Why? Ramusake is a sassy, sultry South Kensington newcomer fusing New York speakeasy and Tokyo izakaya vibes – a winning combination for a girly date. Run by Piers Adams, ‘a godfather of posh London clubbing’ it offers late-night dining and dancing.
We weren’t sure quite what to expect as the Ramusake website is very vague – but there are a glut of glowing reviews floating about the interwebs so we were pretty damn wakuwaku (excited!).
When? A Thursday night in late May, 8pm. We were the earliest for dinner at this ‘late-night dining’ venue. The kitchens, did, however close by 11pm.
First Impressions: Love the neon sign – Tracey Emin? Plunging down the black-painted wooden stairs and wobbling in over the wonky floor, you find yourself thrust into a cosy, cavernous place. We immediately felt at home in the dimly-lit, unpretentious dining room with tongue-in-cheek touches such as Shunga (Japanese, erotic) woodprints – just small enough that the unobservant diner might miss the engorged genitalia!
Ambience: Beck, Bowie and The Beatles? YES. The carefully-curated soundtrack is well upbeat, yet not at all intrusive. It’s unusual to find a place so equally suited to either falling in love or matey group bonding.
There are two other, rather welcoming areas off the dining room; the bar; and a room filled with comfy, bright plush chairs.
Clientele: The circular sofa seating in the corners are ideal for groups and all were occupied, even though it was only a Thursday. All looked to be having a good time, although most cleared off around 11pm, not fancying a dance on a Thursday?
Description of food and drink: The menu sure makes for appetite-rousing reading. Some personal faves: ikura and toibiko (fish eggs), along with yuzu and ponzu (Japanese citrus-y) caught my eye. Divided into heading such as ‘Snacks’, ‘Cold, Raw & Salad’, ‘Robata BBQ’, ‘Significant Others’, ‘Maki Rolls’, ‘Sushi Nigiri’ the menu is also easy to get your head around – and just the right length.
Edamame wafts distracting buttery-lemony notes while we choose a cocktail – a ginger one – exquisitely made – which prompts plonk purist Hannah to observe: ‘NOW I understand why people drink cocktails!’
The starters (a.k.a. ‘Cold, Raw & Salad’) follow, one by one, which means we give each our full attention. Good job, too, as the first ‘salmon sashimi kimchee salad with avocado and ikura’ gives no clue of how difficult it is to eat. Not recommended for a first date food, this sensational salad is served on a nest of crunchy, fluffy, fried noodles. Fiendishly fun – but tricky to get your chops around. Likewise, the ‘tuna sashimi pizza with wasabi tobiko and truffle ponzu’ was decadently piled on a massive crunchy crisp thing that disintegrates in an unseemly fashion – I’d been expecting a soft, eggy okonomiyaki base (often – wrongly – described as ‘Japanese pizza’). Definitely worth the effort though – tobiko ensure the taste really pops. The ‘beef fillet tataki with onion ponzu and garlic crisps’ is our final choice from the ‘Cold, Raw & Salad’ menu. The tender meat comes dripping with zesty ponzu (yuzu and soy sauce).
We find a ‘Significant Other’ the ‘lobster and chips with yuzu-truffle-egg sauce’ to be sumptuously creamy and supremely rich – although you’d be sorely disappointed if you were expecting some chunky chips to fill you up. These are chips in the US sense of the word. The Black Cod is so fine it disolves dreamily on the tongue, and as the server points out, is not overpowered by dressing. Complemented by samphire, it is divine.
The server said everyone loves the ‘fried chicken kara-age sliders with kimchee mayo, pickles and iceberg’. We didn’t, unfortunately. Kara-age should be powdery, light and elegant. These buns were outstandingly ordinary in a menu otherwise packed with punch.
Our favourite dish of the night? The ‘tea smoked lamb chops with spicy Korean miso’. Robata, the trendy Japanese technique of ‘fire-side cooking’ (lit.) gives an amazing intensity and depth of flavour.
Service: Welcoming, but new? Slightly unsure of ingredients. I needed to check that the ‘Shisu’ listed on the cocktail menu was indeed the ‘Shiso’ leaf I was hoping for – the server was happy to clarify at the bar.
Toilets: Kinda disappointed that the ethos of the décor didn’t really flow through to the loos, but perfectly adequate.
Prices: The care taken in developing the menu is clearly reflected in the Kensington level prices – between £11 – £22 for a tapas size serving. Many of the dishes do actually feel like culinary adventures – unique experiences in themselves – but are not designed to fill you up! Cocktails are around £15.
Come again? A little sad that dancing just wasn’t to be on a Thursday, but it looks like you need to bring your own gang – or attend one of their fab events. I’d love to visit on a Saturday night and it make a real party night of it. Ramusake will also be holding exclusive events with Geisha and Kabuki performers!
92b Old Brompton Road
Tel 0207 842 8518