With the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, one thing that I haven’t managed to have for a long time was Japanese food. One day, whilst I was doing some internet searching, I came across Hannah Japanese restaurant in Waterloo. The menu looked interesting enough, and with the credentials of chef Daisuke Shimoyama (who was the head chef at Umu in London before he opened this place) and the fact that he’s a qualified sake sommelier, I thought I’d booked the place and give it a try – at least I know the sake menu would be decent enough.
For dinner, there are 2 set menus to choose from – a 10-course Omakase Menu (£105) and a shorter 6-course Omakase Menu (£75). As usual, Russell and I went for the longer menu as we wanted to try everything, and we also went for the sake pairing to share between us.
The first “course” was actually 5 small dishes of Seasonal Starter Selection – all came on a large block of wood. In terms of presentation, it’s definitely got the wow factor. For the two of us, fortunately we were seated at a table of 4 – otherwise accommodating two blocks of wood on the table for 4 people would be a bit more challenging (one of the neighbouring tables did have 4 people and I must say that I wouldn’t have enjoyed this course so much with the more restricted table space). From right to left:
- Sweet potato, aubergine, lotus root & padron pepper
- Steamed vegetables with mushroom
- Slow cooked duck breast with duck sauce
- Tuna Fish with chilli sauce
The 5 starters all tasted very fresh and delicately flavoured. The first sake for the pairing was Koshi No Kanbai’s Muku (“Pure Realm”) which was light and worked well with these light starters.
The next course was “Sushi” – Langoustine Sudachi Rice with Kombu Cured Wagyu Beef Tartare and Caviar. It came with a piece of seaweed paper which you have to wrap round the rice and beef. The beef just melted in the mouth and it’s a little piece of heaven worth having again! The sake served with this dish was Kokuryu “Ryu” (Gold Dragon) – a daiginjo that was so bland that it lacks any sort of characteristics for me and so I might as well be drinking water!
Third course is Sea Urchin Tempura with Shiso Leaf & Truffle. I love sea urchin but it seems that every time I see this on an a-la-carte menu at a Japanese restaurant, conveniently the sea urchin is not available. So I am pleased to see this course on the set menu at Hannah! It’s topped with a copious amount of shaved truffle also. The sea urchin and truffle flavours kind of got a bit lost with the cooking, but still very delicious (I actually came to Hannah again the week after for lunch, and this dish was a lot better, with a buttery flavour of the sea urchin). The sake that came with this course was Sohomare “Indigo”, a junmai ginjo.
Next is the Seasonal Grilled Vegetables and Pork Belly with Seasonal Mushroom. Now this is quite something – the flavour of the various vegetables works well with the tender pieces of pork belly that blends in well with a rich flavoursome sauce. I was literally using the chopstick to try my best to pick up every last drop of the sauce using the bits of vegetables. If I wasn’t at a restaurant, I would have used my fingers to wipe the sauce from the block – finger-licking good! It paired well with the Masumi Hiyaoroshi “Sleeping Beauty”, a junmai ginjo made using the yamahai method.
The next course was Tsukuri, a selection of 5 kinds of sashimi.
From left to right going clockwise (The middle one was cuttlefish):
- Fatty Tuna
- Sea Bass
- Salmon Tataki
The sake served with the sashimi was Kuzuryu “Junmai” (Nine-Headed Dragon) – again, not really something I was too impressed with.
The sixth course was Hot Somen Noodle – Japanese thin somen noodles with sea bream shabu shabu and dashi stock. The sea bream was beautifully cooked, and it was a very enjoyable dish. The sake served was Dassai 45 – I love Dassai anyway…. Do I need to say more? Actually I do…. after tasting other sake earlier on, this one actually was not as spectacular. But still very drinkable and definitely worked well with the sea bream and the soup stock.
The course that followed was the Charcoal Grilled Miyazaki A5 Wagyu. The aroma of the charcoal was rich and comforting, as soon as the dish came to the table. The flavour of the beef reminded me of the most delicious bakkwa (beef jerky) from Asia (even though the meat was far more tender than bakkwa – just that BBQ flavour notes of sweet and umami).
The sake that came with the wagyu beef was Tamagawa’s Tokubetsu Junmai. Now this was a very nice discovery – the toji (master sake brewer) is a British guy (moved from Cornwall to Kyoto) called Philip Harper – who has written several books on sake, including “The Book of Sake: A Connoisseurs Guide”
Even more interesting is the pairing of this one. It has a rather umami aroma and has a umami and cereal grain flavour when tasting on its own. However, with the wagyu beef and the salt level of the sauce, it brings down the alcohol flavour of this sake and releases a hidden orange flavour in this sake.
The last savoury course was probably the dish I looked forward to the most: Lobster Curry Rice.
Imagine the best fried pieces of lobsters, and then served in a rich curry sauce with rice – this is like katsu curry heaven!
The sake that was served with this curry rice was Seitoku “Bessen”. On its own, the sake came across a bit harsh. But it mellowed out quite nicely with the curry and the pairing worked pretty well. So a reminder that this is a good choice to pair with curry or another big flavour in future – I will have to try this with my Okinawan pork belly!
There were 2 desserts to finished off the meal – one was a fresh fruit salad with sake, and the second was Hojicha ice-cream with matcha and azuki bean paste. Both were very nice.
And again there’s a sake to go with each dessert (so by the time we finished the meal, we felt that we had drunk a bit too much even though we shared one sake flight!) – for the fruit salad, it’s a umeshu (plum sake) – I couldn’t quite figure out the details… I’d like to say that this is from Kamoizumi Brewery Company but not totally sure. For the ice-cream, it was paired with Tamagawa “Time Machine” 1712 – Because of the kimoto brewing method, this has a more “funky” aroma on the nose (purely a personal preference thing), and despite not being a huge fan of sweet sake, this one is pretty nice and mellow, and I would be quite happy to order it in future as a dessert sake.
On the whole, it was a very enjoyable meal and definitely one of the more impressive Japanese meals I’ve had in London in recent years. I returned a week later to try the shorter 6-course omakase lunchtime menu with my nephew (who loves Japanese food and the poor chap doesn’t get many opportunities to have Japanese food, let alone decent Japanese food, where he lives currently), and he was so happy with the meal too!
Address: County Hall, Southbank Riverside, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 7PB, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 3802 0402
Opening Hours: Wednesday: 5 – 10 pm ; Thursday – Saturday: 12 – 3 pm, 5 – 10 pm ; Sunday: 12- 3 pm, 6 – 10 pm
Total: 18/20 [Based on visits in November 2021 and December 2021 ]
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