Dinings is a small Japanese restaurant under the direction of chef/patron Tomanari Chibo, who cooked for some time at Nobu. He has not over-invested on the décor here. On the ground floor is a sushi counter with half a dozen chairs crowded around it, while downstairs the floor is just bare concrete, with plain wooden tables. Dinings offers a wide range of dishes. Some smaller dishes were under £3 while larger dishes courses cost around £11 or so, and included various Japanese styles from sushi through to tempura, with a hint of fusion with western influences in places.
The wine list offered a selection of wines from around the world, though the omission of vintages is something that should be fixed, especially for some of the costlier wines, where such things matter. Moon Harvest Shiraz was listed at £16.50 for a wine that cost around a fiver to buy in the shops, Dominio Alto Rioja Crianza £25 compared to a retail price of around £6 or so, Mansion House Bay Pinot Noir was £37 compared to a price of about £14 or so in the shops. A good example of why vintages are important is the case of the Chassagne Montrachet Pillot. Is the listed price of £65 good or bad? Well, if it is the 2007, which costs £35 to purchase, it is pretty fair at under twice the retail price (more after service is added to the bill), but if it is, say, actually the 1999 it is more than three times the retail price of about £21 (+service).
What follows are notes from my most recent meal.
For this meal we sat downstairs at a table rather than at the bar: the downstairs is fairly cramped and has bench seats and an unattractive concrete floor; it rather resembles eating in a bus station. Freshwater eel was grilled and served on a bed of rice. The eel was nicely glazed and cooked capably, and the rice was fine (13/20). Iberian pork shoulder was served in similar fashion, and resulted in contented noises from one of my dining companions. Perhaps the dish of the meal was yellowtail with uzu garlic dressing and a little caviar: the yellowtail was of very good quality without a hint of chewiness, and the citrus dressing was just the right balance for the sashimi (15/20).
I was not particularly taken with the tuna rolls, as the rice felt clumpy and the tuna flavour was a little lost (12/20). Foie gras rolls were rich and their flavour came through better (14/20). Also tempura of prawn and a few vegetables had light, non-greasy batter (14/20). Service was rather slow, and although the room is small it was surprisingly hard to get attention (though it was charged at 10%, which these days is fairly modest in London). The bill came to £39 a head with a little beer, which did not seem bad given that we had ordered some extra dishes to supplement the standard lunch offerings. This was a definite improvement over my previous visit.
What follows are notes from my first experience at Dinings, a lunch at the bar in July 2010
Tuna sushi was pleasant, the temperature of the rice just a little cooler than the room temperature that one genrally encounters in Japan, but nice enough (13/20). Eel sushi was prepared by being grilled then braised before being served on sushi rice, and I suspect from its temperature had been resting longer than intended (12/20). The best dish was duck tataki, the meat seared briefly and still pink, then briefly marinated and served with ground ginger, and in this case with a light and well balanced soy sauce (14/20). This was better than a trio of scallops, cut in half into slices and then served sizzling in a hot iron dish with a little broccoli. There were two problems with the scallops: they had not been properly prepared, so some of the hard muscle that you should discard was still there, which has an unpleasant texture; moreover the scallops were also cooked a bit too long, not grotesquely long but so that they had a slightly chewy texture instead of being soft and sweet. This was all the more of a shame since they appeared to be of good quality to begin with (11/20).
Service was from waiters bringing dishes rather than directly from the chefs behind the sushi counter (there is a separate kitchen adjoining this), and was perfectly pleasant. The bill for these four dishes, with tea only, came to £30 including service.