Always on the hunt for good sushi (and especially in London), The Araki fell on my radar sometime late last year. When I was looking into it, it definitely wasn’t cheap, but considering it has two Michelin stars (and it skipped there without even getting one!), it must be something amazing, right? So I mentioned it to some friends, and they really wanted to come along. Unfortunately, one of them had recently become pregnant, so my original plan of going for my birthday this year fell by the wayside as she was VERY interested, and wouldn’t be able to go until later in the year. (Luckily, I filled my birthday sushi quota with a booking at Umu instead.)
After the kerfuffle of getting a booking (First call was too early to book the day we wanted. Second call was also apparently too early even though they told us to call then, and now repeated we needed to call one month later. Third call which was that date, they were now closed for a holiday. Fourth call we finally made the booking.), the four of us were ready to go eat some ridiculously expensive sushi at a very tiny restaurant. They even made us pre-pay (which I’m all for, because it’s kind of like a guarantee, and it’s usually easy to get the booking).
We stopped at Zenna’s for drinks before hand (and they were absolutely terrible to be honest), so I was glad we had the earlier booking at 6:00 seating (they do two a night, one at 6:00 pm and one at 8:30 pm with ten at each seating). Once we arrived, we were shown our seats, and we were slightly put off by the smell of the bleach in the restaurant. I suppose they want to make sure everything is clean. Luckily that smell went away after the meal started.
There’s no menu at The Araki; they just present you with fish, and you eat it. Good thing I’m not picky. To be fair, they did ask if there were any allergies at the beginning. We did order some sake to go with it. There’s not an extensive wine list, but in looking at it, they do seem to charge quite a lot for it, so just be prepared to be spending a lot on the wine as well as the food. The meal started out with a course of fish, fish skin, wasabi and a few other bits and bobs. I really can’t remember. I remember it was really amazing. I stupidly forgot to get a photo before I mixed, but luckily Andrew was there to back me up with photos.
Next up: Tuna two ways with Alba white truffle. I mean, the truffle season just started, so we watched them make our food where they added truffle directly to the mix. They then proceeded to plate it and shave a ridiculous amount of truffle on top of the food. Like a ridiculous amount. But hey, why not indulge? And also it was spectacular.
Next up was a roasted fig. No fish in this course, but the fig itself was soft, sweet and succulent. And the sauces were fantastic. I wanted to lick the bowl clean. (I’m pretty sure I didn’t, but there was quite a bit of sake being drunk.)
Next up came the sushi. This was one of the most interesting parts of the meal. You could see them cutting up and preparing all the fish. Then they made a selection of bites and served them individually to all the people sitting at the bar. I can see why they only do a small table size given the individuality of it all. They even explain to you to pick it up off the table and eat it. Or they would just hand you the nigiri and you’d put it in your mouth directly. It started off simple with the regular tuna then the otoro. But then things got more complex flavor wise with partial cooking of the fish and the addition of fine ingredients such as caviar. I think I’m still dreaming about the white beluga caviar. And everything was fantastic. I’m pretty sure it’s the best sushi I’ve ever eaten.
We even had a few rolls with some amazing salmon roe. Finally we had a few more rolls at the end, followed by a tiny amount of dessert. Apparently there’s a way to make scallops and langoustine into a sweet paste and make it firm and you eat it for dessert. This was definitely a new one for me, as I’ve never had fish for dessert. But it was very good, it just left you wanting more.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember all the fish and combinations we ate. Partly because everything was amazing, and partly because we were having such a good time chatting and catching up, that we just kind of ate what they put in front of us and marvelled at how delicious it was. I do know that most of the fish was sourced fairly locally, which is always a bonus. There is also just one bathroom, and it’s nice that they clean it after everyone uses it, so it’s nice and clean for whenever you enter! Bonus! There was also a lot of bowing, and I’m not sure if I was supposed to bow back. The service was pretty spectacular as I’m pretty sure there are more chefs and waitstaff than there are diners in the restaurant.
But was it worth it? I’m not sure. I mean the £300 price tag is pretty insane for sushi. However, it was the best sushi I think I’ve ever had. The flavors were amazing and pure, and the fish was ridiculously fresh. Based solely on the food, it’s really not good value for money as I did feel like I wanted some dessert after we left, which found us heading to get dessert at Hotel Cafe Royal afterwards. I think it was great for the experience, but I probably won’t go back. Also as there is a time limit, you do feel like you come in, eat and have to go, and most other places I’ve gone to that have a very high price point you pretty much can take your time so it feels like it’s worth it. However, if this is what Michelin star dining in Japan is like, I think I could really like visiting there!
Unit 4, 12 New Burlington St, W1S 3BF