Fusion can be a dangerous thing. Not the unstable, sub-atomic sort — although that’s clearly a bit risky, too. We’re talking an altogether different flavour of fusion; one being increasingly cooked up in kitchens around the British capital.
Because few cities combine cuisines with the gusto or confidence of London. In recent years, particularly, the melting pots have been bubbling over trying to slosh, stir and throw together foods from everyone corner of the globe. You’ll find French cuisine infused with Arabic flavours in Mayfair. There’s a Nigerian take on tapas tempting tastebuds up in Tottenham. A pop-up in Brixton even serves up Yorkshire puddings stuffed with mashed Venezuelan plantain. It’s a flavour free-for-all.
Of course, not all these pairings work. You’d never put an English pickled egg in a Maghrebi shakshuka. Or serve Iceland’s famous marinated herring with a dollop of mild American mustard. And, if we ever saw sushi topping a tomatoey pizza, we’d think you were pulling our chopsticks.
Yet, deep in Belgravia’s brilliant Pantechnicon — a five-floor village of retail, cafés and cocktail bars — the succulent Japanese staple has found a plate-mate that works wonderfully. For, by blending these classic far-eastern flavours with Nordic influences, Sachi may have become the best restaurant yet to crack this explosive fusion business.
The scene is set before even your table; with an open dining room complemented by a sushi counter, hidden vaulted booths, a private dining room and highball bar. With shades of Tokyo speakeasy about the place, Sachi is a neat, subterranean counterpoint to Pantechnicon’s casual ‘Roof Garden’ (where they’ll whip you up a mean Nordic 75, or a Wasabi Margarita).
And the food — which we’ll get to in one mouth-watering minute — is almost entirely inspired by regional Japanese cooking, created in the kitchen using local ingredients from unique producers. That means line-caught fish prepared by chefs at the sushi counter, British meat from heritage breeds cooked over coals and organic Japanese greens grown in Sussex — with a soupçon of Scandinavian flavours to garnish.
So, to the food. And, while, they say you should never judge a restaurant by its menu (or some such aphorism), you can almost always get a good grasp on a place on the strength of their Padrón peppers. Thankfully, Sachi’s classic starters are emerald-green, and come basted in honey and brown rice miso. It’s a sweet-savoury nexus; niftily plated and swiftly consumed.
The sashimi, too, may not break any moulds — but makes an enduring impression both through quality and sheer scope of choice. From ‘Trout’ to ‘Turbot’ (by way of ‘Halibut’ and ‘Yellowtail’), there are more clean-cut, vibrantly coloured options on Sachi’s sashimi menu than a restaurant serving ‘Sansho Pepper Waygu Fillet’ and ‘Apple Barley Pork Belly’ ought to have. That this isn’t a dedicated sushi restaurant, and yet has ‘Sea Bass’, ‘Sea Bream’ and tunas from ‘Akami’ to ‘Otoro’ on its menu? A tender, tasty triumph.
Similarly, the ‘Sea Bass Carpaccio’ is a melt-away, must-order dish. Yet here, there’s a twist on both the traditional plating, and an an evident Nordic influence. For, dotting each opalescent slice of fish — like the eye of a peacock feather — is a perfectly-placed, boldly orange blob of sea buckthorn. It’s a sapid shrub that grows wild across northern Scandinavia, almost five thousand miles from the sushi-serving ‘Izakaya’ of Japan. So who knew the flavours would blend so well? Thankfully, Sachi’s chefs knew — and we’re glad they did.
It’s worth noting, at this mid-meal point, how comprehensive the wine list is. A 2017 Domaine Josmeyer Riesling would be both our and the in-house sommelier’s recommendation, ideal for imbuing some delicate fruit notes into the fish, and tempering any lingering aftertaste with its slight acidity.
But then, bottles uncorked and glasses sipped, it’s back to the seafood for our dearest dish of the meal. It’s a cliché to call any plate a ‘revelation’, but these divine, chargrilled morsels really were biblically good. Soft, juicy and with thick lines of blackened, acrid flavour seared into their flesh, they may well be some of the best scallops we’ve ever eaten — and the Gentleman’s Journal team spends a fair share of its summers along the coast of Cowes.
But back to that wine list, because no Japanese meal — no matter how hard those Nordic influences try — is complete without a shot of sake. Happily, not only is Sachi’s sake menu helpfully divided into sections (including ‘Soft & Mellow’, ‘Aromatic & Floral’ and ‘Earthy & Umami’), but there’s also a sake sommelier on hand, working to an extensive list curated by one of the UK’s only ‘Sake Samurais’.
And, even if that doesn’t take your fancy, the Japanese are today world-renowned for their fine whiskies, and Pantechnicon’s basement restaurant boasts one of the longest lists of these spirits in London. From a Hibiki 30-Year to a Yamasaki 25, there’s much to explore for the enthusiast. And, even if you’re just looking to dip your toe into the world of Japanese whisky, head mixologist Gento Torigata has any number of cocktails for you — including an Old Fashioned mixed with fig and caramelised soy sauce.
It’s a suitably fusiony finish to a world-spanning wonder of a meal. And, if you’re looking to clash your cultures together soon, allow us to recommend Sachi. With those Scandi sensations and seafood nonpareil? Nobody blends cuisines better.
Sachi at Pantechnicon