A convivial evening at Matsuri St James’s

Tempura at MatsuriI’ve had Matsuri listed on my Japanese Restaurants page ever since I started this blog. It’s one of the first Japanese restaurants in London I ever went to (back in the nineties) and I was taken there by people from the Japanese Embassy which is a good indicator of quality and authenticity. So when I was invited to a bloggers’ evening at the restaurant, which has just relaunched its sushi bar and appointed a new head chef, I jumped at the chance to go back and see how this old favourite was doing in a slightly newer guise.

Matsuri is essentially a teppan-yaki restaurant, where the food is cooked on an iron grill in front of the customers. Its large basement-level space (the bar is on the ground floor) is filled with horseshoe-shaped tables seating around a dozen customers around the grill where the chef works. It’s a theatrical style of cooking, where watching the skill of the the chef is half the fun.

Matsuri St James

Our meal began with sushi, though I was a little disappointed that they didn’t challenge us with some of the more interesting fish available from their new sushi bar; instead it was salmon, tuna and sushi rolls, nice but safe. They laid on gluten-free soy sauce for the gluten intolerant among us.

Matsuri St James

This was followed by tempura, a mix of vegetables and prawn, crisply cooked.

Matsuri St James

Then the teppan-yaki; first Alaskan black cod marinated in ginger, which I would say was the highlight of the meal.

Matsuri St James

It was followed by Galician beef T-bone steak with green and white asparagus.

Matsuri St James

I’m not a great meat-eater so this appealed to me less than the fish, and I couldn’t help looking enviously at vegetarian diners who got wonderful-looking prawns instead.

Matsuri St James

We followed this with garlic butter rice, also cooked on the grill, but no miso soup, which seemed a bit odd.

Matsuri St James

Then came the dessert, fire-ball ice-cream. This was served with pancakes and flamed on the grill, making a very satisfactory flame that reached almost to the ceiling.

Matsuri St James

Matsuri St James

The wines were notable too, particularly the Etna Red, I Vigneri Salvo Foti 2011, served with the beef and the dessert wine, Umenoyado Aragoshi Umeshu (plum wine). We ended, of course, with green tea.

Matsuri St James

Matsuri originally opened in 1993 as a joint venture between Kikkoman, the soy sauce makers, and JR-Central, the railway company. You might think it odd that a railway company is running a restaurant, but back in the early twentieth century the railway companies were the entrepreneurial powerhouses of Japan, setting up department stores, theatres, cinemas and hotels as well as restaurants and other forms of entertainment. It’s good to see JR, the state railway company, carrying on this tradition.

Matsuri St James

And it was good to see Matsuri was rocking with people, with a sizeable proportion of Japanese customers, particularly in the private dining areas.

Matsuri is on Bury St, just off Jermyn St. It’s open every day of the week for lunch and dinner. I was a guest of Matsuri but my review is my honest opinion.

10 thoughts on “A convivial evening at Matsuri St James’s

  1. This all looks delicious and beautifully photographed. I agree with you about the sushi – a safe selection. I know it’s not smart, but my favourite sushi is saba. Perhaps mackerel is too lowly these days or not chosen as its cured?

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    • Saba is my favourite too! We should start a campaign for more mackerel in sushi. It’s one of the few fish that’s easily obtainable in the UK as well as Japan.

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  2. Pingback: Top Five Japanese Restaurants for 2015 | Sequins and Cherry Blossom

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