London’s home to a fair few exceptional sushi and omakase restaurants, but few can boast an entrance that gives out the serious Tokyo vibes like newcomer Roji, which has just opened in Mayfair. Sure, there’s nothing Japanese about South Molton Street, but about half way along you’ll spot a small entrance to Globe Yard that runs down to Japanese restaurant Chisou and its new sister restaurant, Roji, hidden behind a discreet entrance in the alley. Roji does in fact translate as “hidden path” so the clue’s in the name if you speak Japanese.
Once inside the tiny restaurant you’ll see a wooden sushi counter that wraps around an open kitchen and stools for just 10 people. Sleek natural woods, minimalist design and soft lighting create a lovely secluded atmosphere. Roji is currently open for two dinner sittings, at 6pm and 8:30pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and it’s one of the finest omakase experiences in the city.
In the kitchen there’s husband and wife team Tamas Naszai and Tomoko Hasegawa, who have experience working at some of the best Japanese restaurants all over the world. Roji is their first restaurant together and a real labour of love – you can tell the thought and care that’s gone into this place.
The attention to detail extends to the menu too, which is a 14 course omakase experience (£150pp) that lasts a little over two hours. We really admire the fact that they are largely using British fish on the menu as well as UK-grown vegetables and just everything local wherever possible. It can be a little uncomfortable when Japanese restaurants in London boast of flying in fish from Tokyo, as good as it usually is, so the approach at Roji feels much more in keeping with the times, and tastes all the better for it.
There’s two distinct halves to the menu: a series of small plates and then a selection of nigiri, before closing out the meal with dessert. Each dish is introduced by Tamas or Tomoko to explain the conception and, crucially, talk about the local provenance of the ingredients. From the first half, highlights included a beautiful dish of extremely thinly sliced Arctic char served with a gooseberry dressing and fresh herbs; Japanese grilled eel and glutinous rice (always a favourite for us); hand dived scallop with seaweed; and Dorset trout with coastal vegetables.
The series of nigiri that came next was exceptional and the theatre of watching all the fish being sliced and prepared was fantastic to see. The preparation of the rice, an absolutely crucial part of creating perfect nigiri, was also fascinating to watch, done in several stages and with complete skill and care. It was easily some of the finest sushi we’ve had in London.
To drink there’s a stellar sake list, exclusively from Tengu Sake. The list includes many hard to find varieties including bottles from the Noguchi Naohiko Toji’s Sake Institute in Ishikawa. There’s also homemade colas, tonics and syrups which you can either have as soft drinks or made into cocktails.
We had high hopes for Roji and it turned out to be a pretty faultless experience. Clearly the price point and style means is not an everyday restaurant, but if you’re serious about Japanese food then you’ll want to check out Roji very soon, before it becomes impossible to get in to.
56b South Molton Street, London W1K 5SH