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Dinings Review

Lizzie Mabbott finds Dinings’ Japanese tapas overhyped

Written by . Published on June 28th 2011.

Dinings Review

ON a non-descript street near Edgeware Road Station, Dinings quietly operates. The restaurant is at odds with its pricing; when I sat down in a cramped basement, my small table for two wobbled. The padded backrest had come away from the wall and I prodded it unhappily. The menu reads as I expected, as the head chef had come from Nobu. It was sushi but with a difference, ‘Japanese Tapas’.

The menu reads as I expected, as the head chef had come from Nobu. It was sushi but with a twist, ‘Japanese Tapas’.

Sugarsnap peas pepperoncinoSugarsnap peas pepperoncino

Sugarsnap peas  ‘pepperoncino’ were cooked to crunchy perfection and tossed in a garlicky oil, topped with a sprinkling of red powder. A long platter of seabass carpaccio from the specials board came with a ponzu sauce and was topped with truffle salsa. At around £14 this was no cheap dish. The fish was delicate and smooth, but any flavour of the flesh was utterly lost with the huge whallop of truffle flavour that was to linger for the rest of the meal.

Salmon and chilli miso soup (£4.45) presented more big flavour, but the salmon chunks were silky smooth and the broth addictively savoury. The lobster miso soup (£5.35) was a pure contrast being sweet and mild.

Spicy wasabi toro roll (£12.50), filled with minced fatty tuna wasn’t particularly spicy. The citric tang of shiso shone through, but again we struggled to get much of the flavour of the tuna.

Eel foie gras makiEel foie gras maki

Continuing on the sushi theme, I’ve tried foie gras sushi before and I wasn’t a fan, finding the combination of rice and the texture of the liver unpleasant. However, when paired with eel (£9,95) it sounded like it could work and we took a chance. We never thought we’d be presented with so much foie gras – we weren’t sure how to tackle it, as balancing the sweet caramelized slice of the foie atop each roll would be ungainly and messy. In the end, we opted for roughly chopping the slices of liver in half which was much more manageable. To our surprise, it worked. Sweet fleshiness of the eel melded perfectly with the velvety smooth liver. I felt guilty for leaving some of the foie gras behind, but it was more than we could handle.

Snow crab with three dipping saucesSnow crab with three dipping sauces

I’ve never tried snow crab, but it seems you only get the legs as that’s how it was presented to us, lightly battered. An intensely, possibly yuzu sauce was a favourite, followed by a spicy creamier variant and a sweet sticky soy. Juicy and slightly crunchy, these were sweet and delicious, though I question if they were worth the £16.80 price tag.

Nasu aubergine (£6), that silken sexy beast slathered with white miso was textbook. Burnished in places and at the point of structural collapse, we burnt our tongues shoveling it in.

Grilled salmon collarGrilled salmon collar

Last but not least was the grilled salmon collar with ponzu sauce (£8.20). A great big beast of a piece, it was good value at around £8. Fatty salmon meat was lightened by a good dunking in the acidic but sweet sauce but again, we found it’s placing in the meal to be odd. Hardly a light note to end on, it at least managed to get rid of any lingering truffle flavour.

A shared black sesame crème caramel was a curious beast. The caramel top foamed and foamed, looking like some sort of Vesuvius. After a good few mouthfuls, we hit a ball of ice cream and a dramatically grey black sesame custard. A few sprinklings of crushed peanuts really brought the dish together and it turned out to be one of my favourites.

Black sesame cr%26#232%3Bme caramelBlack sesame créme caramel

So a rather mixed beast. While I loved the snow crab legs and the dessert, the order of the dishes seemed rather out of whack. Truffle from the seabass carpaccio dominated throughout to the point where we even asked for fresh plates. The salmon collar being served last was a very rich end to the savoury portion of the meal.  For almost £70 a head, it seemed overpriced and overwrought.


Rating:           13/20

Breakdown:    6/10 food

                     4/5 service

                     3/5 ambience


22 Harcourt Street
London, W1H 4HH

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Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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