Sakana, the new Pan-Asian restaurant situated on the site of the former Chicago Rock Café, opened its ground floor on Thursday 30th October with a view to providing a decidedly more upmarket drinking – and of course eating – experience. After all, the venue – and indeed the entire area around the Great Northern – is almost unrecognisable from what it was only two or three years ago.
Where once, well-oiled revellers would clumsily flail their limbs to the sounds of Radio One’s Dance Anthems (the rubbish bit from 6pm – 7pm on Friday, kids); now, well dressed diners will marvel as sushi chefs create little culinary scenes of vibrant finesse.
And where once housed a packed dance floor is now buoyed by the softly bubbling atmosphere as people sample Sakana’s separate fine dining offering. This lavishly furnished gallery restaurant – featuring a premium “residents’ area” bar – will be serving very expensive drinks but isn’t going to be open until 27th November, so don’t dust your Loubs off just yet.
Back to the restaurant and you’ll find a lovely looking dining space with an open kitchen and a panoptic layout that allows you to cast your eyes over almost the entire space. It’s good: it feels lively but not intrusive, supplying a palpable energy to proceedings. This is an exciting place to begin an evening – the robata grill and teppanyaki areas adding flair and sparkle.
Commenting on the food after only a small sample of set dishes would be rather unfair, but first impressions are that the sushi is certainly of a good standard. The menu is pleasingly concise for this kind of restaurant but covers the kind of ground you’d expect – i.e. sushi, tempura and grilled meats – at prices similar to or slightly above the Living Ventures venue down the road.
It will be interesting to see how this kind of restaurant finds its feet in an area that, although one of my favourite in the city, still feels somewhat schizophrenic: whilst Revolucion De Cuba, Liv (although possibly for not much longer), Epernay and James Martin are all within 50 yards of Sakana; so are Almost Famous, AllStar Lanes, Lucha Libra, Taps and Brew Dog. A lot of this will come down to what the fine dining menu served in the glittering rafters provides, and whether it can steal some of Australasia’s swagger. It may also depend on whether £3,600 bottles of 1996 vintage Petrus turn out to be more popular than the surrounding Pale Ale offerings.
Sakana – www.sakanapan-asian.co.uk
Ground floor restaurant and bar open from Thursday 30th October
Lunch and Evening menus available
First floor fine dining restaurant and bar open from Thursday 27th November