When Yama Momo opened its doors a year ago in East Dulwich, it definitely took the locals by surprise. A seek, dimly lit dining room, exquisitely presented Japanese dishes, champagne and smoking cocktails and not a highchair in sight - it looked more Mayfair than Lordship Lane. But in fact it was the date night venue Dulwich couples had been missing, and today tables are full every night of the week. I went to see if the manager could squeeze me in, to find out a little bit more about Dulwich’s most exclusive sushi spot…
Yama Momo restaurant and cocktail bar is the younger sister to Clapham’s popular Tsumami restaurant, offering fusion Japanese food that showcases usual flavours and eccentric presentation. The décor is however just as impressive, with exposed brick walls, moody lighting and bonsai trees decorating every intimate table.
The menu combines traditional Japanese Izakaya dishes with a more contemporary tapas cuisine, covering everything from sushi to tempura, sashimi and more substantial, meaty mains. To start, the grilled scallops cooked in a rich, fiery whisky sauce - which arrive flaming - are a must, and the snow crab steamed dumplings are faultless. I’m told the crunchy-battered tempura shrimp also goes down exceedingly well.
The menu may seem a little hard to navigate if you are a sushi novice, but the staff are more than happy to give their recommendations and advice. There’s a tempting range of mains to choose from; I recommend the black cod which arrives glistening in a sweet miso glaze. If your dinner partner snubbed their nose at the sound of sushi, win them over with the Scottish Angus rib eye steak, which comes in a rich, creamy mushroom and truffle sauce. Alternatively, if you’re more into sharing and snacking, the dragon roll and lobster maki are both winning tapas-style dishes.
The drinks definitely deserve a mention and the bar stocks an extensive array of champagne, cocktails, wine and rare distilled Whisky. In fact, the friendly team who “live and work there” - their joke not mine, tell me that the cocktail list was actually designed by Nightjar, London’s leading mixologists.
It’s all about the experience at this neighbourhood favourite. There’s a long sushi bar where you can watch as the itamae (sushi chefs) demonstrate their knife skills and craft the most intricate dishes in town. It also has a number of seats so you can sip on a drink or tuck into a piece of glossy tuna as you watch the theatre unfold, ideal if you’re dining alone. Don’t be surprised if you notice a cloud of smoke filling the air while eating, dry-ice infused cocktails are very popular, and the perfect complement to a salty sushi dish.
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