Dinings, Marylebone

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 | |

I probably spend about 80% of my time online looking at food blogs, reading tweets by food bloggers or looking at pictures of food on flickr. Sometimes I happen across a restaurant which has received a serious amount of praise, look at their website and decide I have to go, as soon as possible. Dinings is one such place. The a la carte menu looked incredibly appealing, but being conscious of costs, I decided the lunch menu would be perhaps more appropriate. Consisting of some sushi sets,  Donburi items, and a couple of noodle soup bowls, it aims to give a taster of the cooked items and items from the raw bar. We decided to both go for donburi, which came with a choice of sashimi salad or mixed tempura, and the ever-present miso soup.

Green tea pot. Loose leaf. Not as good as the version served at Asakusa, and a bit disappointing that you have to even pay for it (£1 per person), but it's fine.

Green tea cup. Nice cups.

Miso soup. Spring onions, tofu, wakame. Very good miso soup, didn't taste like it was out of a packet. Well prepared. I considered asking to change this for the lobster miso soup on the daily specials board at extra cost, but decided this would be enough.

Edamame. Topped with Maldon sea salt. I don't like these at all. Still ate them though.

Mixed tempura. Clean tasting tempura, showing a deft hand at frying, with no oily or soggy bits. One prawn, a mushroom, a courgette and a bit of sweet potato. Above average tempura, but no tentsuyu sauce meant minus points from me.

Sashimi salad. I don't really remember what fish was included apart from the prawn visible in the picture, but it was topped with ponzu sauce, which was composed nicely. A worthy side dish.

Eel and foie gras donburi (£19.50). Just about the most expensive thing on the lunch menu. It was a toss up between this and just the eel, at £14 (£5.50 for the foie gras, essentially). I'm not sure it was worth it; I'll be honest and admit that I'm not particularly enamoured by foie gras. It's fine, but I am not a massive foie fan. Unagi, on the other hand is something which I'd consider my favourite food. Many people shirk when you mention that you like eel, but they tend to have jellied efforts in mind. Grilled and topped with a sweet sauce (Kabayaki sauce), the version at Dinings is probably the best I've tried in London. With a firm bite, not dissimilar to canned sardines but with a sweetness drawn from the sauce and a smokiness from the grilling, it's a joy to eat. The rice underneath is cooked perfectly and seasoned well. The flavour of mirin and soy sauce from the kabayaki ramp things up and the remaining rice is wonderful to eat.

Chirashi don (£15). Damn. As good as the eel was, I wish I got this. Featuring: tuna (one normal piece and one fatty piece - otherwise known as otoro. The latter absolutely melted in the mouth); mackerel; salmon; scallops; prawn; snapper; seabass; yellowtail. As far as I can tell, this changes depending on what the Itamae has available to him on that day, as it should be. Everything was absolutely fantastic and melted in the mouth, but the yellowtail in particular was outstanding. One of the most impressive Chirashi spreads I've come across. As I said, I wish I got this...

Citrusy, spicy sauce. This accompanied the chirashi. Not sure of the correct name, but I dipped my tempura in it. Pleasant.

Chocolate fondant (£6.20). This took a bit of time to come out, which suggests they quite rightly baked it from scratch. Rather expensive at over six pounds, but a great fondant, nonetheless. A rich chocolatey flavour, the interior molten-like liquid chocolate hiding beneath the crisp shell on the outside. Served with a single scoop of homemade-tasting vanilla ice cream (topped with sesame crunch), this was a decent dessert.

The final bill. 10% "optional" service charge rather than the now-standard 12.5%, and a slightly confusing, overly-itemised format. £50 for food of this standard is reasonable. The ingredients are wonderful, the chef has credentials (he used to work at NOBU, which explains the modern, European/South American twists on some of the menu) and the service is cheerful, if a touch too eager - we were asked for drinks orders twice. I still have to try Roka, but for Japanese food at this price range, I think Dinings is a great restaurant which serves fantastic sashimi and the lunch menu is worth investigating.
Booking is advisable. The sushi bar upstairs has about 6 covers, whilst the downstairs area has room for about 20.

22 Harcourt St,

Opening Times:
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 12pm-2.30pm
Dinner: Monday-Saturday, 6pm-10.30pm

Dinings on Urbanspoon


Chris said...

Looks smashing, great photos. I agree that foie gras has no place on Asian menus - the foie gras sushi I had at Taste last year made me want to retch.

Lizzie said...

I was put off going to Dinings because of their foie gras maki at Taste - I find the combination of foie gras and rice to be really unpleasant. That eel looks delicious though.

The Grubworm said...

This is the second positive review of Dinings I've read in the last couple of days. Beginning to think that it's definitely somewhere to go.

I think the Chirashi Don in particular looks good, although I did like the sound of the eel too. And it;s good to know they can do the simple things like Miso well.

Great review and good pics.

Ibzo said...

Chris and Lizzie - Thanks for the kind words! Seems the foie gras sushi is a loser, and it does seem like foie and rice is a bad, bad idea. Apart from that it was good! Could do with some more of that eel...the portion was very generous.

Grubworm - Thank you very much. I'd definitely recommend the chirashi! The eel is super, but the chirashi...the stuff dreams are made of.