Restaurant Review: Ginza Onodera, St. James’s in London
Situated in the heart of St James, a stone’s throw from the bustling nightlife of Piccadilly, Ginza Onodera is a contemporary, high quality Japanese restaurant that oozes luxury and sophistication. It was formerly known as Matsuri, a traditional Japanese restaurant that had been serving diners for over 23 years. After 6 months and a whopping £2.5m refurbishment, Ginza Onodera officially opened in late March 2017 and the London restaurant is the flagship and their biggest, with smaller restaurants dotted across the globe, including Paris, New York and Honalulu.
The impressive entrance opens out onto a stylish bar with industrial fridges displaying wines and sake, while the restaurant is located downstairs and is headed up by chef Ryosuke Kishi. The design is modern and sleek, with marble counters, slate walls and low hanging lamps, and is truly spectacular.
On arrival, my dinner guest, Theo and I were offered a glass of champagne at the bar and, of course, did not refuse! We sat perusing the extensive drinks menu, eating succulent olives and chatting to the very friendly bar tender about the Ginza Onodera chain. He then made us a beautiful Japanese cocktail each, which were decorated with edible flowers and were truly delicious.
We went downstairs to the restaurant and our very helpful waitress talked though the food options with us. The menu included traditional Kobachi (small bowl), starters, soups, salads, sashimi, sushi, tempura, Robata (grill), Teppan-yaki (griddle), meats and specialities. There are also set lunch and dinner menus for Sushi and Teppan-yaki.
Our sommelier for the evening, Angelo, was wonderful and is the restaurants head sommelier. He was extremely knowledgeable and very attentive providing us with a wine and Sake flight throughout the evening, which was a real treat to the taste buds, with each drink matching the food perfectly.
To start we shared turbot kobujime usuzukuri and shrimp with pickled radish and dried mushroom. The turbot was fresh and light and was served with 3 traditional accompaniments and dried seaweed – we both loved this starter. The shrimp were spicy and sharp with unusual but exciting flavours and textures. Next we chose a soup each, Theo going for the traditional miso, which was light and clear, with plenty of tofu. I chose crab chawan mushi, which is a traditional savoury egg custard. It was bursting with flavours of the sea with sumptuous crab pieces and mushrooms, and was very tasty. Theo described it as a seafood crème brulee and was not keen on the texture at all but I loved it and scraped the bowl clean!
We were then served prawn and vegetable tempura; the batter was light but perfectly crisp and it was served with grated white radish and ginger, which cut through the batter perfectly. The potato tempura was a first for me and tasted like a healthy hash brown!
Next was our favourite course, sashimi, which we both really love and we were not disappointed. We chose a 5 piece selection, including salmon, tuna, shrimp and salmon roe, which popped in your mouth with an explosion of flavours of the deep sea. The sashimi was light, fresh and melted in the mouth and was served on a trendy square ceramic platter, which looked fantastic.
Next we shared dishes from the speciality menu. I had Wagyu pork croquettes, which were filled with succulent pork and a creamy cheese sauce and were even more delectable when dunked into the curried tomato sauce that accompanied the dish. Theo chose Wagyu beef, which he said was perfectly buttery and tender, this was served with a selection of sauces and pickled vegetables and a blob of delicious wasabi.
Unfortunately, the dessert menu was a bit of a let-down. Our waitress did apologise and inform us that they are still in the process of developing this and that there were currently very limited choices. The only options available were ice cream or blancmange and so I chose the matcha blancmange and Theo chose the matcha ice-cream. Both dishes were (obviously) an incredible green colour. My blancmange was pretty underwhelming and I found the matcha flavour very overpowering. There was a hint of coconut but overall the flavour and the texture of the dessert was not a winner for me. Theo’s ice cream was better and was delicately flavoured with tea and served with fresh raspberries. Please note however, that since our visit, the restaurant has now extended their dessert menu and has added a few more options, including a chocolate fondant, which is always a winner in my book!
Overall the dining experience at Onodera was wonderful. The food was traditional Japanese with a modern twist and was of the highest quality. The sleek, modern décor complemented the traditional but contemporary menu perfectly and the staff were attentive and efficient. The atmosphere was relaxed and peaceful and is the perfect ambience needed after the stresses and strains of the day. The clientele was mixed with couples and city workers and, notably, Japanese diners, which I feel reflects the standard and authenticity of their menu.
Prices range from: £7 for soups, Starters £16-£20, Sashimi- £18-£38, Sushi £32-£50, Robata £12-£145, Teppan-yaki £12-£140, Meat and Poultry £18-£145, Specialities £12-£28, Desserts, £6-9. Teppan-yaki dinner set menu ranges from £130-£250.
Drinks: From £30 for 375mls wine-£550 for 750mls wine up to £1100 for a bottle of wine. Average price for spirits are £45 for 500mls and cocktails start at £19.
Address: 15 Bury St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6AL