Ninth is Celebrity Chef Jun Tanaka’s brand new venture which has been open for business since November 2015. What’s refreshing about Ninth is that Jun Tanaka is actually ever present in the kitchen and very much-hands on in the running of the restaurant. I know this to be true as I saw him myself. He was wearing chef’s overalls and he was discreetly surveying who was in his restaurant before disappearing back to the kitchen. Most celebrity chef’s restaurants are usually just another extension to the empire with a mentored head chef installed in the kitchen. Not Ninth.
If you’re not familiar with Jun Tanaka, he made his name at the much missed Pearl restaurant that was part of the Chancery Court Hotel, now a new venture – the Holborn Dining Rooms. Jun’s cooking has always been very creative and about using local seasonal produce. Pearl was a mainly about French / Modern Eclectic cuisine and sometimes drawing inspiration from some of Jun’s Japanese heritage. I’m happy to announce that Ninth is equally as creative in terms of the food on offer and most importantly, every bit as delicious as Jun’s previous flagship restaurant.
Where Ninth is different to Pearl is that I get the feeling that Jun wants to concentrate on the cooking so the setting is a little more rustic and informal as is the food.
The menu is varied and exciting, so much so, we could have ordered most of what was the menu and been happy with all of it. For our starters, we had caramelised scallops, cavalo nero and ginger (pictured below) and ossobuco bone marrow tortellini (also pictured below). The scallops were perfectly cooked and had a lovely complexity of flavours. The tortellini pieces were melt in the mouth with finely shredded piece of ossobuco in a thick and flavorsome sauce which begged for some bread to mop up the excess juices. That’s another matter and a small gripe, you’d expect bread and butter to be offered as part of the service as with most other restaurants. However that aside, we’re off to a good start.
Mains (pictured) were salted beef cheeks in an oxtail consommé with roasted vegetables. My dinner date ordered whole roast sea bream in a lemon, miso and smoked aubergine marinade – sides included pomme concot with a garlic, cavalo nero with a hazelnut sauce and rosemary confit and herb gnocchi with ceps. The good was stunning and each mouthful was an explosion of flavours. The salted beef cheeks were delicately slow cooked so melted in the mouth, the oxtail consommé sauce was very light and delicate. The roast sea bream was excellent – smoky, delicious flavours that worked well with this white fish. One thing worth highlighting is that our waitress did a magnificent job of deboning the sea bream at the table, something you rarely see at London restaurants but is part of the skill set of waiting staff in France and Italy where working in the restaurant is seen as an artisan skill and a career. The sides also worked really well with the mains. The herb gnocchi and ceps were delicious but high praise needs to be reserved for the cavalo nero which had a wonderful savoury and nutty flavour due to the hazelnut pesto, a most unusual combination but worked really well and made the meal even more memorable.
Our dessert, which we shared between us, was a blood orange cheesecake that aesthetically looked great and was pleasant but in my opinion wasn’t quite as good as the starters and mains.
The originality, care, skill and attention-to-detail you’d expect from Jun’s cooking is absolutely present and correct here and for that, I can’t wait for a return visit to try out the rest of the menu.
We drank the rose Alain Theinor Rose Champagne as an aperitif and a couple of glasses of red; the Pertalos, Dessendientes de J Palacios, Bierzo.