Over a decade after its May 2002 opening, Zuma sails serenely on, serving its appealing take on Japanese izakaya (pub) food. The smartly dressed and carefully trained waiters look after their customers well, and the overall package continues to draw a fashionable crowd.
Deep-fried squid with green chilli, salt and a wedge of lime had good batter, but the squid was unremarkable, some pieces with a hint of chewiness. The small pieces of chilli added bite, and the lime a little freshness (barely 14/20). Better was tempura of prawns (£16.80), the batter even and crisp, the prawns having good flavour (15/20). Tuna tataki (£12.60) is a reliable staple here, the ponzu dressing carefully balanced, with just enough soy to work well with the fish, a little daikon adding texture and chilli just lifting the dish (15/20).
Sushi of both mackerel (£5.40) and eel (£7.80) were also good, the eel nicely cooked, the rice at the correct room temperature (15/20). The best dish was langoustine (£25.80), again deep-fried and served with a red chilli dip. The langoustines were of genuinely good quality, the batter again light and crisp (16/20). A pork skewer (£6.20) was also very good, the pork glazed with honey, the meat carefully cooked (15/20).
Zuma is not a bargain restaurant, and it is so successful it has no need for cheap lunch offers to lure in the punters. The bill, with just a single excessively priced beer at £6 for a bottle of Kirin, came to £58 a head at lunchtime; to be fair, it would be the same at dinner. In the evening the price would seem more competitive, but at lunch there are some real bargains to be had elsewhere in London, even at top-end restaurants. However it is hard to argue with success, and the large premises were full, including seats at the bar around the open kitchen. The cooking is very consistent, and the menu very appealing.