Brought to you by Hakkisan, Sake no Hana is ‘modern and authentic’ Japanese dining in the midst of Mayfair. With amazing wood panel installations and a glass bamboo culm chandelier, the restaurant is perfect for a celebration.
We visited Sake no Hana with London Sake to sample both their sushi and sake offerings. With a set menu for the carnivore, I had two starters, a main and rice pot. Add two bottles of wine and a carafe of hot sake to finish, the bill came to £210 for both of us.
To get the ball rolling I had a red miso soup with wild mushrooms or asari clams, it was well flavoured and a nice start to the meal although disappointingly there were only 2 clams. Next was ‘Hassan’ which featured 5 beautiful looking bites; Uzura Kuwayaki, Aburi Salmon, Parsnip Kinpira with ebi empura, sesame spinach and sesame fried aubergine. All very nice individually and together complemented each other well – out of the five the Uzura Kuwayaki aka teriyaki chicken was my favourite. Next was a selection of sashimi, including tuna, salmon and bream. I’m usually a big fan of sashimi tuna but I found this one to be quite soft and dull in appearance so I’m not sure how fresh the fish was but I didn’t like it.
For the main courses there was both fish and meat; Chilean sea bass with champagne yuzu miso sauce followed by sirloin beef with garlic ponzu sauce. Each of the dishes were excellent in taste and appearance, the fish was delicately cooked while the sirloin was juicy and very well-seasoned. Strangely we then had a selection of sushi (maybe thats the right order to have it but I thought it a little odd); akami nigiri, ama ebi nigiri and spicy chirashi maki. The colours and contrast between each of the different pieces looked fantastic and the tuna nigiri was much better in texture and taste than the sashimi.
To finish of the menu were two different desserts, the first being mochi ice cream which looked great but was unfortunately bland in taste. The second was an apple pastry slice which tasted nice and cleaned the palette.
While the food was good I’ve had much better at a more reasonable cost, the service however, was some of the worst I had ever experienced. Where to start… We arrived separately to our friends and were told they hadn’t arrived yet when in reality they had, they just looked for the wrong name. So we were asked to wait in the bar for no reason what so ever, it was only when my friends messaged us that we realised. Upon sitting down to the table we were reminded that we only had the table for two hours and felt a bit rushed into ordering drinks and food.
There were far too many glasses on the table, I literally felt surrounded by them – I eventually asked them to take away some of the ones which weren’t being used. As we had arrived separately we wanted to order a bottle of wine ourselves but the waiter looked at us like idiots because there was already 2 bottles open from our friends, we resigned ourselves to the fact we’d drink those first (even though we wanted our own).
The various staff members looked rushed, didn’t ask us if we enjoyed the food throughout the night and generally the whole thing felt very impersonal. The nail in the coffin was when I ordered some warm sake… After waiting 15 minutes for the bottle and keeping in mind we were being rushed off the table I asked the waiter (same one as the wine issue) where the sake was to which he snapped ‘You do realise it takes 5 minutes to warm the sake sir?’ – I looked at him in disbelief and let him know it had in fact been 15 minutes, not 3 or 4 minutes to which that kind of response would have been acceptable. Veg did a good job relaying the tables feedback to the manager at the end of the night and she bought us a round of drinks on the house (in the bar). Would never return which is a shame because the food was pretty good.
This whole experience leaves me really really torn. Food? Unreal? Service. Unreal. In two completely different ways.
The options for a vegetarian at Sake no Hana are plentiful, they even offer a vegetarian set menu! The truffle and mushroom rice pot caught my eye, so on this occasion I opted to order off the menu. I started with the spicy edamame, which was coated in a really tasty sauce. Little niggle, the edamame was a little over cooked.
I was then presented with the vegetable tempura. Wow. The batter tasted as if it had been flavoured (maybe with miso) and it was delicious. The vegetables were cooked to perfection and the portion was enough for two to share.
I finished with the teriyaki tofu and the truffle mushroom rice pot. The rice pots serve two people but I did my best to scoff the majority. It was delicious and complimented the teriyaki tofu really nicely. The tofu was also quite nice, but the sauce was really rich and salty, it would have been nice to have had a few more vegetables in the dish to cut through the intensity of the sauce.
Overall, really good vegetarian food…
Now a few comments on the service…
If I go to a restaurant of the ilk of Sake no Hana I expect the service to be bang on. Sadly in this instance it wasn’t. The sommelier had serious attitude and there is no way to describe him but… rude.
The waitresses did a pretty good job of trying to take peoples plate when they hadn’t finish and at one point, everyone wanted wine so I got up to get it (as we had been waiting for some time for a waitress to notice) only to have the wine snatched out of my hand when she finally realised we needed our glasses refilling.
I will however say this. When we had paid the bill I asked to see the manager because I feel that feedback is important especially when people at the table have been upset by their staff. The manager was more than apologetic, and sincerely said how sorry she was and that she was going to address the issues we had raised.
She offered us a round of cocktails on the house and gave one of our party her business card, commenting that she really did hope we would be back – because of the way she handled the whole situation I will be returning in hope of better service next time!