The prospect of a 20-course meal seldom fills me with much enthusiasm, but I’d heard that the Omakase Experiences at the Beaverbrook Town House in Chelsea, London, were not to be missed. In the interest of research, I dutifully made a reservation. My apprehension was compounded by the fact that I would have no advance knowledge of what I was going to eat. Omakase means “I leave it up to you,” and the chef creates a different menu each day, depending on which available fish are of the highest quality.
When I arrived at the hotel’s Fuji Grill, it was already buzzing, with every table filled. Having negotiated the exuberant throng, I found myself in a quiet separate area with a small sushi bar. The two other guests, perched on stools, turned out to be affable young Americans currently residing in London. When I’ve had omakase meals in the past, the chef has invariably been Japanese, usually with little knowledge of English, so no interaction has been possible. I’ve merely consumed what was placed in front of me and nodded appreciatively, whether I felt inclined to or not. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find that the Beaverbrook’s head sushi chef is Jan Horak, originally from the Czech Republic, a conversational man whose command of English is flawless.
Horak explained that he had trained for five years with Japanese sushi masters — to the bemusement of his relatives back home, who still could not understand why he had chosen such an eccentric career path — and went on to describe where and how he sourced his fish. (Usually it comes directly from docksides in England’s West Country, rather than from the London fish markets.) He then proceeded with his final preparations, detailing the precise techniques that were required for each ingredient, which knives were appropriate to the specific task and so forth. I found myself utterly enthralled, and the 20 courses sped by. (The meal actually took slightly less than two hours.) Each dish came with its own story, and I enjoyed absolutely everything. My favorites, however, were the translucent slivers of smoked sea bass usuzukuri, with denbu and yuzu kosho soy sauce; the sea spray tang of the Maldon oyster with goji-berry salsa; and the absurdly succulent 36-day-aged sirloin steak tempura with wasabi leaf and wasabi salt. As long as Horak is presiding over the Omakase Experiences at Beaverbrook Town House, I recommend them with unqualified enthusiasm.