In Japan, at the end of April every year, the country has a week of rest, this is called Golden Week. At the end of Golden Week, Koinobori, which means ‘carp streamers’ in Japanese, are flown to celebrate Children’s Day. Carp are considered the most spirited fish, so full of energy and power that they can fight their way up streams and waterfalls – a fitting metaphor for life. Paying homage to this custom, Executive Head Chef, Hideki Hiwatashi, at Sake no Hana has created a limited-edition signature menu, celebrating the Koinobori. With four courses to enjoy, each unique in their own way, the chef brings the energy of the Koinobori into every element on the plate.
Though decorated with colourful carp in celebration of Golden Week, the glass front of Sake no Hana doesn’t give much away. The mystery continued as we were escorted to our table via a tall escalator. Once at the top, we were greeted by a large, open restaurant boasting impressive wooden beams across the ceiling and walls, and tall windows, decorated with a Japanese pattern. At one corner of the restaurant is an open kitchen, where guests can dine and watch the chefs at work. We chose a more relaxed table around the outside of the restaurant, where after a long day it was nice to sink into the soft leather chairs. The service is very attentive; water glasses are never empty and the waiters really go the extra mile to make sure everything is just so.
During the week, the restaurant attracts a lot of corporate types; suited and booted they enjoy multiple rounds of the finest sashimi, washed down with the bottle of Sancerre and then claim it as ‘business’. That said, this is a restaurant where all of the customers are treated the same; families and friends alike dine here, unjudged by their attire – it’s all about the food and bringing a little Japanese culture to your experience.
Chopsticks required. We started with Sansai Shiriu, a white miso soup. Warming and salty, this was the perfect way to begin a classic Japanese meal. The second course featured five separate elements, showcasing the freshest sushi; spicy tuna, crab, ikura, salmon and seabass. Adding a touch of delicacy to the dish was the laser cut nori, which was wrapped around the sushi to look like fish scales. For our main course, we shared the Haru Yasai miso salmon and the Yakatori corn fed chicken. The salmon was cooked beautifully and the sweet but salty sauce added a delicious glaze to the flakey fish. The final course comprised of four traditional Japanese desserts: Dorayaki, a sweet fluffy pancake with a red bean filling, Ichigo Daifuku, a soft and chewy mochi stuffed with fresh strawberries, Mitarashi Dango, soft grilled mochi balls in a sweet soy sauce, and a Matcha roll cake, filled with a chantilly cream – our favourite. The meal was complete with the exclusive cocktail, the Koinobori Martini. Made with sakura tea cordial and vodka, the drink is topped with rice paper in the shape of koi carps – if you drink it carefully, they stay until the very last sip.
In a nutshell
The Koinobori set menu is available until May 11th, at £52 per person. This is a restaurant, where left to your own devices, you could easily walk away with a very expensive bill, making the set menu a great way to enjoy what Sake no Hana has to offer at a respectable price.
23 St James’s Street, London, SW1A 1HA ; 020 7925 8988 ; firstname.lastname@example.org