It's Not Just The Food That's Fusion At UKAI Notting Hill
Busy, buzzy and with powerfully smoky smells wafting out of the kitchen, it's hard to pigeonhole UKAI. The faded pub-frontage plays host to a dressed-up, cocktail-drinking crowd. The menu reads like a Japanese restaurant — mostly — but with a relaxed mash-up of dishes: traditional sushi alongside izakaya-style junk food, robata-grill meat and 'Japas' sharing plates.
A surprise favourite is the kampachi salad: thin slivers of white fish, drizzled with yuzu and a flourish of rocket on top. As a salad, it's rogue — the yuzu's citrusy punch and the cool silkiness of the fish feel more like ceviche territory, but as it's also the best salad-ceviche-or-sashimi we've had in ages, it's hard to care what name gets tagged on it. Un-surprise favourites are the pan-fried scallops — soft and buttery-rich, with a tangy sauce (ponzu, we think?) cutting through the meatiness.
Head chef Alex Verros comes from stints at Nobu and ROKA, but brings something more interesting of his own to the mix: the menu at UKAI's more fun and less formal than either, and the same goes for the vibe, with medium-thumping music and a good background buzz. It's a bit more affordable too (though a sashimi menu and a Notting Hill postcode is never going to be a cheap combination).
It's easy to be charmed by UKAI, not least because despite glueing together so many disparate things — a menu that hits traditional and fusion notes, a venue that's part relaxed-boozing, part fine-dining — they're doing all of it pretty damn well. We've already dropped back in a second time. Unlikely to be the last.
UKAI, 240 Portobello Road, W11 1LL.
Last Updated 21 February 2018