Friday, January 15, 2010

Could Umu be Michelin’s dark horse?

The kaiseki meal I had earlier this week at Umu in Mayfair was not only the best meal I’ve had outside Japan but one of the best all year (and I mean in the last 12 months not this year, obviously) But nowhere has it been touted for a second star in the round-ups of likely suspects for the 2010 Michelin Great Britain Guide which is published next Tuesday.

Given the fact that Tokyo (I seem to recall) boasts more Michelin stars than any other city and the fact that Michelin rates high-end Japanese food more highly than any other ethnic cuisine I think it could be the surprise promotion. (Well, totally wrong with this speculation! They still have just one. Jan 15th)

Actually they deserve three but Michelin moves at a snail’s pace when it comes to awarding its ‘macarons’.

You can see my write-up of what was quite an astonishingly good meal on my Matching Food & Wine website. Unfortunately it’s not the best medium for photographs so here are a few more (rather blurry) examples of the dishes we ate.

Although its prices may seem steep Umu is nowhere near as expensive as a comparable restaurant in Kyoto, the city that kaiseki cuisine originally comes from. Their set-price menus start from £65.

I dined at Umu as a guest of KOJ (Koshu of Japan) which promotes Japanese Koshu wines)

Have you ever been to Umu and if so what do you think of it? And what's your favourite Japanese restaurant?



  1. The food looks so intriguing I probably wouldn't be able to concentrate on the wine! Sadly, of course, prices will inevitably rise on the award of further stars and the décor and service will have to be ramped up which in turn will demand more and more money...

  2. Hello Fiona, Wow some visually stunning looking dishes, although a set menu starting at £65, it is maybe to expensive in my opinion. Given that by the time you add drinks of any quality you can more than double that per head.

    Interesting what you said about the wines, (in the link article)I appreciate that as you say the main enjoyment, would be to savour a Japanese wine, with a Japanese meal.

    However if to enjoy a wine, I would have to adjust my palate first. Why would I. I would probably choose a different wine, one which is to my taste and which would suit the food being served. Good food, and Good wine afterall.

  3. Regardless of whether Umu gains more stars it's still the best Japanese in town - I love it, one day when I earn millions (!) I'll dine there every week (and travel to Japan a lot too!)

    Great piece Fiona, am envious of such a lovely meal :)

  4. Well it is good but not good enough for Michelin it appears! It didn't get promotion which is bizarre given how many stars they award in Tokyo. Double standards, I would say!

    I do think it's worth trying an unfamiliar wine from time to time, Luigi. As I said in the piece the wines wouldn't have stood out on their own but did work well with most of the food

  5. My ex boyfriend took me to Umu and I loved it (blogged here but the price really is prohibitive, otherwise they'd never get rid of me.

    Another place I thought was great was Sushi Hiro in Ealing. Of course that's a bit of a schlep, so Atari-Ya takeaway or Ten Ten Tei in Brewer Street for an easier fix.

  6. Cheaper than going to Japan though, Lizzie! Your meal sounds amazing too. I've always meant to go to Sushi Hiro but have never got round to it. Must rectify that!

  7. Hi Fiona,

    I find Umu horribly expensive. I have had some lovely meals there, but do not go there any longer as my first port of call for good Japanese.

    Rather, I go to Soseki in the perimeter of the Swiss Re tower. The interior is stunningly designed using woodblock prints and kimono silk in unusual ways (such as ceiling panels and tables). Soseki, like Umu, does "kaiseki meets London" but at a more affordable price. A price that will not bankrupt the person who wishes to get top flight Japanese more than once a year. Also Soseki has a lovely Matcha Bar which does almost authentic matcha, takeaway. Delicious.

  8. Thanks Donna - that's a great tip-off! I'll certainly give it a try.

  9. Umu is a truly fantastic restaurant for Japanese cuisine and I agree with the sentiments here that it is one of the best in town! I've been to Soseki as well, as Donna suggested, and it too is a great restaurant - both are certainly up there with the best Japanese restaurants in London in my opinion! This is a wonderful article and I absolutely love the photos you took here, really stunning!