Taku’s opening is yet further proof that while so many hospitality businesses head into the winter worrying whether or not they will re-emerge next spring; that the core of the industry is locked in a cost and cost-of-living crisis, there’s a parallel world in which a 16-seater omakase restaurant can confidently serve a £300—£400 menu and know, for a fact, that guests will come. The real impact of the post-Covid, post-Brexit restaurant landscape is less likely to be a story of across-the-board closures and a cratered industry, but perhaps more that the restaurant world, much like that of London itself — and its keepers of wealth and property — will become ever more stratified. And at one end, necessarily less inclusive.