Umu is the idea of a restaurant that I dreamt of ever since I had that very intriguing, but maybe too authentic for Westerners eyes and taste buds meal in Kikunoi in Kyoto .”Could anybody recreate the Kyoto style kaiseki meal but with a modern touch in Europe? “, I wondered.
Yet again, to call oneself “the only kaiseki restaurant in the UK” is a good thing for one’s image. I have no doubt that Umu has people, products and “know-how” resources to be able to call themselves “the only kaiseki restaurant in the UK”, but the ambience was far more similar to the ambience of Nobu, rather than kaiseki restaurant. Obviously, one Michelin star, cutting edge interior and fun and loud ambience has become an attraction for London’s “beautiful crowd”. Which is not a bad thing, but is just so opposite to the “zen” spirit of kaiseki meal I had in Kyoto. Or even in Kyo Ya in New York.
I had a feeling that Umu has two faces, one that tries to reinvent the traditional Kyoto kaiseki idea( you can choose from six different kaiseki menus), and another, maybe even more dominant, very Nobu like.
That’s why I went for à la carte, as it was somehow more “fitting” with the mood of the place. The quality of the products was very good and superior to many Japanese restaurants in London I’ve been to. Most of the dishes were very well thought of and I wouldn’t go too far if I say that Umu is my new favourite Japanese restaurant in London.
The dinner was started with an amuse-bouche, as far as I remember, it included green beans, mango and rice puffs. A refreshing start.
“Sweet shrimp, sake jelly and caviar”.A fine mixture of tastes, although the caviar was more of a decoration.
“Umu green salad” You could feel chives in the dressing – very fresh.
“Three seasonal tempura, crab and courgette, minced prawn and mushroom, scallop, Parma ham and lilly root”. My least favourite dish. The tempura was very heavy and didn’t fit at all with watery courgette or parma ham. Could even say that I hated it…
Toro and salmon sushi. Great quality of fish, but next time I would ask the sushi chef not to spoil the toro with the radish and chives.
“Grade nine Wagyu beef, pear and horseradish sauce”. Excellent, it was served on a small own heater.