Kensington, London

Those who like to make an entrance will love Akira, where chefs welcome newcomers by shouting ‘Irrashaimase!’ loud enough to make everyone jump. Set on the first floor of Japan House, the Japanese government’s cultural centre and shop, it is more gallery than grill house; a showcase for chef Shimizu Akira’s holy trinity of cooking principles: food, tableware and presentation. The robata omakase menu offers a snapshot of the kitchen’s formidable skills. A lavish appetiser of tuna and salmon rolls is followed by a 15-compartment box of sashimi so beautiful that, were its contents not perishable, we would hang it on the wall. We savour pickled lotus root, dainty squares of omelette, aromatic pork belly, slices of firm sea bass, a silky egg custard and bite-sized salads, alongside a steaming bowl of miso. For the main, juicy slivers of Wagyu and grilled kushi-yaki skewers are served on a sizzling hot rock, with a side of rice cooked in a donabe clay oven. Dessert is a Japanese take on crème brûlée in which, like everything here, form and function are in perfect harmony.

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