At this meal an amuse-bouche comprised mushrooms (shiitake, maitaki), aubergine, onion and a jelly of seaweed and bonito flakes. This was very pleasant, the aubergine having good texture. Next to this were fried shrimps with crisp lotus roots, the latter being particularly delicate (15/20).
“Japanese fish and chips” had tempura of sea bass, mackerel, scallops and Dover sole with artichoke crisps inplace of the usual chips. The fish was of good quality, though the tempura batter was not at the level you would encounter in a top restaurant in Japan (14/20). Better was sushi of eel, mackerel and akamai tuna, the rice nicely vinegared and the fish of high quality (16/20).
Dover sole had crisp skin and was served with bonito flakes. The fish was good and carefully cooked, the bonito flakes pleasant (14/20). Seasonality was shown with partridge breast was grilled over charcoal, the thigh minced and served with macadamia nuts and walnut miso sauce. This was fine, and the bird avoided the rubberiness that can easily afflict partridge in UK kitchens, though it was hard to get very excited about it (14/20). I actually preferred a dish of grilled seasonal vegetables, which were of really high quality (as well they might be at a hefty £28), which included lotus roots, sweet corn, mushrooms and broccoli (15/20).
Service was superb, the waiters very well drilled indeed, and the restaurant was buzzing on a Thursday night. The bill came to £106 a head for two courses with just beer to drink, which is quite a lot of money, though the ingredients were certainly of high quality. Japanese food is really all about taking high quality seasonal ingredients and serving them simply. The difficulty is that in the UK we have few ingredients of the quality that are found in Japan, so there are limits to what can be done. Umu is a good restaurant, but it is inevitably a shadow of the best places in Tokyo.