If you’re looking for a taste of Japan in London without the plane fare or a unique dining experience like no other, head to Roketsu. From its creative, curious-tasting menu to its stripped-back Kyoto-inspired interiors and the fact that they only take a maximum of 16 covers a night, this is one of Marylebone’s best-kept secrets and a must-visit if you’re passionate about Asian cuisine. Disclaimer: fussy eaters need not apply. 

There really are no other restaurants quite like Roketsu, not in London anyway. From the moment I arrived at the Marylebone restaurant on a typically drizzly London evening, the whole experience was different. 

To begin with, you enter into what is essentially a waiting room. A seriously chic waiting room at that, quite literally flown in from Japan itself. The interiors were made in Kyoto, shipped to London, and assembled by the globally renowned architect Sotoji Nakamura. 

Think pared-back stone-coloured walls mixed with 100-year-old Hinoki wood in clean satisfying lines – it’s simple but stunning. Myself and the other handful of diners – the restaurant only takes 12-16 diners per sitting, with two slots per night – were given a menu to peruse of 10 tasting dishes that take you through modern and traditional Japanese gastronomy with a focus on British-sourced ingredients were possible. 

The experience is unique from start to finish, with everyone taking a pew at countertop stools overlooking the mesmerising chefs at work. We began with a dish of green plum steeped in umeshu sake. The bitterness of the tart fruit was cleverly taken out by punching holes in it and cooking it down to release a soft sweetness, then dotted with pink peppercorns that burst against the other flavours. It was a kind of refined palate cleanser of a dish and a nod that we were going to be in for some interesting flavour combinations and potentially foods I’d never tried before. 

From its creative, curious tasting menu to its stripped back Kyoto-interiors and the fact that they only take a maximum of 16 covers a night, Roketsu is one of Marylebone’s best-kept secrets

Moving on to the prettiest dish of them all, a wooden trinket box of curiosities, with six mini dishes placed at perfect angles inside. If you subscribe to the old cliché that something is ‘almost too pretty to eat’ this dish, or medley of dishes, is the poster child for just that. Each and every one offered a curious dance on the tongue, from monkfish liver with citrusy ponzu to the star of the show, the toro. Undoubtedly the best tuna sashimi I’ve ever tasted. With unctuous fatty parts running through it, it was like a ribbon of silk and full of powerful flavour. 

More dishes came and went with standouts being the melt-in-mouth wagyu beef marinated over three days in miso; and the much fresher sizzling pot of veg, loaded with everything from purple asparagus to chrysanthemum leaves. This was actually considered the main dish on the menu and it was refreshing to see veggies take centre stage. Five-a-day: tick. 

Now, I don’t in any way consider myself a fussy eater, in fact, I put fussy eaters at the top of my gripes list, but, as I said before, this is a menu that in no way dilutes itself for a Western audience. There was one dish that was the only one I didn’t finish completely and refrained from picking up the bowl and licking for any surviving last morsels. The dish in question is a yam-focused affair set in a kind of claggy slimy set liquid. I desperately wanted to be that diner that didn’t put texture before taste but it was just a little too much for me. 

That said, the food as a whole was outstanding and one of the most memorable, interesting moments of my culinary experiences in London. 

The best part is perhaps the theatre of it all, sitting right there in front of the stoic chefs, painstakingly crafting these beautiful dishes, laying them out in front of you with tweezers, and adding a sense of magical calm to the room. And Roketsu does have a unique calm, a stillness about it compared to any other London restaurant. I’m not even sure there was music playing – if there was, I was so taken by the food and the craftsmanship of it all, I cancelled it out altogether. And I wasn’t alone, pretty much every diner sat in near silence the whole time, taking in the food on another level. 

This is exactly what is intended with Roketsu. The restaurant is headed up by the immensely talented Daisuke Hayashi, one of the only global masters of Kaiseki traditional cooking, which looks to put the food front and centre of the dining experience with meticulously crafted dishes and few distractions from them. 

The verdict? Roketsu is never going to become your go-to for a midweek meal unless you have very deep pockets – the tasting menu is priced at £190 per person and adding sake pairings adds considerably more – or if you have a constitution for 10 dishes on the reg, but it is the perfect spot for something truly unique, a special occasion or a real taste of Japan for those passionate about Asian cuisine. It’s not a meal I’ll be forgetting for a long time. 

Roketsu’s Kaiseki 10-Course Tasting Menu is priced at £190 per person. 

12 New Quebec Street, London W1H 7RW

www.roketsu.co.uk

Instagram: @roketsulondon


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