When I asked Richard Hosking (at the time of writing perhaps the leading authority on Japanese food in the UK) where his favourite Japanese restaurant was, I expected him to say Umu, which I knew he was impressed with. In fact he said Sakana Tei, which I had never heard of. This place caters to Japanese; there is no Zuma-like fusion or compromise here. Indeed even getting a booking can apparently be tricky if you are not Japanese, and indeed we saw no other western diners this evening. Fortunately we took Richard, who chatted away in Japanese to the waitress. It is a modest place, with an upstairs sushi bar and a single table (where we were seated) and a downstairs dining room with wooden screens discreetly separating the tables. This is not grand tea ceremony cooking, but essentially a very good sushi bar. Service is friendly but informal.
We started with a sort of amuse-bouche that I guess could best be described as a sandwich filler served in a little bowl: tuna, onion and sweetcorn, made from the less expensive parts of a large tuna they had in that day; the tastes worked well together (14/20). Next was sashimi of blue fin tuna (the best kind) which was indeed of very high quality (16/20). Next was a soup bowl in which was picked salmon, octopus, mackerel and a rare Japanese shellfish, served cold with lettuce and seaweed in a vinegary dressing. Again these fish were extremely fresh, with the seaweed having lovely taste (14/20). Next was a trio of dishes served on an oblong dish: lotus root had great depth of flavour, while “devils tongue” was a cube of the root of a Japanese plant called devil’s tongue, which had a pleasing, peppery taste and a jelly-like texture. Between these were two slices of cold pork interleaved with prawn (14/20). Tofu was stuffed with an excellent prawn and served in a bowl with a simple consommé (13/20). The only let down was the main course. Salmon teriyaki was fine (12/20) and tempura was fairly delicate (13/20) but my beef teriyaki was badly overcooked (10/20). This was an odd slip, but perhaps they really deal in fish. We finished with excellent orange slices served in a hollowed-out orange.