Dinings @ London

Let this post go out to my dining companion; who brought me here knowing I would love it, who always seems to know what I would order from ANY menu, and who generously picked up the check for this meal. Thank you. (Disclaimer: My horrendous photography obviously does no justice to Dinings)

“Everybody talks about Dinings,” my friend said to me. Here’s why.

Chefs Tomonari Chiba and Masaki Sugisaki hail from Nobu London, but left to found Dinings – a Japanese small plates concept adapted from traditional izakayas. The innovative menu shows European influences, but authenticity and freshness are never compromised under these chefs. They cooked their way to place Dinings at the top of Zagat’s “Best Japanese Restaurants in London”.

For a top restaurant, there is not a trace of pomposity here. The decor is utilitarian and there is no dress code (my partner even advised me to change out of my dress into jeans instead). The waiters are so friendly and knowledgable, eager to talk at length about the menu, from cover to cover. This is because Dinings has always pride themselves on making customers feel comfortable in a friendly atmosphere. Be forewarned that the space can get quite cramped, but I rather enjoyed eavesdropping on neighbouring conversations.

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First dish to arrive was our tartar chips, which are homemade potato crisps, filled with avocado, toro fatty tuna, vegetables and wasabi-jalepeno sauce. This is a signature of Dinings, and there are other variations of these chips if tuna is not your thing. Whatever you do, this is a must order. I had a conversation with my colleague the other day wholly on the chips at Dinings. (£8.50)

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The seabass carpaccio with fresh spring truffle and ponzu jelly, some say the best dish at Dinings (according to our waitress). Get used to it, because every dish here is decadent as hell. Check out the generous layers of truffle on top. The sour and tangy flavours whetted our appetites. However, we noted that if this dish were to come later during the meal we would not like it as much, because the sourness is very strong. (£19.80)

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Tuna tartare with fresh truffle was an off the menu item. Can you tell that I love my starters? (£17.80)

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Wagyu beef tataki with ponzu and porcini oil (£18.85) Picture below from zagat because my own picture sucks.

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Time for some hot food, because everything before this was cold. The grilled aubergine with sweet miso was a beautiful giant half piece of aubergine, great texture (firm yet melt in your mouth), cooked in sweet miso paste and served piping hot! This would convert even eggplant haters! I still dream about the flavour! (£6.70) We also got a miso soup with salmon that is not pictured, (£4.75).

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Seared yellowtail belly with yuzu kyosho (yuzu with a black pepper kick – another signature at Dinings) (£5.45)

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Scottish salmon “zuke” style topped with caramelized onion-soy-jam. (£4.95)

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Seared Yuzu-soy marinated Santa Barbara shrimp sushi topped with kizami-wasabi, which is a Dinings version of wasabi. (£6.45)

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Seared wagyu beef sushi topped with foie-gras and sweet soy (£8.45)

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I always have the best dessert at Japanese restaurants. Below is mustard shiso ice cream, topped with a pork slice. (£6.70) The mustard was mild, yet undeniable. So ingenious and one of the best things I’ve had in life. I like to think of it as a new age salted caramel.

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We booked 2 weeks in advance and the total damage was £150 after tax. Amazing meal and will definitely come back.

St. John (Nose to Tail Dining) @ London

Nose to tail dining is a fairly recent culinary trend that has been rippling through the foodie world, even finding some footing in our sunny island (ie WOLF Nose to Tail Dining). If you are not familiar with the concept, it refers to utilising every part of the animal in food preparation, including those rarely used in conventional cuisine like offal. Typical dishes include pigs’ ears, ducks’ hearts, bone marrow, etc. This is to fully stretch the potential of the animal and cooking possibilities.

Since I am in London, I thought what better than to go where it all started. Chef Fergus Henderson is the pioneer of Nose to tail dining, and has published a best selling cult cookbook “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Dining”. His restaurant St. John’s was awarded a Michelin star in 2009, amongst other accolades. That’s why we were giddy with excitement when we saw the man himself when we visited St. John’s a few days ago. He isn’t always there, but they were filming an interview that day.

You can choose to sit at the wine and bakery where the wine and bread are prepared, but we had our meal in the adjacent dining room. The whole place was white walls, cement floors and wooden chairs. You are also encouraged to turn off mobile phones during meals. It’s like a blank canvas, and the only impression you should form of the restaurant should be based on their food.

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Rabbit offal & celeriac was a starter that came first. It was lightly pan fried and the natural flavours of the liver and kidney were allowed to shine. It came with radish and rocket on the side. If you are a fan of innards in Chinese cooking, this dish would be right up your alley. But unlike Chinese styles, this is a lot more organic and natural tasting.

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Brown crab meat on toast was thick and creamy. They were generous with the crab meat, and there was lemon on the side to squeeze should you want a zesty kick. I felt that this was an elite level of comfort food, because it’s good old toast, but with a really kick ass topping. Lovely to eat.

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Grilled ox heart, beetroot and horseradish was surprisingly meaty. Is a heart supposed to be this meaty? It tasted very much like meat rather than an organ. Perfectly cooked. This is a must order!

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Snails, sausage and chickpeas was the most flavourful part of our meal. Sausage was salty, the broth was spicy, snails were chewy and chickpeas were chickpeas. Yummy!

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Can’t decide which is the best dish because all were so good. We were so pleased with all the food. And already planning our next visit to try everything else.

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