Saki is probably one of my top five — maybe even my top three — London restaurants at the moment.
Situated just across the road from Smithfield Market, it's perhaps not in the most obvious part of town for fine dining; but it's worth the trip.
My first visit was on a Wednesday evening in October 2007; I dragged uon along with me, having booked two places at the sushi counter. There were a few people dining at the smaller tables, and another couple joined us at the counter a little later on. We had the six-course kaiseki with matched wines and sakes. The wine pairing was perhaps a mistake; it wasn't paced particularly well, with too much alcohol at the start of the meal and not enough at the end.
The food was very good though.
The first course was half-cooked lobster with mizuna in a tasty sesame sauce. I do like the half-cooked (mi-cuit) style for fish.
We were both very keen on the second course of seared salmon slices wrapped around marinaded raw onion and served with a thin green chilli sauce. Looking back, this dish is comparable to the yellowtail sashimi with green chilli salsa that rjw1 and I recently had at Dinings. I would like to eat more sashimi in this style.
Tempura was third; I am never very excited by tempura, so I'm not the right person to comment on this course. I had absolutely no complaints about it though; the batter was hot, crisp, not greasy, and not tough.
Salmon teriyaki followed this; the sushi chef said we could have rice with this if we wanted, but he didn't recommend this since the sushi course was next, and so we followed his advice. He was right.
The fifth course comprised chutoro, yellowtail, and prawn nigiri, and inside-out rolls with shiso leaf. We were positively encouraged to eat the nigiri with our hands; the waitstaff brought round warm handwipes in advance, and the chef recommended we use fingers instead of chopsticks. The rice portions on the nigiri were smaller than I've had anywhere else, which I was pleased about in the context of the multi-course meal, and the fish portion was in proportion to the rice.
The final course was ice cream (green tea flavour, I think), and a small portion of cake, which doop was very pleased with. (I'm not a dessert person, but he is, so if he likes it then it's good.)
Service was patchy and sometimes slightly awkward. One of my wine glasses was removed before I'd finished drinking from it, and doop's dessert plate was whipped away just as I was about to transfer my portion of cake to it. Overall, I did feel as though we were rushed through the meal slightly. (Note: these issues were not at all in evidence on our latest visit, earlier this month.)
The sushi chef was very chatty and friendly, and sitting at the sushi counter was definitely a good choice. In fact, he remembered us when we visited nine months later, accompanied by julietk, for the vegan kaiseki which I will post about shortly. I'm always surprised when someone recognises me! Though I have a feeling that when they do, it's because I was the scruffiest person who ever entered their restaurant — this would explain why it never happens in pubs :)