Yumi is a very authentic Japanese restaurant in a basement setting, with much use made of honey-coloured wood and paper screen panels. This meal was not a standard one but a banquet specially organised through Richard Hosking, a respected authority on Japanese food. This was a New Year’s banquet (in Japan New Year is the main annual celebration) in kaiseki style, here featuring the new year colours of red and white.
We began with the zensai (hor d’oeuvres) course: pickled herring roe matched with rape blossoms garnished with dried bonito shavings. This was a successful counterpoint of texture and taste, the soft texture of the roe offset by the firm texture of the rape blossoms, the distinctive taste of bonito (used in the ubiquitous Japanese stock dashi) adding a additional taste dimension (4/10). Next a mix of nibbles involved a rolled omelette, sweet black beans, tiny baby anchovy (which were not over salty), botargo (in this case from grey mullet) and salmon wrapped in kelp. The botargo and the anchovies were particularly enjoyable, the dish nicely composed with contrasts of tastes (3/10).
Next was suimono (clear soup): a consommé with red and white rice-flour patties, prawn, chicken and trefoil (clover). This was less good, the prawn badly overcooked, the rice-flour patties having a sticky texture (1/10). This was followed by translucent strips of halibut as sashimi, arranged prettily in the shape of a dancing crane, with little strips of red and white grated daikon and leek. The daikon gave a welcome hint of spiciness to the dish (4/10).
The yakimono (grilled) course was grilled sablefish (which in the UK we usually misleadingly refer to as black cod, as it is not cod at all) had characteristic sweetness but did not seem to me cooked quite correctly, the fish flaking too much; this was served with vinegared lotus root, which gave a welcome savoury balance to the dish (2/10). The agemono (deep-fried) course was tea-flavoured deep-fried rock lobster with citron salt, a pleasant crispy dish, though I have to say I prefer the version at E&O (3/10).
The sunomono (vinegared food) course was in the form of fan-shaped cucumber with sea bream skin in the shape of pine needles, with a garnish of salmon roe. This was the dish of the night for me, the red and white colour theme being neatly continued, the sea bream skin being remarkably tasty (6/10). Sushi was tuna (excellent), salmon (farmed) and sea bream (reasonable), with pleasant rice (2/10). Finally warm tofu with treacle tasted a lot better than it sounds, the resulting texture almost like a crème caramel (3/10).
To drink we had a high quality sake, Okunomatsu Zanmai daiginjoshu sake, a luxurious sake where the rice is polished and processed to half its size (a labour-intensive and skilled process). Service was friendly and excellent throughout, with faultless topping up and dishes arriving at a steady pace. Apart a couple of minor gripes (e.g. the overcooked prawn) this was a very good meal with high quality ingredients, and I thought the menu was beautifully composed, showing excellent balance of flavours and following the new year colour scheme. My main caveat is that this was a special banquet, and on the one prior occasion I came here on my own without expert assistance we had a pleasant but quite ordinary experience, well below the level of tonight’s meal.