What:A casual but expensive restaurant in central London that serves a menu of Italian cuisine created using Japanese flavors and techniques. Located close to Broadcasting House on Great Portland Street, Itaku is by no means the first London restaurant to attempt to merge the two cuisines, joining Sumosan Twiga in Knightsbridge and Angelina in Dalston.
WHO:The founder of the longtime Cannes pop-up nightclub, Frenchman Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini (although he is perhaps best known as the ex-husband of Cheryl Cole). His London debut is led by chef Ivan Simeoli, who was until recently the executive chef of Osteria 60 at the Baglioni Hotel in South Kensington (his CV also includes the Royal Academy of Arts and the Wallace Collection in London and three Italians). star Osteria Francescana). The cocktail menu was created by Nicholas Medicamento, former bartender at American Bar at The Savoy.
The atmosphere: Designed by the young Italian architect Maria Morra, Itaku can accommodate 55 covers on one level. Lit by a large skylight, the space has white marble flooring, gold accents, and a mix of stationary and freestanding seating. As one would expect given the owner’s track record, the evening sees the lights dim and the music turn up to create a clubby vibe.
The food:As advertised, the majority of dishes are Italian with Japanese flourishes, but Simeoli’s preference for the strongest Japanese flavors means both cuisines are represented about equally. Divided into raw sea bass, pasta, robata, sea, and sides, the menu makes extensive use of top-quality ingredients, but even with that in mind, prices remain steep, especially given the tiny portions. Raw dishes range from £14-£29, pasta dishes cost between £21-£26 and secondi-style meat and fish dishes average just under £25. Dishes include red prawns with Périgord truffle, ponzu and sea aster; wild sea bass sashimi, parsley oil, Amalfi lemon and n’duja; cappelletti with miso dashi broth, wakame, Japanese mushrooms; and wild sea bream with shiitake mushrooms and red cabbage.
Drink: The wine list is a little out of step with the cuisine with only 15 bottles available, including 4 by the glass. It’s unclear if there’s been a supply issue or if the restaurant is pushing customers towards its five sakes or its extensive cocktail menu, which includes tastes from the bargain (Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru Murcian Lemon, sake yuzushu, Limoncello Tosolini and gold); and the Kombu Daiquiri (Eminente Claro, Honjozo Genshu sak and kombu).
And something else: This doesn’t sound like the right part of town for such a conscientious place with nearby restaurants – including Portland and Meraki – taking a rather more low-key approach.