The board outside Tokimeitē on Mayfair’s Conduit Street, the latest venture from Michelin-starred Kyoto chef Yoshihiro Murata, might not convey the slick contemporary Japanese restaurant you’ll find on stepping inside, but it soon becomes apparent that this restaurant, despite only launching in November 2015, already has a steady following of wealthy Asian customers who doubtless never eat beef that isn’t wagyu or flinch at the other high ticket items such as black truffle, lobster or king crab.
Although there is seating on two other floors, the long ground floor dining room is clearly where it’s at, with the choice of either casual counter-top dining overlooking the open kitchen, or comfy leather banquettes. Designed by the acclaimed Yasumichi Morita, the theme, quite aside from the one encompassing En (flame) – that of the robata grill; Mizu (water) – silvery design accents coupled with a display of sake; Moku (wood) – highlighted in the upstairs dining room which features timber latticework, is one of chic minimalism.
The clientèle, which mainly seem to consist of young professionals, are keen to embrace the outlandish East meets West fusion dishes designed by Murata, making me consider that those brought up on traditional Japanese fare including sushi and sashimi might be more open-minded that those of us who weren’t; for whilst you and I might baulk at the idea of replacing wasabi with fiery Colman’s-like yellow English mustard with our wagyu (along with turnip, wasabi stems, salt and soy foam), I was probably the only one not entirely convinced by the combination or at how far away we were from the classic flavours of wa-shoku cuisine which Tokimeitē prides itself on interpreting.
That aside, other dishes (always one to share between two) from the tasting menu proved unexpectedly successful in terms of flavour and texture such as the first course of wagyu tartare, topped with shallot rings, finely diced chives and yellow edible flowers, beneath which the raw beef was combined with mini courgettes, mushrooms and a truffle dressing. When I closed my eyes I might have mistaken it for a classical French dish, that is, until I hit upon the kick of wasabi lurking in the mix to surprise the palate and challenge my preconceptions of Japanese fusion. Tokimeitē manages to make their neighbour Roka look relatively safe.
I recommend a glass or two of sake to not only offer a balancing and cleansing accompaniment to such bold flavour pairings, but because it seems to make you significantly more open-minded. Next came an immaculate sharing selection of nigiri including tuna, sea bass, yellow fin and salami. ‘Salami?’ I repeated to the waitress in disbelief, never thinking that the fish could withstand such a bold partner. ‘Yes,’ she assured me calmly, and my shock evaporated after a first bite. What should have been the stuff of nightmares found me making a mental note to purchase some top quality sashimi the next time I found some charcuterie lurking about in the fridge.
The assorted tempura was the best and most varied I’ve had in London, with asparagus, prawn, enochi mushrooms, spring onion, broad beans, lotus root and aubergine all perfectly cooked within the crunchy and super light batter, and elevated a step further thanks to the accompanying lemon, salt, soy and radish. That was then I was flummoxed by the wagyu and English mustard, but that didn’t stop me subsequently appreciating the beef and black truffle sushi rolls I ordered as an extra.
Desserts were as full of twists and turns as the savoury dishes had been, with a yuzu cheesecake on Japanese monaka wafers and a green tea ice cream, along with their own unique take on a classic apple tart, featuring a salty shoyu caramel. Dining at Tokimeitē is a roller-coaster; expressly suited to fun-loving, adventurous types who enjoy sharing food with friends and want, above all, to be surprised. If you go with this in mind then you’re sure to leave with a big smile on your face. If, like me though, you’re rather shaken by the end of the meal, but proud of yourself for having braved it, the extensive selection of Japanese whiskies should help to steady your nerves.
Tokimeitē, 23 Conduit St, London W1S 2XS. Set menus start from £55pp. For more information and reservations please visit the website.