Sakagura opened doors to their Mayfair post late last year, and it was a welcome Jap-Asian establishment down Heddon Street. I’m always on the hunt for a good Japanese spot, so I thought it would be cool to check out all their menus.
On my first visit, I went a la carte and dined by the sushi counter.
The salmon by the counter looked super fresh, so I immediately asked for it. It came well presented in a beautiful ice box. Admittedly, though, I was slightly disappointed to see three small pieces for £9.
Quality-wise though, I can’t fault it. The fish had the right amount of fat (for my liking) and the chunks were fairly thick enough to savour the flavour.
The dragon uramaki (£15) was a roll of cucumber, avocado, grilled eel and tobiko. Here’s a confession: I’m not a fan of cucumber and avocado in sushi rolls but I do love unagi and it was the only uramaki I found interesting enough to order. In fairness, the roll had a good bite and was a nice size. Flavour-wise, the eel was still the star.
I’ve been ooh-ing and ahh-ing about the Sakagura x Shoryu ramen collaborations I’ve seen on Instagram (are we friends yet, btw?) They change this on the Sakagura menu often depending on which produce is best in the market. When I visited, they had a lobster ramen (£19). The lobster was actually cooked nicely. The broth had that seafood-off-the-grill taste from the shellfish but didn’t have a bisque-based flavour I had hoped for. Overall, this was just okay and I realised my ramen of choice is still always going to be pork-based.
I always order chicken karaage (£7) with ramen. Sakagura’s version was actually quite nice, in a satisfying-your-craving way.
I was curious about the short rib katsu (£15) so I spoke to the server about it. He said it was very fatty so he wouldn’t recommend it. One to be a rebel at the dining table, I asked for an order. The panko-crumbed meat, in parts, were indeed super fatty to the point of inedible. I should’ve listened. Or it shouldn’t have been on the menu.
For dessert, I opted for a matcha fondant. When it arrived, I wasn’t too impressed by its size, nor the ice cream on top. When I broke it open, the matcha ganache that was meant to ooze and flow out was nowhere to be seen.
I then tried the matcha tiramisu. Though this was actually better than the fondant, I still think Sakagura could learn a thing or two about desserts.
Frankly, I was not moved by Sakagura after my first visit. I thought the food was just okay but I also thought service was rather sloppy. That said, I did say I’d come back after a few months to give it another go.
VISIT ONE VERDICT: 3/5
However, my second visit came sooner than expected…
A few weeks later, I got invited to try Sakagura’s new Yakiniku barbecue menu. I love Japanese and Korean barbecue, so I was absolutely up for this.
The barbecue is set outside, at Sakagura’s al fresco terrace. Unforch, they can’t serve charcoal grilling inside for lack of exhaust facilities. If you’re fearing the cold (who doesn’t, in this country?), don’t. They have strong heaters (which should explain the red lighting in the following photos, oops).
One of my main concerns was that this had a slight safety hazard. A pan essentially sits atop the shichirin grill – and it moves. In traditional Japanese barbecues, you put the meat straight into the grill. My issue was that the pan can easily slide. We were lucky to have a four-seater table which gave us enough space to manoeuvre round the grill with all the plates of food (and there was a lot of it) on the other side. If you were sat on the two-seater tables, it might be a wee bit cramped.
I dunno, but knowing my clumsy self, I was extra cautious and sat as far from the sizzling grill as possible.
The barbecue set comes at £30 per person where you get three types of protein/veg of your choice with rice, salad, miso soup and ice cream. Prime wagyu cuts come at a supplement (£3 for Aussie, £11 for Japanese) but even so I think it’s a pretty decent deal.
To complement the grilled meats, we opted for a rosé from Château La Grave Peynet in Bordeaux. Now, I wasn’t too sure about Bordeaux pinks, but this was actually delicious and worked well with the grilled meats. I’d totally recommend this for the barbecue.
And then it was time to feast. See how much space everything took?
B’s choice: eryngii mushrooms, chicken thigh and prawns.
For me, Japanese and Australian Wagyu sirloin and Prime USDA short rib.
Safety hazard fear done, we cooked our meats in glee. There’s always something about the novelty of cooking your food and watching it sizzle as you smack your lips to eat. In fairness to Sakagura, the meat was of superb quality. The Japanese wagyu melted in my mouth even as I grilled it longer for those fatty burnt ends. I’d say go for the triumvirate of meat, it’s well worth it.
Ice cream of choice was a salted caramel scoop. Nothing too exciting – but as I said, I don’t think desserts are Sakagura’s forte.
I definitely enjoyed the food more during my second visit despite all my qualms about the shichirin grill. I thought value for money was great particularly when the quality of the beef was terrific. Service still needed improvement, though. Our main server that night was rather lacklustre and, if I’m frank, borderline rude.
VISIT TWO VERDICT: 3.5/5
Overall Verdict for Sakagura
I’m still not absolutely wowed about Sakagura, and this is possibly because my other Mayfair Japanese go-to’s (Chisou and Ikeda) are just a stone’s throw away. Honestly, I think Sakagura’s menu and concept is promising. The menu is rather decent and I can’t quite fault the quality and value for money of the yakiniku barbecue. There was just something slightly amiss. But where I really struggle liking this restaurant for actually lies in service. I won’t get into much detail anymore on this (for now) but a little bit of training (and manners) comes a long way.