Marylebone High Street’s Taka is the second London opening by brother and sister team Andrey and Anastasia Datsenko, who were born and grew up in Tokyo. Taka Mayfair (now closed) opened in 2017 and this larger site in Marylebone takes over the spot of the popular Providores. Marylebone High Street has become something of a culinary hot spot – now home to another Ottolenghi, the hallmark of any foodie scene, surely – and just round the corner from Blandford Street, where you can find the wonderful Jikoni. Marylebone is bursting with great dining spots, but there’s always room for one more – and this one’s high up on My List.
In theory, thanks to its location Taka is a particularly strong contender for a post-Wigmore Hall concert dinner. Warning though: make your way over from Wigmore Street to Marylebone Street pronto and depending on concert finish time, perhaps even skip the encores. We arrived at 9.45pm – in keeping with our reservation – and were given a frosty reception with reminders by the minute that the kitchen was closing promptly at 10pm and our orders were required without delay. If restaurants are going to be so strict and seemingly unwelcoming to later diners, perhaps late bookings shouldn’t be taken?!
Given Taka had long been on My List, I’m keen to review its setting amd food objectively, though. Set across two floors, the Marylebone eatery feels minimalist and elegant, with lots of oak, timbers and tan leathers nodding to the ‘Japandi’ design movement – the work of B3 Designers, the interior force behind Roka, Hakkasan and Gymkhana.
Whilst the setting is muted and low-key, the food is anything but, thanks to an impressive menu devised by group executive chef Taiji Maruyama (Beaverbrook and Nobu) and head chef Jonathan Dowling. It’s a mix of Japanese tapas, robata dishes, sushi and rolls and their mochi flatbreads. Impressively for a Japanese restaurant, Taka also have a dedidcated vegan / “plant-powered” menu.
The restaurant describes itself as being firm believers in the Japanese philosophy of Shun, meaning food should only be eaten when it is at its best and at the height of its season. The ingredients fulfilled that promise – think a Japanese approach to farm-to-table, using the very best of British ingredients. There’s a strong focus on British ingredients, including vegetables sustainably sourced from Nama Yasai, a small family-owned organic farm in Lewes (East Sussex) specialising in Japanese produce.
Though strict with its closing time, overall the kitchen did not disappoint. I should warn, though, the menu is very much a small plates approach – portions are pretty small for the price. From the wide selection on offer – which is happily more than just sushi – I went for Nasu Dengaku (£9.50) – a fermented plaintain glazed miso aubergine – and the Grilled Courgette (£13.50) – with yuzu truffle, miso and summer truffle.
Both dishes were beautifully presented and exquisitely executed. The aubergine tasted like a slick culinary masterpiece loaded with rich undertones of fermented plantain, giving an already great dish extra depth and a welcome sweetness.
The courgette was equally bold, with the strong flavours of truffle singing through. Though both dishes were full of flavour, they had a certain elegance about them. The care placed in constructing each dish elevates Taka above the impersonality of the Scandi-owned Sticks n Sushi. Of course, both establishments exist to serve a different purpose, but there is something special about Taka.
It’s common for Japanese restaurants of this calibre to feel a little stuffy, but sushi snobbery is nowhere to be seen at Taka. The food here feels fun, creative and playful. Though the service was generally cold, our French waiter was very friendly. I’m keen to return at an earlier time for a more relaxed experience and a taste of their well-reputed rice-based mochi flatbread – a dish I’ve never conceived of before. Watch this space.
Taka, 109 Marylebone High St, London W1U 4RX