As we walked down Portobello road, city mapper in hand and looking forward to an evening of “traditional sushi” in a “contemporary and ambient” setting we were surprised to find we had reached our location, what appeared to be a pub. However, from the moment we stepped inside UKAI we were met with a welcoming and calming serenity which left us quickly reminded that one should never judge a book by its cover.
Our wait for our third dinner companion provided the perfect opportunity to dive straight into the cocktail list. Knowing that this menu is just as famed as the food menu, with its extensive and exquisite, we were quite eager to try as many as we could. We tried the acclaimed Lady Macha, which was anything but boring with a Velvet Macha tea being spun among Ciroc Vodka. A highlight was the Kyoto Style Mojito, not only was it delicious but enticing to look at. Featuring an authentic Japanese ice carving surrounded by mint and dried lime slices. It has to be said though, our overall favourite was the Singapore Sling – a sweet delight with a homemade grenadine.
We were then fortunate enough to have UKAI head chef Alex, come over not only introduce himself but to tell us that he would like to bring us his house specialties to try. This was a fabulous idea as we’d been struggling to narrow down our selection (which at this point was practically three-quarters of the menu) and little did we know just what a treat we were in for.
We started with a mouth-watering Salmon Mango tartare and from then on it was one relish to another, with standouts being the signature Kampachi Salad, the Beef Tenderloin Toban Yaki that melted in our mouths and the luscious salmon fillet from the charcoal grilled Robata section, both of which were quite frankly hard to share. The popular choice of a sashimi platter was fresh, succulent and tasty, which only left us wanting more.
When it came to desserts we were brought a selection of Mochi, sweet Japanese rice cakes filled with ice cream. These were of a unique taste and included flavors such as Matcha and Mango providing a very flavorsome kick. The Yuzu cheesecake and warm chocolate brownie, plus a round of Expresso Martinis were very tempting and became a perfectly indulgent way to end the meal.
There is a strong sense of passion which runs right through UKAI, from head chef Alex, to the servers and into each dish that comes out, looking and tasting more fantastic than the last. UKAI is the perfect spot for a group of friends catching up, to impress a date or even an in-law; and with their scrumptious ornate Japanese cuisine and enticing cocktails, it would be hard not to be impressed!