17 Half Moon Street, London, England, W1J 7BE, United Kingdom

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Kiku has been serving Japanese food in this Mayfair side street since 1978. It has a frankly ugly concrete façade, softened by the quirky touch of a clock mounted near the entrance where time is denoted by little plastic models of fish (if you are ever in Tokyo then be sure to visit the district called Kappabashi, where there are stacks of shops selling just these models). The restaurant shares ownership with the Mikuniya Onsen (hot spring) Inn in Kinosaki in Hyogo prefecture (i.e. not far from Kobe). The chef duties are shared by Hirofumi Shiraihi and Yoichi Hattori.

There are various menu options, including a range of cheaper choices at lunch. I had the standard set lunch for £20 with the addition of some eel sushi. From the a la carte, a tuna sushi plate cost £22 while eel tempura was £18, but cheaper ingredients are reflected in the pricing e.g. chicken and white radish casserole at £8.40. Die-hard fans can even eat the dreaded natto (fermented soy beans) with Ika natto i.e. with shredded squid at £9. Don’t pair this with your white Burgundy. The wine list is mainly but not exclusively French, with selections such as Muddy Water Chardonnay 2008 for £59.50 compared to a shop price of around £17, Domaine de Cayron Gigondas 2007 at £42 for a wine that will also set you back £17 in the shops, up to Corton Charlemagne Bonneau de Matray 2003 at £125 for a wine that costs £41 retail.

The room is in the usual simple Japanese style, with plain wooden tables, a flower display near the entrance and nice quality white linen napkins. A total of 95 guests can be accommodated. My set lunch began with a pair of tempura prawns, along with some assorted tempura vegetables (such as aubergine and carrot). The batter was light and in no way greasy, although not of the ethereal lightness that I have tried in the top tempura places in Japan. Nor were these prawns wandering around the kitchen seconds before they were cooked, as they are at Ten Ichi. Still, this was very capable tempura (14/20). Chicken teriyaki can be a very disappointing dish, but here the chicken was cooked through properly but was still moist, the teriyaki sauce rich but not cloying (14/20).

The best course was the sushi. Fish is mostly supplied by Atari-ya, which is the sashimi supplier of choice to top Japanese restaurants in London, supplemented by some local fish (examples are scallops, salmon and ark shell clams),selected by the chef. I had mackerel, sea bass, salmon, razor clam and tuna sushi as well as tuna rolls. The rice was warm as it should be, with a little wasabi added by the chef prior to serving. The fish was excellent, the sea bass had good texture, the (blue fin) tuna silky, the mackerel lovely, while the salmon and razor clam (without even a hint of chewiness) were also good. My additional choice of eel was also lovely, cooked just right and having good flavour (15/20 for the sushi). Miso soup was also a cut above the norm, the stock having a clean flavour and made with a good quality miso paste. I will pass politely over the dessert, which was a couple of pieces of very ordinary pineapple and orange. The bill for one, with two bottles of Asahi beer (at a chunky 4.80 per bottle) was £37. It would clearly be more in the evening, but I still did not find this excessive given the high quality fish and the skillful cooking on show.


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