Zuma is a modern Japanese sushi and Robatayaki (grilled skewers) restaurant with an excellent sake bar and lounge. It’s on a small back street in Knightsbridge behind the Jaeger store and is such a quiet area that you wouldn’t even know it was there except for the beautiful people hanging about and the double-parked Hummers near the entrance.
We were there for dinner recently with the usual 7:30 p.m. booking and the two-hour time limit. This seems to be the unfortunate trend in hip and happening places in London. Either adhere to the time limit or dine eleswhere. The interiors are stunning and is lighter and roomier than the dark underground concepts of Hakkasan and Yauatcha. The restaurant was designed by superpotato (a famous Japanese design firm also credited with the amazing Mezza9 at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore).
The menu is divided into four sections: Small dishes and Salads, Sushi and Sashimi, From the Robata grill and Zuma dishes. All the food are served in small portions that can and should be shared and come out whenever they are ready. That is another trend in modern restaurant dining today – small tasting plates which gives the diner a chance to order as many dishes as he/she can finish (an excellent French example of this is L’atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris and now also in London, New York and Las Vegas).
To start, we had the spicy fried tofu with avocado salad and Japanese herbs and the sashimi platter of 5 types of fish. The crispy tofu was coated with a sesame seed-herb mixture that offset the sesame oil and soy sauce dresing on the avocado salad. The sashimi was elegantly presented in an extra large stoneware bowl filled with crushed ice – there were 2 slices easch of hotate (sweet scallops), saba (mackerel) toro (fatty tuna), sake (salmon) and hamachi (yellowtail) perfectly matched with some cold sake.
From the Robata grill we had the chicken wings with sea salt and lime – a simple dish that when done well is wonderful followed by a rare rib-eye steak with daikon ponzu sauce and garlic crisps, the fantastic pork skewers with yuzu and miso and finally the asparagus with wafu sauce and sesame. Sounds like a lot but as I said, the portions are quite small – about two skewers per order – except for the rib eye which was a plateful. Dessert was a dark chocolate pudding with a warm caramel centre and vanilla ice cream
Service at Zuma is a well-oiled machine. Despite the running to and fro of the numerous waitstaff and kitchen team, we got all our orders right away and with some minutes to spare on our two-hour time limit. The waiter was efficient and helpful and the manager came to check that all was well. I suppose this should be expected considering the other downside of London dining, the automatic 12.5% service charge added to the bill (think really hard if the service was exceptional before adding another 15% gratuity at the end). At Zuma at least, the charge was worth it.
Zuma – 5 Rahael St., Knightsbridge
London SW7 1DL
Tel: +44 (20) 7584 1010
Hot tip: Sunday evenings are a good time to go – easier to get a table yet still packed with a chic crowd. Once you give your table up, you can always have a digestif at the lounge/bar.