Absolutely reviews TOKii, a Japanese restaurant in the heart of Marylebone
By Nicola Owens
The smell of a restaurant may not seem like a big deal, but TOKii proves otherwise. You are invited in by the almost addictive scent: a mix of wood, frankincense, bergamot, patchouli and juniper (it has proved so popular, it will soon be bottled and available to purchase). It pervades the small but perfectly formed boutique hotel that is The Prince Akatoki, home to the Japanese restaurant.
TOKii has warm atmospheric lighting, and tables made from whole oak trees decked with beautiful floral displays. The décor is typically Japanese, simple, fresh and clean, while relaxing yet upbeat music plays; it’s clear every element of the dining experience has been crafted to perfection.
Welcoming hosts lead me to The Malt Bar for a pre-dinner cocktail, where I’m presented with the showstopping Ceremonial Spritz – an alchemy of sparkling sake, pale rose wine, homemade lychee liquor, elderflower liquor, presented in a carafe drenched in dry ice.
Back in the restaurant, there’s a selection of tapas-style hot and cold dishes to choose from, designed for sharing. Wafer thin, cured salmon mixed with fresh blood orange and flavoured with subtle shaved fennel and yuzu dressing disappears on the tongue. Next, smooth carpaccio of Yellowtail with green peppercorn dressing and fluffy shrimp tempura, with ginger and daikon dashi refreshes the palate.
For a main, I opt for the wagyu beef and the robata-grilled aubergine. The A5 wagyu beef is utterly divine – tender, succulent and with a delicious rich flavour served with a spicy ponzu dip and truffle fries. The aubergine is mixed thoughtfully with chilli, spring onion and ginger miso providing a lovely, fresh contrast.
The attentive hosts then suggest I sample a selection from their sushi counter. Not every Japanese restaurant has its own ‘itamae’ (master of sushi) but it makes a difference – TOKii’s nigiri, the thumb-length pillows of rice with raw fish on top, fall apart in the mouth with just the right kick from the wasabi to the sinuses.
Outstanding presentation on handmade glazed tableware add to the unique multi-sense experience. The team at TOKii clearly understand how to appeal, not just to taste, but to touch, smell, sight and sound, making it all work in harmony to turn a meal in to an event.
While vanilla mascarpone, pear, pomegranate and chocolate may not sound the obvious plate partners, they make a memorable dessert. Just enough sweet richness cut by sharp fruit and cream cheese acidity to bring a fitting close to an incredible encounter with Japanese-inspired cuisine.
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