It's a well kept secret most Londoners don't even know about. In one week, I was taken to Umu, a traditional Japanese restaurant, by foreigners from opposite sides of the world. Paris and Hong Kong. And yet no-one I'd spoken to in London even knew where Bruton Place was, let alone the restaurant that sat quietly nestled in the street.
Umu is dark and contemporary. Mahogany coloured wood from floor to ceiling, low lighting except for the spotlights on the centre piece - a long counter where the chefs meticulously work to craft dishes in Kaiseki style. Kaiseki is the most extravagant style of Japanese cuisine. Hailing from Kyoto, its basically a mulit-course dinner, prepared and delivered with the finest of detail and beauty. The menu changes frequently, as it only uses seasonal produce and everything is explained to you by the waiter.
// centre counter //
There was one dish that I had on both occasions - the tuna tartare. Amazing miso spiced tuna cubes topped with lettuce and shaved summer truffle.
If you're feeling luxurious and it's on offer - take the langoustine. The whole shellfish is created into four dishes that is served throughout the meal. As an appetiser, lobster in a sweet jelly. Then a simple dish of both grilled and fresh lobster sashimi with ponzu sauce.
// lobster in jelly //
Then a magical dish of the claws in a sweet miso and tofu sauce. D I V I N E. The head is then cooked in a broth and served in small cups. It's a sweet salty end to the impressive show.
// claw in miso and tofu soup //
// mixed eel sushi //
The sushi and sashimi are standard. The sashimi is cut a little too thick than what I'm used to. Perhaps this is Kyoto style and my palette is now well adjusted to the slick slicing of Tokyo knives.
The desserts can easily be skipped. Suagr was never a Nippon forte - and Umu shows that. The match tiramisu is interesting but not to die for. A white asparagus ice-cream was just - weird.
// matcha tiramisu //
Being here for both lunch and dinner, I'd opt for the dinner sitting. The dark setting allows a romantic dinner or dinner to impress visiting friends. The sake collection is extensive - as is the wine.
One thing for sure, Umu pays attention to detail. Fish that are sourced for their quality. For example, the Scottish eel is used was the waters are cleaner. Even the knives are kept in a leather satchel, cleaned, sharpened and stored away for the day.
// umu //
Umu has a Michelin star for those who care about that stuff. I find that the Michelin guide is as accurate as Trip Advisor's advice on cheap hotels in Paris. Satisfaction heavily depends on whether breakfast is free or 10euro for a basket of croissants that cost half the price form the boulangerie next door.