Wednesday, January 23, 2008


22 Harcourt Street
London W1H 4HH
0207 723 0666
(22 January 2008)

I went to see a screening of Faith without Fear a documentary about Islam by Irshad Manji at the Frontline club yesterday. She wrote a book called the Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in her Faith that became a best seller and earned her a certain amount of notoriety. She was present and did Q&A after the screening. I found her fascinating (extremely charismatic) and very thought provoking. As going to the Frontline Club involves going up to Paddington, i.e. to the top of my neighbourhood, I decided to invite the girlfriend to the restaurant Dinings as it is on the way back home.

I’ve know of this restaurant for a while but never been even though David & Michelle and the Chinese girls rave about the place and it is less than five minutes walk from my house. The place is a NOBU style Japanese/Fusion place that was started by a NOBU alumnus called Tomonari Chiba. The most remarkable thing about the place is the location in a non descript terrace in a really secluded street. More correctly, the Harcourt street is a side street near Edgware road that no one goes into unless they are on their way to the Swedish church (and naturally enough the fifty or so people who live there). Nonetheless the place is always full.

The second most remarkable thing is the price of the food. In London you just do not get value for money. There are plenty of quality places around but they all cost an arm and a leg. Actually, an arm and a leg won’t get you much. Dinings is Japanese and good Japanese food is always going to be expensive but I think they’ve achieved excellent value for money here.

We had five courses, two 250 ml bottles of Sake and green tea and the bill came to £80 with service. The food came to £46 or £9 a course which given the quality (and London) is really good. We had:

  1. Sea Bass & Yellowtail Sashimi (two pieces each) extremely fresh;
  2. Vegetable tempura ok, that’s dull but it was as good as it gets;
  3. Iberian pork shoulder with tomato sauce – crunchy and sweet without any sweetener added, really quite a feat;
  4. Grilled King Crab w/Spicy cream sauce – A difficult to describe dish, basically King Crab grilled in a blini pan covered in a cream sauce that had a consistency I did not recognise, had the girlfriend in rapture;
  5. Chu Toro Tataki (fatty tuna) w/Truffle miso sauce – the best dish of the night. The combination of truffle and miso is incredible and fatty tuna just the right vessel to carry the taste.

When we walked in we saw that our friends Catherine & Ailu (the Chinese girls above) where sitting at the bar in front of the Sushi kitchen. We joined them and as they are regulars at Dinings they really know the menu and offered us tastes of some of the food they where eating. The most memorable of those where a sashimi of some sort of white fish dressed in oil and fish sauce topped with coriander and red onion and a wrap of sea urchin that I loved but the girlfriend had nightmares about.

I foresee this becoming my new regular!

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