Harden's survey result
“Crazy combinations, truly awesome at times” continue to wow all who taste the “meticulous” sushi and other modernised Japanese dishes at this duo of venues – an “awkward and tired-looking basement” in Marylebone (under chef Tomonari Chiba) and a “much-cooler-than-the original” setting in Knightsbridge (under chef Masaki Sugisaki). “I’ve wandered all round the menu with friends, and each bite was terrific”.
“Every single bite is memorable” at this Marylebone venue where Tomonari Chiba provides some of “the best quality and most innovative Japanese food in London!” The decor – either sit at the ground floor counter or in the bunker-like basement – is decidedly “iffy” however, and critics fear it is becoming “embarrassingly expensive”.
Nobu - established in 1994 by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and New York restaurateur Drew Nieporent - is perhaps the most successful upmarket international dining concept ever. There are now three Nobus in the Big Apple, three here (the first of which opened in 1997), and various others dotted around the globe. It is difficult to exaggerate the influence Nobu has had on London's restaurant scene. Until it opened, restaurants were generally good or fashionable, but not both. Nobu showed that true success - and megabuck rewards - could be earned by pulling off the double-act. Its shining example (certainly in its earlier days), may be one reason why London's top-end restaurants have got so much better over the past decade.
Tomonari Chiba - a Japanese national who initially trained in that country as a pÃ¢tissier and French chef - has, for much of the past ten years worked in various Nobu operations as a sushi chef (so one has to imagine that what he doesn't know about sushi ain't worth knowing). He has now branched out on his own in these basic - a fan of minimalism might say 'understated' - premises, near Edgware Road tube, where much use is made of bare concrete.
Given such a pedigree, the experience lives up, with some fantastically fresh and tasty sushi and sashimi - artistically but not fancily presented - among the leading attractions. Prices are notably reasonable, too, and - despite the obscure location - his basement dining room was already doing good business, the wet lunchtime we visited. Once the word really gets out, though, we wouldn't be at all surprised if he finds himself looking for larger and glossier premises. In Mayfair perhaps?
Last orders: 10.30 pm, Sat 1.30 am, Sun 11 pm